By: Scott Snyder (story), Marco Rudy (art), Val Staples & Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: For once, Gotham’s got some competition for worst place in the world.

The Review: An interesting difference I’ve noticed between Animal Man and Swamp Thing is that each hero, despite their common enemy, doesn’t have the same amount of purpose as the other.  You know how in Lord of the Rings, all the action centered on Aragon and his last company, but it was Frodo who had any chance of making a difference?  That’s the sense you get out of Buddy and Alec’s respective parts in this storyline.

Undoubtedly, Jeff Lemire will give Buddy a crucial role in toppling the Rot, but at the end of the day, you just know that it’s Alec who really holds the fate of the world in his hands.  Buddy fights the Rot out of duty, both as agent of the Red and as guardian of its avatar.  Facing the Rot is more like a part of Alec’s destiny; whichever way the battle turns out, whoever else lives or dies in the process, Alec must reach the point where he can confront the enemy.

So it seems poetic that Alec would lose his sole companion during his journey.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this is the ending that awaits anyone who tags along with our swampy hero.  Deadman’s sacrifice is well-earned, taking out one of the more important mini-bosses, but Snyder somewhat undersells the moment.  First, it’s still a little unclear why Boston and the Rot don’t mix.  Second, the big moment passes rather quickly, only a couple panels, so you don’t really understand what’s happening or feel its impact.

Instead, Snyder devotes far more focus to Abby’s encounter with Anton in the past.  Once again, we get treated to the sequence of Abby descending down a darkened well and finding a door at its bottom.  Once again, she must stand up to her uncle-father’s control issues.  Once again, she claws at the underside of triumph only to be outmaneuvered.  It’s getting to be a rather tiresome pattern of events, to say the least.

Again, however, Snyder inserts some new developments that could lead to more interesting territory.  Alec claims he can sense Abby’s presence in Rotworld, despite everyone testifying to her death, but he hasn’t accounted for a couple surprises Anton whipped up in the past (and though Abby apparently takes care of them, we all know from Anton himself how rarely anything involved with the Rot stays dead).  You also see glimpses of another force within the Rot that Snyder has long hinted at, “the other parliament,” Abby calls them.  And of course, Snyder pulls out a pretty nice twist for the end of the issue, revealing the last surviving member of the Bat-family in ravaged Gotham.*

I don’t mean to be down on Rudy, but after the treat of two whole issues in a row featuring Yanick Paquette’s lush, dreamy art, looking at Rudy’s thin lines can only be a disappointment.  A combination of Rudy’s ultra-fine lines and weak inks along with sludgy colors from Staples and Loughridge result in imagery which tends to bleed together, obscuring the action.  Rudy’s attempts to mimic Paquette’s fanciful paneling mostly fall flat; if anything, they break up the narrative in occasionally odd ways and get in the way of the visuals.  All in all, I can’t wait to look at Paquette’s stuff again next issue.

Conclusion: Snyder continues to produce the better half of the Rotworld storyline, although this time around the issue is marred by inferior art.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Notice that the actual bats in the Bat-cave are not yet infested.  Interesting, no?

– William is the least sympathetic kid ever.  Call me cruel, but I wouldn’t mind if he ends up deceased in this storyline.  That way, I never have to deal with his shrill, “Nyah-nyah-nyah” attitude ever again.