Swamp Thing is the only one of the handful of DC’s ‘New 52’ titles I sampled that I have decided to stick with beyond the first issue, as I am quite fond of the character and the first issue was reasonably strong, despite it being ‘bogged’ down in continuity and a bit too talky.
In issue one, Alec Holland had returned from the dead and was working as a labourer, some weird horror stuff happened, and Swamp Thing himself – the creature that, for many years, thought it was Alec Holland – only appeared on the final page. Except it turns out in #2 that this wasn’t the Swamp Thing we all know and love at all, but another swamp creature who looks a lot like him and has come to talk to Alec on behalf of ‘The Green’. This swamp creature spends most of #2 telling Alec that, even though he never was the original Swamp Thing, he was supposed to be, and that the Swamp Thing that we all know and love was just something ‘The Green’ cobbled together at the last minute when Alec Holland went and buggered up its plans by dying. ‘The Green’ has brought Alec back from the dead because it wants him to become a new Swamp Thing, a Swamp Thing with a human core, which will be necessary to defend ‘The Green’ against ‘The Rot’ – which is the opposite of ‘The Green’ – and its representative, Sethe, who is on his way to unleash his own brand of horror upon the Earth. Alec turns down this invitation to become another Swamp Thing, and at the end of #2, while fleeing from some monsters, he is rescued by a short-haired Abigail Arcane, who already knows all about Sethe and ‘The Rot’ and spends half of #3 talking to him about it.
Just as there are some humans, like Alec, who are born with a connection to ‘The Green’, there are others, like Abigail and her family, who are born with a connection to ‘The Rot’, and when the original Swamp Thing disappeared from her life, Abigail began to feel ‘The Rot’ calling to her again. More importantly, the rot has also been calling to her half brother, William Arcane, who lives in a plastic bubble in a children’s home because he is acutely allergic to chlorophyll, and she needs Alec’s help to save him. (Note: Even though he does not yet look like an overgrown turnip, Alec has the ability to manipulate trees and plants and other green stuff.)
I was under the impression that all of DC’s ‘New 52’ titles were supposed to be fresh and accessible to new readers, but this series was already ‘mired’ in continuity just a few pages into the first issue, and it’s hard to see how anyone who hadn’t already read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run wouldn’t be seriously confused by now. Writer Scott Snyder is clearly paying tribute to Moore’s run here, while at the same time pissing all over it, telling us that Moore’s Swamp Thing was a just a failed second choice, a dry run for a new, improved creature. This decision to write off Moore’s Swamp Thing doesn’t particularly bother me, even though Moore’s Swamp Thing run is one of my favourite runs of comics ever – probably my favourite thing Alan Moore has done. I still have those comics and nothing anyone else does will stop me enjoying them. In fact, I want creators to make bold moves, to try something different, and wish this series could have been less tied to its past (which probably would have made it a lot less talky). Snyder is a good writer, clearly faced with a difficult task – i.e. following Alan Moore – but I did think that some of the dialogue seemed a bit contrived, the many references to ‘The Green’ seemed quite heavy-handed, and the first time someone mentioned ‘The Rot’, I struggled not to laugh.
The good news is that the horror aspects of this comic – which again seem reminiscent of the horror in Alan Moore’s run – work well and are really quite disturbing, thanks largely to Yanick Paquette’s stunning art. I have enjoyed his work in the past but he really seems to have upped his game here (although at least half of the pages in #3 were drawn by someone called Victor Ibáñez, who did such a good job that I didn’t realise that it was the work of a different artist until I got to the credits on the final page). I am definitely going to give this series a chance and will stick with it until the end of the first story arc, as it has the potential to be a really good – and great looking – horror comic, and hopefully, once all the set up is out of the way, it will become just that. Whether or not I continue beyond the first story arc really depends on whether everyone stops talking so much.
Cost: These have a cover price of $2.99 each. I downloaded mine from Comixology and paid $1.99 each, which is the price they drop to once they have been on sale at $2.99 for a month.