By: Jeff Lemire (story), Steve Pugh (art), Timothy Green II (pencils), Joseph Silver (inks), Lovern Kindzierski (colors)

The Story: So it seems like the monster has become the master—of the monsters.

The Review: Being an ardent follower of both Animal Man and Swamp Thing can be, to use a well-worn cliché, a double-edged sword.  The sharp, shiny side is you have a plot enriched by two titles working together.  The dull, blunted side is dealing with moments where the two books cover the same terrain.  And let’s face it: if you’re reading either one of these series, you’re probably reading both.

That meant dealing with a lot of the same kind of exposition for the early issues of this arc. Animal Man particularly suffered because Lemire doesn’t have quite the fleetness of language that his writing buddy does and he hasn’t been quite as aggressive with the pacing as he could have been.  Last issue felt like an especially low point for this series as a whole, burdened with more talk than action, and only the barest exploration of what’s left of the Rot-infested world.

This issue starts on much better footing: Steel, alone, facing off against a whole army of gorillas in the rubble of Central City, only for Frankenstein to appear with his living dead cavalry, the Patchwork Army.  That’s the kind of crazy stuff I want to see from Rotworld.  I just love that on a planet where every major hero has fallen, Frank remains, fighting the darkness until the very end.  That’s reason enough to love the DCU.

Lemire undermines a lot of the bright points of this issue by going back over old material: another debate as to the wisdom of attacking Arcane directly; another dream sequence where Buddy sees his peaceful home life disturbed by the most gruesome twists.  Lemire punches up this familiar ground with a few hints and clues: the forebodingly unexplained disappearance of Superman (“No one saw him die.  No one saw him captured.  He was just gone one day.”), the warning from a vision of Cliff (“Don’t turn your back on the boy.  He won’t be dead yet.”).  Overall, though, it’s not quite as much new information as you might hope.

Perhaps this is pure callousness on my part, but by this point, I just want whatever’s destined to happen to Maxine to happen already.  Her encounter with William Arcane is almost stupidly predictable, and thus slow.  As if there was any chance that he wasn’t being a lying liar and wouldn’t betray her within two pages.  Maybe if Lemire had drawn out their companionship and given us some doubt as to William’s character, there’d be more weight to his treachery, but as is, you mostly just shrug.

Maybe the story would blossom a bit more with superior art.  Obviously, I have the utmost respect for Pugh and I would never say his work is anything less than fine, but there’s a stiff, somewhat generic look to it that fails to impress.  But sometimes I get this sense that the figures don’t really stand on their own very much, as if they’re constantly in danger of blending into one confusing mass of imagery.  Maybe it’s because they all share the same dull tone of colors—which is a perfectly appropriate choice by Kindzierski, given the story at hand, but it does become the visual equivalent of white noise after a while.  And frankly, I’ve never been sold on Green; he often utterly fails to move me with anything he draws.

Conclusion: A couple highlights only illuminate the general blandness of the rest of the issue all the more, though it seems like Lemire is getting back a touch of the momentum he’s lost.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Oh, Constantine, you sly dog—I saw you and Orchid cuddling there.

– “Bloody cowards.  Leave it to the British to be the first into battle, eh?”  Don’t see it as racial bias, John.  It’s just that everyone assumes that you can pretty much survive anything.