By: Scott Snyder (story), Marco Rudy (art), Val Staples (colors)
The Story: Who knew Swamp Thing had his own potent brand of kung fu?
The Review: Can you believe it’s been nearly a year already? This time last year, none of us knew how this DC relaunch would play out; some people thought it’d be a game-changer and others thought it’d tank and of course, the truth turned out somewhere in between. But I think by the most important standard, this has been a win for DC, and I’m talking about this storytelling environment where Swamp Thing is a mainstream hit, not just a favorite for the cultists.
The success has been even more impressive considering how underwhelming the return of Alec Holland and Swamp Thing to the DCU was at first. Once the initial surprise fizzled out, no one seemed to know what to do with these characters, now that they were available. Jonathan Vankin wrote a horribly misguided mini which painted Alec as a helpless victim, the material from which S. Thing arose from, but otherwise a minor figure in the monster’s life.
Snyder has taken that character and turned him into a crucial element of Swamp Thing’s lore. Yes, yes, all that business about prophecies and destined warrior-kings naturally gave Alec importance he might not have on his own. Yet for the last few issues, ever since he finally took up the Green’s mantle, you began to see why it had to be Alec. Snyder has shaped him to be a kind of everyman, a person who displays all the typical qualities of humankind, both good and bad: cowardice, stubbornness, compassion, honesty, etc. Because you can’t corner him into one type, he offers a human unpredictability which makes the monster even more effective.
Obviously, that testosterone-driven (assuming he still has testosterone) aggression comes in handy in a scrap. I don’t quite remember the Swamp Thing of yore being this raw in his attack; as a monster he always seemed a bit more deliberate and cool, while Alec’s machismo (“Your Un-men leave me unimpressed, Arcane. Now show me what you have that they don’t.”) leaves you in no doubt of how much power he has.
More than just about Alec accepting his powers, this story is about him taking charge of his powers. Rather than merely reacting to events around him, he’s showing increasing initiative in his actions, like last issue, when he transplanted the Parliament of Trees under his direct protection in the swamp. How fitting it is, then, that the Parliament take on the forms of children, which suits their bratty selfishness (“The concern is not [Abigail]. It is we, the Parliament of Trees.”). Given that, Alec isn’t about to let them boss him around again, and the moment where he sticks it to them is pretty delightful.
Rudy has really grown comfortable with this series. He’s no longer caught up with trying to ape Paquette’s lavish paneling (although he does a few pretty swirls and twists here and there) and figures. He makes the most of his lightweight style to offer a full-bodied look to the issue, while still retaining his distinctive sketchiness. Sometimes, his lines look so frail that Staples’ colors threaten to consume them entirely, but otherwise, his work holds up well.
Conclusion: I’m not so sure the issue really takes a big step forward in terms of advancing the story, but it’s a solid read, nonetheless, and that last page definitely gets the heart of any Swamp Thing–Animal Man racing.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Incidentally, the absence of Cliff in that last page sure doesn’t bode well considering what happened in the last page of Animal Man #11.