A couple of nights ago, I got a little bit drunk and bought some digital comics. Oh well. I’ve done worse things when drunk. They were at least all comics I was planning on buying in digital form anyway, I was just planning on waiting a few weeks, until some of them went down in price a bit. Still, I paid less than I would have paid if I’d bought any of them from my local comic shop, and there’s no point feeling bad about it now – I may as well just read and review them!
First up for review is Swamp Thing #1, which is part of DC’s new line-wide reboot. Not being much of a DC fan, I had very little interest in this reboot, and I initially wasn’t planning on picking up any of their new titles, but I like Swamp Thing, am a fan of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s run with the character, am an even bigger fan of Alan Moore’s run, and as this has a decent creative team on it – Scott ‘American Vampire’ Snyder and Yanick ‘nothing springs to mind but he’s a very good artist’ Paquette – and has received some pretty good reviews so far, I thought I’d check it out. And it is pretty good, actually, if a little confusing.
This starts with a few pages featuring Superman, Batman, and Aquaman, which make it immediately clear that Swamp Thing is back in the DC Universe proper, rather than stranded over at Vertigo. This shift makes absolutely zero difference to my life, as every Swamp Thing comic I have ever read was set in the DC Universe anyway, and it is only after Alan Moore’s run ended, and I, along with most other people, stopped reading the comic, that Swamp Thing became a Vertigo title. Anyway, after a few pages of superheroes, we are introduced to Alec Holland, who died in an explosion way back in Swamp Thing #1 (1972 series) and never really was Swamp Thing, even though a mutated plant thought it was Alec Holland for a number of years. Mysteriously, though, Alec Holland has returned from the dead and is working as a labourer when he receives a visit from Superman, who doesn’t look anything like he does in Grant Morrison and Rags Morales’ Action Comics #1 (from what I have read online, I believe that Action Comics #1, which I will review some other time, is set a few years before most of the other reboot titles, but there is nothing in either this comic or in Action Comics #1 to tell me this, even though this is supposed to be the start of a new-reader-friendly era). Superman is worried about Holland – he knows how it feels to return from the dead – but Holland pretty much tells him to clear off. Then the horror begins, with Swamp Thing himself (itself?) only appearing on the very last page of the comic.
The reason I said this comic is a bit confusing was not because I found the story confusing. I am confused about why Alec Holland has returned from the dead, and why he has Swamp Thing’s memories when Alec Holland never was Swamp Thing, but I’m reasonably confident that Snyder will eventually explain all this. I am also confused about why there are monsters running around, and why some people’s heads are turning 180 degrees, but as this is a horror comic, I expect to see monsters, etc., and I am even more confident that Snyder will eventually explain all that than I am that he will explain the return of Alec Holland. No, what confuses me is why all this is considered a reboot. I mean, there is nothing in this comic that couldn’t have taken place in the old DC Universe. In fact, it does appear to take place in the old DC Universe. Alec Holland’s memories of Swamp Thing seem to include Abigail Arcane and, presumably, all the stuff that went on during Alan Moore’s run on the title, at least, and Superman even references ‘The death of Superman’. I was expecting all of DC’s titles to start again from issue one, with new origins for their various characters and no convoluted continuity so that they could attract new readers. But really, this is just a new number one, apparently set in the same old DCU, where everything that happened before still happened, and everyone still talks about it.
Fortunately, this is a good first issue anyway, even if it isn’t as new-reader-friendly as advertised. The writing is reasonably strong and I am intrigued by the circumstances surrounding Alec Holland’s return and by the horror elements of the story. The characters whose heads twisted 180 degrees made me think of the Invunche, from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, which was presumably deliberate, although whether or not this was just a tip of the hat to Moore or an indication that the Invunche are returning is unclear (personally, I hope they are not returning, as I would like to see some new ideas and characters emerging from this ‘reboot’). The only really weak part of the script – the part that made me cringe – was when Alec Holland told Superman that, after returning from the dead, he briefly returned to lab work and made another batch of bio-restorative formula, but then, disillusioned, threw it into the swamp behind his hotel. What? Hasn’t he learnt anything? Even if he couldn’t remember what happened the last time some of that stuff ended up in a swamp, what kind of scientist throws discarded experiments into a swamp (note: if this isn’t the cause of Swamp Thing’s return on the last page, I’ll buy a hat from a charity shop and eat it)? I’m pretty sure there are proper disposal procedures for that sort of thing, to stop the outbreak of plagues, etc. Or am I just nit-picking? Meanwhile, Yanick Paquette’s artwork was near-perfect and would have made this issue worth buying for the art alone, if I was the sort of person who bought comics for the art alone. I’ll certainly come back for the second issue, at least.
Cost: This has a cover price of $2.99. I downloaded my copy from Comixology and paid, err, $2.99 (about £1.90), which is technically the full cover price. However, as I live in the UK, where retailers have to pay more for their comics to take into account shipping costs, etc., this does constitute a saving on the £2.50 (or thereabouts) my local comic shop would have charged for this item, and I didn’t have to pay for petrol, parking, etc., to get it – I just got drunk, sat on my arse, ordered it, and got it within seconds. I love digital comics, me (although I like ‘em more when they are $1.99 or less)!