Again we can start by pointing out the striking cover by Mike Del Mundo. There also seems to be a trend here, with the figure of Arkon dwarfed by the menacing environment around him, in this case the swamp that is taking on the features of Swamp Thing. So that means two things. One, that “Weirdworld” is in focus as if it’s a title character itself, and two, it does actually mirror the contents of the comic. After all, Arkon’s tribulation of wandering through the land is the central plot. The cover captures a bleak and oppressive tone in a single image. The eyes are especially effective, glowing bleakly but commanding our attention as the only areas of brightness in the image.
Inside, the art similarly continues to be lovely. The colors by now are a well-established palette, with distinct sections of magenta, green, and gold, so much so that I imagine by now the artist’s custom colors include labels like “Weirdworld Flashback Magenta.” It helps book maintain its contemporary feel while being reminiscent of classic “high fantasy” art. The middle of the book has my favorite double-page spread of the series, as Arkon and Skull slowly rise from the swamp under the gaze of the Swamp Queen, Jennifer Kale.
Kale’s inclusion is a wonderful new iteration of the character and the Swamp Thing mythos, one that would be welcome to breathe new life into a character who belonged so much to the 70s. It also is an excellent way to feature some world-building. Arkon and Skull stumble into something that’s much larger to the history and development of Weirdworld, and yet Arkon’s personal quest is so strong that he essentially abandons it in order to follow his own path. That right there takes something that might be woefully cliché in a fantasy series (hero joins others in taking a tangential quest) and sidesteps it for Arkon’s personal story. Come to think of it, that’s what happened when he abandoned Warbow and the Crystar stuff.
So if there’s a weakness of the story overall it’s the general repetition of Arkon’s plight and his reaction to it. Once again, a key moment of the issue features Arkon contemplating suicide at the edge of a cliff, leading me to wonder if it’s an intentional motif or if it’s just accidental result of Arkon being a limitedly motivated protagonist. I mean, there are definitely recurring themes here about being lost, about finding home, about making a place for yourself in a weird world, but not one of those recurring situations leaves the reader with answers, let alone Arkon. It’s a poignant moment rendered a bit weak because it’s essentially making Arkon less of a rounded character and more flat, merely a narrative device.
How great would it have been if there wasn’t the words “to be continued” on the last page? It would be a complete and tragic irony to have Arkon’s last words be a farewell to his country that is, somehow, right below him. That moment would have made a memorable and a frustrating, emotionally wrecking cap to the story, the kind that would have made you drop your jaw and yell at the page. But, you know, having the great art and weird setting continue is good, too, I suppose.
I love the revamped Swamp Things and the Swamp Queen, although I’m also glad that Arkon has his own personal quest and leaves that bit of world-building to stand on its own. Unfortunately, that means Arkon gets to repeat his previous journey almost verbatim, reducing him to just one dimensions and lessing out pathos for him as a result. Still, the weirdness of the setting and the lovingly rendered art and brilliant colors continue to make this an enjoyable world to explore.