By: Jeff Lemire & Scott Snyder (story), Steve Pugh (art), Lovern Kindzierski (colors)

The Story: Animal Man and Swamp Thing do their best Starsky and Hutch impression.

The Review: And so it begins.  Hokey and overused, yes, I know, but the line seems apropos here, considering we are talking about an event long in the works and which every fan of DC’s “Dark” line of books has been looking forward to for months.  We have here two of the biggest hotshots in the wake of the new DCU working together on two of the biggest figures of DC’s counter-mainstream culture—for a mainstream book.  That is also popular, of all things.

So excitement definitely feels deserved in this situation.  That said, the meeting between our two heroes doesn’t have quite the punch it did in Swamp Thing #11.  Buddy finds it necessary to brief his new partner on everything that’s happened to him in the last ten issues, which might be handy for readers hopping aboard the Animal Man hayride for the first time, but a dull exercise for us longtime fans.

On the other hand, Alec and Buddy have an immediate rapport and they have the same mind where confronting the Rot is concerned.  Yet theirs is a very macho kind of mentality; they think their best bet is to plunge right in and strike at their enemy while it’s still “weakened,” and to do it alone so as to protect their women from harm.  Unity of purpose is all well and good, but when has splitting up from your support system ever been a good idea?

Particularly imprudent is leaving Maxine behind, since she does represent quite a bit of power as the Avatar of the Red.  While you sympathize with Buddy’s desire to keep his little girl safe, it doesn’t seem all that safe leaving her in the sole guardianship of Ellen (who has no power except mommy-courage, which has its limits), Abby (whose connection to the Rot makes her fallible), and Socks (who’s a bit rusty in battle, as we saw last issue).  And it bodes very ill that Maxine, who takes even her own death in stride, suddenly gets panicky and regresses into a frightened little girl seeing her daddy go at it alone, begging him not to leave her.

Much of the purpose of this issue is to build up tension, to make you realize how frightening and dangerous all this is.  When Ellen sends her husband off with a loving kiss, despite their obvious friction, and when even Ellen’s mom bids Buddy goodbye with some begrudging acceptance, it all feels like wishful thinking, as if telling him to return will somehow make it so.  Instead, it only makes you more aware that they know there’s every possibility he won’t.

Pugh really pulls out all the stops for this issue, and this is absolutely the best his art has looked during his entire run on the series.  Figures look rich and detailed, and he particularly knocks Swamp Thing out of the park, getting the monster’s every texture exactly right, from his gnarled and wooden torso to his mossy skin to his grassy hair (I kid you not on the hair; on one of Alec’s close-ups, you can see a distinctly grassy bit of stubble under his lips).  He’s only deficient when it comes to the action, which tends to look stiff and frozen, but otherwise, he does a fine job.

Conclusion: Nothing too outstanding just yet, but we are only in the prologue of Lemire and Snyder’s collaborative masterwork.  They only need to get you primed and nervous for what’s next, and they manage that easily.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Woah.  It threw me off a little bit to see Maxine flying on her own, but I suppose it had to happen sometime.

– If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that’s Frankenstein’s silhouette we see in Maxine’s vision of Rotworld.