“What do flowers know of the predicaments of trees?”
Swamp Thing has been a cult favorite since Alan Moore first touched the character with his revolutionary “Anatomy Lesson.” He has made his way throughout the magical side of the DC Universe, ultimately joining the Justice League Dark in James Tynion’s current run. With his role as the guardian of the Green lost due to the events of the book, Swamp Thing is going through something of a crisis of faith — if plants can have such a thing. This is the focus of the Justice League Dark Annual, cowritten by James Tynion IV and Ram V, with art by Guillem March.
The story involves Swamp Thing finding another scientist who found himself turned into a being of the Green, and completely unsure what to do with himself. This botanist, Dr. Oleander Sorrel, is not Dr. Sorrel at all — he is a husk made of plant matter, just like Swamp Thing as was revealed during Alan Moore’s Anatomy Lesson. Through explaining this, the issue also revealed that Swamp Thing’s status as a plant that replaced Alec Holland has returned, after the New 52 undid that development. This is a small detail to change, but it feels like a true return to form for Swamp Thing as a character, and lends this story some more legitimacy.
Swamp Thing’s efforts to lead Dr. Sorrel on the path to accepting his new life are quickly led astray by a familiar foe, returned to make Alec’s life worse yet again. Jason Woodrue, AKA the Floronic Man, quickly appears once Swamp Thing’s back is turned to offer Dr. Sorrel the one thing he wanted — a way to see his family again — as a way to keep him from getting what he needed — closure. The story and writing focus on the internal conflict and melancholy that Swamp Thing is going through, while also slowly pulling the curtain back on Dr. Sorrel’s backstory to reveal what actually happened to make him this being of flowers. The ending is incredibly tragic and haunting, with a resolution that lingers on its melancholy to powerful effect.
Guillem March’s art in the issue is solid, but the early pages with Constantine and Wonder Woman look significantly worse than the rest. In general, every page where March draws a person rather than an agent of the Green looks worse in quality, but the pages that focus on Swamp Thing, Woodrue, and Sorrel look beautiful. The paneling is gorgeous, and goes hand in hand with the prose narration on some of the pages. March’s storytelling remains incredible, with his layouts fitting very well and his characters drawn incredibly expressively.
This issue is an excellent showing for Ram V, as it is one of his earliest at DC Comics. Fans of Swamp Thing will have a great time with this issue, as it feels like a proper spiritual successor and follow up to Moore’s legendary run. The dialogue and narration are the standout part of the issue, and shows that Ram V has an incredible amount of potential and definitely deserves more work.