By: Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire (story), Andrew Belanger (art), Tony Avina (colors)
The Story: This time, Alec and Buddy jump into a mysterious hole with both eyes open.
The Review: If Animal Man #17 hasn’t already made it clear that this crossover has lost its legs and, with all honestly, has done so for a while now, then its sister issue in Swamp Thing definitely seals the matter. Somewhere along the way, whether it was good ideas that didn’t quite pan out, interference from the editorial powers that be, or a case where Snyder and Lemire got overburdened with work and lost their focus, Rotworld stopped being special.
When I say that, I basically mean the story’s gotten predictable, which is always deadly, no matter how well the writer pulls it off. As long as two months ago, you could guess that the presence Alec’s been sensing all along wasn’t Abby herself but those clones she discovered in Arcane’s castle. This is a case where knowing more than the hero can be a major downside; while Anton gleefully explains to Alec the details of his horrific experimentations, you yawn and flip the page, hoping something will actually shock you further on.
No such luck. Once Maxine and the many Abbys showed up twisted beyond recognition, you knew the only outcome would be their deaths by their loved ones’ hands. It’s troubling that what should be the emotional climax of the issue winds up a bit flat. Between Anton’s cheesy taunts (“A father always knows his baby girl.”) and Maxine’s cheesy leering (“Oh it’ssss meee, Daddy…all grown up. Evolve or die, remember? You taught me that.”), the scene just feels like it’s trying way too hard to wring our heroes’ emotions.
Another thing that steals much of the issue’s excitement is the total pointlessness of the victory Swamp Thing and Animal Man manage to eke out in Rotworld. What’s the point of scratching and clawing (often literally) to triumph at the cost of nearly every last hero remaining if you’re just going to book it from this screwed up timeline and try to make it so that it never happens anyway? No matter how much Snyder-Lemire may insist they’ll have some real repercussions from this event, I doubt the DCU outside these two titles will feel any of it.
The conclusion of the issue feels about as phoned in as the rest. While the appearance of the Parliament of Decay disclaiming any affiliation for Anton is appreciated, they basically make the same points that various characters have emphasized over and over again throughout both Swamp Thing and Animal Man: the Rot may represent death, but since death is a natural part of life, the Rot in itself is no evil and has just as much of a right to the world as the Green and the Red. Alright, alright—we get it! Can we please move on to some actual storytelling now?
Given the weakness of the script, I don’t think even Yanick Paquette’s art would have made much difference, but with Belanger’s sloppy, cartoony, amateurish work, this whole excursion feels doomed from the start. Think Becky Cloonan, drunk, on her worst day, and you’ll get an approximation of Belanger’s work. Basically, Rot-creatures are just fleshy lumps with giant teeth and jaws, and every emotion Belanger attempts to convey lacks that ring of sincerity. Avina’s colors are sensible enough, I suppose, but with such poor raw material, the paint job suffers in the process.
Conclusion: How far the mighty have fallen indeed. At this point, you’re just white-knuckling your way through the next month to get at the next arc, hoping a fresh start will bring back the magic of the series again.
- Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - Belanger, if you can’t actually do anything interesting with the blurry, smoky paneling (an attempt, I assume, to ape Paquette’s art-nouveau style), don’t even try. It’s kind of embarrassing for both of us.
Filed under: DC Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Abigail Arcane, Alec Holland, Andrew Belanger, Animal Man, Anton Arcane, Buddy Baker, DC, DC Comics, Jeff Lemire, Maxine Baker, Parliament of Decay, Rotworld, Scott Snyder, Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing #17, Swamp Thing #17 review, the Rot, Tony Avina