By: Charles Soule (story), Kano (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)
The Story: Swamp Thing encounters a taste of Gotham in Metropolis.
The Review: Had this issue come at an earlier point of the series, I might have said that Soule had some big shoes to fill with Scott Snyder’s departure. But as you’ve seen, over the last few months, the Rotworld arc seemed to shake Snyder’s usually tight focus on the story. As a result, Soule happens to come on board at precisely the moment when Swamp Thing can use some fresh air. Not every new writer gets that luxury of timing.
Thanks to Snyder wrapping up as many of his plot threads as possible by his last issue, he effectively cleared the ground for Soule to sow his own ideas for the title. Just as Alec has reached a point where he needs to figure out his new purpose in life, Soule has the opportunity to define it for him. He begins the process with Alec as he sees himself now: “A man doing his best to be a plant.” It may be that Alec will never move on from that status, but you can tell that Soule is very interested in developing where the lines between man and plant will be drawn.
The first positive sign for Soule’s run is he can smoothly integrate several plotlines at once, balancing those with immediate effects on the present story with those that’ll have significance in the long run. In the latter category, we have Alec chasing down someone—or something—called the “Seeder,” who’s been drawing on the Green to deliver botanical miracles to the world. The wrinkle, of course, is the Green really shouldn’t be used this way, as it merely winds up draining life from another part of the world.
This kind of problem plays right into the conflict between Alec’s dual identities, which he admits. Soule has a very natural, centered style of narration that allows our protagonist to be brooding without overdramatizing his angst. Somehow, his simple and understated style gives Alec more relatable poignancy than he’d have if he was more vocal about his feelings. In musing over his duty to restore the Green to the way it should be:
“It’s hard. Sometimes I want to let it go. He made a rice paddy in Burma that produced a new crop every five days. It was feeding thousands. I looked at it, looked at the people depending on it, and then I shoved it back down into the Green. It’s hard.”
Soule also shows a lot of promise by taking the story in unexpected directions that still feel organic. I love, for example, that Alec decides to seek out Superman because he wants to relate to someone who also has to make “impossible decisions” regarding the use of his power. Soule’s taking on a lot in the process—the question of why Superman doesn’t use his powers more proactively to solve social ills is an issue most writers just want to avoid altogether—but the way he frames the problem and how Superman can shed some light on it feels very sensible.
In a similar fashion, Soule makes good use of Scarecrow, proving that his choice of villain is no mere gimmick. It’s delightfully logical that Crane and Holland would relate to each other as scientists, and more delightful still that Crane does manage to stand up to a figure of Swamp Thing’s stature, even if it’s freak chance that allows him to do it. In this way, Soule shifts the pressing conflict from a hero-versus-villain battle to Swamp Thing as his own worst enemy, which is far more interesting.
Kano strikes a middle ground between Yanick Paquette’s lush, rich linework and stylish storytelling tactics, and Marco Rudy’s rough, sketchy work. Although he doesn’t have nearly the depth and body of Paquette’s art, Kano’s thin linework is capable of some very intricate detail if he wants a more stupendous look to the scene, such as Swamp Thing traveling through the Green, the visuals of chloroplasts and mitochondria superimposed on the latticing web of ferns and bramble. With Wilson’s cooler palette of colors, the art on this issue manages to capture that indie feel, setting it apart from the saturated excess of most mainstream books.
Conclusion: As solid a start as you can hope for, with an interesting premise and voice to start, although it’s unclear where Soule plans to take the series.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - Without his human body at his core, Swamp Thing can now dispose of his planty body, travel through the Green, and reform himself where he needs to be. How convenient.