The darkest and weirdest hero is back this week in all his plant-like glory. Old friends come to visit and a promise may come to fruition, but is it good?
Swamp Thing #3 (DC Comics)
Swamp Thing is mostly on his lonesome in this latest incarnation as he wallows in his monstrous state in the swamps. He recently stopped an undead monster from killing innocent people and a local sheriff is becoming aware of something different about the very small town since sticking said zombie in the morgue.
Why does this book matter?
For starters writer Len Wein created Swamp Thing and thus must know a little bit about writing the character. Meanwhile he’s teamed up with Kelley Jones, an illustrator who is a master with shadows and macabre renderings. Together they present perhaps the most twisted and monster-centric Swamp Thing since Alan Moore wrote the character many years ago.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
In many ways Wein has made this book about Matthew Cable, who is an old friend of Swamp Thing’s that has vowed to cure him of his monstrous state. We learn of his whereabouts and the events that have taken him to Swamp Thing’s front door (or is it bayou?). Wein does a good job explaining Cable’s adventures quickly and succinctly and the adventure is well paced and fun to follow. From there the main plot is set and a promise is made to cure Swamp Thing. In a lot of ways Wein has crafted a story that feels like a Conan tale; it’s mystical and reads like a story of legend. When Cable discovers something from the dark arts the story takes on an evil angle that suits the art.
Jones continues to draw an incredibly iconic and memorable work. Before the story focuses on Cable, Jones shows us Swamp Thing battling a giant snake. It’s a simple idea when written here, but Jones infuses it with an intensity and weight that makes it feel important. It plays out in such a way to build up Swamp Thing’s sad nature which is a testament to Wein, but it wouldn’t work without Jones making this ostensibly simplistic snake battle feel important. Another artist would have made this sequence feel small and probably silly but it works quite well here.
Love that relationship he had with the snake.
The story carries on from there and gets more complex which leads to quite a cliffhanger. So far the man underneath the Swamp Thing, Alec Holland, hasn’t shined through and instead the series has made him appear to lose his humanity. Being ripped in half has a way of doing that to you — that and he’s rather disconnected with the human world, which is conveyed well from his detached way of speaking, but the dark artistic style too.
Jones has an incredible way of casting faces in shadow to convey different emotions. Take for instance the sheriff in one scene who appears to be looking into the face of evil itself. She seems confident, but somewhat scared and unsure. Later those who are helping Swamp Thing go from hollowed eyed and creepy to disconnected. Then there is Swamp Thing who is constantly morphing into odd shapes or, through use of shadow, appears bumpy and organic looking in the most unnerving and disturbing ways. It all adds to the atmosphere which cannot be missed.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I’m not the most familiar with Swamp Thing so it was a bit odd to be introduced to this Matthew character who seems to have come out of nowhere. That said Wein does a good job establishing his dedication to curing Swamp Thing.
Though we do check in on the sheriff character – which appears to be an intriguing story to tie Swamp Thing closer to the other DC characters – this story doesn’t develop as much as I’d have liked. As a check in it serves to remind us they are present characters, but doesn’t progress that plot much at all.
Is It Good?
This book is incredibly atmospheric and it should not be missed by fans of horror comics. It manages to make Swamp Thing grotesque but likeable as we peer in to see how much humanity is left.