Swamp Thing #36 picks up right where the previous issue left off, with A Calculus mercilessly attacking Holland and the Green. At first, A Calculus and his minions appear to have the upperhand, but Swamp Thing is quick to point out the flaws in their attack. By creatively using the aspects of his flora based powers, including a Venus-flytrap like acid, Holland is able to fight off the Machines and save the Green.
Realizing that he has underestimated the Machine Kingdom and their assertiveness, Swamp Thing makes the decision to seek out Abby, his former love and Avatar of the Rot. The two discuss the possibility of the Machines attacking the Rot, and Abby reveals to Swamp Thing that Arcane has escaped.
Continuing the thread of underestimation, A Calculus meets with his cohorts B Calculus and C Calculus to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having an Avatar. B and C Calculus argue that an Avatar would just leech their kingdom of its true power, while A Calculus, coming off of his defeat at the hands of Swamp Thing, argues that an Avatar’s creativity and humanity may give them a distinct advantage in combat. After a series of debating, B and C Calculus are overruled by their apparent leader, Omega Calculus. Upon their directive, the Calculi go through a number of candidates for their Avatar. DC Comics fans will recognize a number of faces here, though ultimately they decide to go with a character more familiar to the mythos Charles Soule has been building in Swamp Thing.
Jesus Saiz’s art continues to fit this title perfectly. The organic lines to Swamp Thing and the Green contrast nicely with the sleek designs of the Machine kingdom. The Machine Kingdom appears as an eternal void, but Saiz impressively conveys a sense of thought between the Calculi orbs. You can feel the tension between them, even though they have no faces and their spherical shape undercuts any sense of “body-language.” There’s a great amount of character detail in his work, and his Abby is hauntingly beautiful.
Charles Soule’s storytelling remains solid. There are some great ideas at play, especially in the opening fight sequence. The scene between Abby and Holland is short, but sweet, with Soule’s script dropping all but the most essential moments. And the seeds that are planted for Arcane’s return to trouble Holland are a nice touch.
However, while the overall direction of the story is compelling, portions of the issue feel a little loose. There is a sequence in the beginning of the issue between Jonah and Capucine, now in the Green, that feels like it could have been conveyed in a tighter manner, or excised altogether. And there’s a two-page spread at the end of the issue that feels like it could have been a single page. These aren’t deal-breakers by any means, but they’re places where the pacing feels off, and when the rest of the issue is more evenly told, these little spots stick out.
Swamp Thing #36 is another solid entry in the series. Though not as tight and polished as recent issues such as last week’s annual, Soule and Saiz each provide enough moments to make the issue entertaining. With tension building between the Machines and the other Kingdoms it will be intriguing to see just who ends up as friend and foe in the coming months.