Swamp Thing #37 is an issue concerned with set up. In previous installments of the series Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz established the players in the conflict, and now the pieces on the board are moving. A war between the Machines and the other Kingdoms is coming, and everyone is preparing for the worst.
The biggest new player entering the fold is Lady Weeds, now the Queen and Avatar of the Machines. Her assimilation into the machine world is a gruesome one, returning some of the horror elements of the book. After this brief introduction, readers follow Swamp Thing as he meets with John Constantine. The interaction between the two highlights some of Holland’s flaws, namely that he’s a man of singular focus. And as Swamp Thing prepares to take on the Machine Kingdom, he finds that John Constantine is unable to help, with the magician declaring, “You lot are gods, or near enough, and you’re headed for war. I aim to find the deepest hole I can find and hope there’s a world left when I crawl out of it.” It’s a foreboding moment that adds to the tension in the book.
While Swamp Thing finds himself without allies, the newly appointed Avatar of the Machines succeeds in her diplomatic missions, preying on another Kingdom’s own animosity toward Holland to bring them under her control. The final scene sees Anton Arcane return to the fold, as the Machines seek a foe who knows how to combat Swamp Thing.
Charles Soule knows how to build up palpable tension. Holland’s failure with Constantine contrasts nicely with the success of the Machines to build a foreboding atmosphere. There are a number of small yet important developments in Swamp Thing #37 as new allegiances are formed, bringing into question what lies ahead for Holland and the Green. This issue also sees the Calculuses develop further as characters, as each picks up certain tics. These characters are clearly nervous about their new creation, and that anxiety is creating nice moments of difference between them.
Jesus Saiz’s art is wonderful as ever, and balances the more gruesome scenes with Lady Weeds and the uneasy quiet of Swamp Thing and Constantine’s meeting. There’s a wide variety of scenery here, from dark caves, to wintry orchards, to the cold pavement of a metropolitan alley.
This issue is another strong chapter in Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz’s epic, and if there is any real flaw to be found, it’s that it does feel like the middle chapter to an arc. Swamp Thing #37 relies heavily on the idea that readers have read the previous issues in this run, as otherwise some of the developments fall flat.
The first five pages also seem a bit overlong. The scene depicts Lady Weeds’ conversion into the Avatar of the Machine Kingdom, and while the length of the scene allows for both for Saiz to convey the violent transformation and the energy required for A Calculus to do so, it also feels like the scene could be a bit shorter. This would allow for some further development of later scenes or the inclusion of something more to the issue. It is only a small blemish on an otherwise well paced issue.
Swamp Thing #37 is a stepping-stone issue in the larger arc. There are important developments here, and Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz continue to be a perfect duo for Holland as his adventures. That said, this issue definitely feels like a piece of a larger whole, and a slight pacing issue towards the beginning of the chapter only exacerbates that feeling.