Swamp Thing #3A comic review article by: Dave Wallace
Of all the titles I've been following in DC's relaunched universe, it's probably Swamp Thing that feels most firmly rooted in the company's past continuity. No pun intended.
As well as incorporating relatively recent pre-reboot developments--such as the reappearance of Alec Holland in Brightest Day -- the title also hearkens back to the glory days of Alan Moore and his unsurpassed run with Swamp Thing in the 1980s. Whether it's specific story ideas such as the Parliament of Trees or Alex Holland's fate as revealed in "The Anatomy Lesson" (both of which cast a heavy influence on Scott Snyder's story), or more abstract conceptual similarities such as the "organic" and nonlinear page layouts, this definitely feels like a conscious continuation of the good work that was begun many decades ago by Moore and his artistic collaborators.
Snyder's gift for marrying the conventions of superhero storytelling with more grounded and unsettling horror elements is also reminiscent of Moore's run. In this third issue, Holland's adventures and conversations with an old friend are interspersed with a vignette involving a young boy who cannot leave a protective bubble for medical reasons -- and the terror he experiences at the hands of his peers.
Incidentally, the above image isn't drawn by regular series artist Yanick Paquette. Instead, Victor Ibanez contributes many of this issue's pages, with Paquette only handling the sections dealing directly with Swamp Thing.
It's testament to the skill of both artists that I only realised the book had been split in this way after reading the credits page at the end of the issue. Their styles are similar enough that it certainly isn't jarring, and the subtle differences actually help to draw contrasts between the real-world hospital setting and the more fantastical milieu of the swamp.
For example, Ibanez employs straight-edged, conventional page layouts with squared panels, whereas Paquette emphasises the organic and natural tone of Swamp Thing's world by shaping the panel gutters out of twisting and gnarled branches and leaves, and leads the reader around unconventional page layouts that reflect Swampy's status as one of DC's most unconventional heroes.
It's particularly interesting to see this distinction start to break down towards the end of the issue, as we realize that the boy in the bubble has a more significant role to play in the story than first appeared, and that his subplot has its own fantastical elements to contend with.
Reflecting this surreal and horrific twist, Ibanez's gutters feel as though they decay and degrade before our very eyes, almost subconsciously encouraging readers to shift their perceptions as Snyder's story pulls the rug out from under their feet.
I haven't commented much on the story's plot yet. That's partly because I don't want to spoil any details about the return of more than one important character to the Swamp Thing mythos, and partly because at the moment it's still too early to form a strong opinion on how this will all play out. For example, Alec's relationship with Swamp Thing is still very much up in the air, and Snyder definitely feels as though he's still got plenty of cards left to play, having only just begun to set up the forces that will be in conflict over the course of his story.
For now, though, it's an entertaining book with great art that manages to stand as a fairly accessible new series whilst also paying homage to and building upon what came before.
And on a personal note, it's a title that's helped me to discover the work of a creator who I might not have otherwise come across. One of the pleasures of DC's relaunch has been taking a chance on writers and artists whose work I hadn't really sampled before the company rebooted its universe. Through Swamp Thing (as well as Batman), I'm pleased to have been turned on to Scott Snyder's writing, and I'll not only be looking out for his stories in future but I'll also be seeking out his past work.
A journalist and sometime comics reviewer, Dave Wallace was raised on a traditional European diet of Beano comics, Asterix collections and Tintin books before growing up and discovering that sequential art could -- occasionally -- be even better than that. He has an unashamed soft spot for time-travel stories, Spider-Man, and anything by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, and has been known to spend far too much on luxurious hardcover editions of his favorite books when it's something he really likes. Maybe one day he'll get around to writing down his own stories that have been knocking around his head for a while now.