Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Swamp Thing, volume 1: Raise Them Bones

A "swamp thing", I assume, would be a thing found in a swamp. Alternatively, it would be a thing with swamp-like qualities. Like, it's really wet. And there are trees coming out of the water. And it lets you cast black spells. Something like that. Well, as Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing proves, I'm sort of right, but swamp things are so much more than that. Swamp things deserve our respect! Because without them, we'd all be backwards-headed zombies (let it never be said that comics aren't educational).

Swamp Thing picks up with our protagonist, Doctor Alec Holland, working on a construction site. He's doing this because he woke up a few weeks ago to find that he had been dead for a few years and has memories of being a plant monster and everything he knew and loved has left him behind. Also, he apparently knows Superman.

The implication seems to be that the earlier versions of Swamp Thing still happened, but I've never read a Swamp Thing comic before this, I don't know how accurate this assumption of mine is. However, this Swamp Thing is sort of a soft reboot, as it's established early on that while Alec had many adventures as a swamp-dwelling plant monster, that wasn't actually Alec Holland. Instead, it was a copy of Alec created by the Parliament of Trees. Trees, you see, have a parliament because they represent a force known as The Green (plant life). The Green works in tandem with The Red (animal life), and together they represent all life on earth (fungi, bacteria, protists, and archaea don't get colors apparently). Certain people have special connections to the Green or the Red, and can feel plants/animals calling to them, and can be granted special powers. Alec is one of those people.

And now Alec is needed to become Swamp Thing for realzies this time, because the ancient enemy of the Red and the Green, a force known as The Rot (or "Sethe"), is making its move.
In this context, "making its move" means "making the biblical apocalypse look like an episode of Care Bears."
However, despite the Parliament of Trees explaining that the Swamp Thing is the champion of the Green, who is chosen once per generation to guard the Green from that which would destroy it (like a Slayer, only with moss), Alec is not too keen on becoming the Swamp Thing, since it means giving up his humanity. To complicate matters, there's also the white-haired Abigail Arcane, Alec's sorta pseudo-ex who fell in love with his swampy duplicate (I guess she's just really into big green monsters with no visible genitalia). Abigail's family happens to have a connection with Sethe in the same way that Alec has a connection to the green, making their romance... star-crossed to put it mildly.

I cannot stress this enough: READ THIS COMIC. Out of all the New 52 works I've reviewed on this blog so far, Swamp Thing is the best. In fact, I'd say it's still the best even if you count the ones that I've read but haven't reviewed yet. This is a damn good comic.
It's also horrifying. Did I mention that? Cuz it is.
The story here is amazing. Alec's reluctance to become the Swamp Thing, his relationship with Abigail, the entire mythology behind the Green and the Red... Make no mistake, just because this is a story about plants does not mean that it's nice. The comic even points out that plants, biologically, are downright brutal and unforgiving in their struggles to survive-- humans just don't notice because violence in the plant kingdom is so gradual.

This is not a tale about a reluctant hero who will eventually save the day. This is pure horror. Alec is in a situation where he must either be brutally murdered by monsters, or become one himself (and even then, there's no guarantee that the brutal murders won't take place.)

I have two real complaints story-wise: the first is the vague backstory. There's enough information to piece together what happened, but there are still unanswered questions. Not least of which being how Alec came back from the dead.

The second complaint is that it takes a while to get the ball rolling. The first issue, I felt, was merely OK. Not great, but certainly not bad. It wasn't until I'd finished the second issue that I'd really gotten hooked, and couldn't put the book down.

I should also congratulate the artists, Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy, who do a fantastic job creating a beautifully detailed world, and dementedly disturbing monsters. Each monster created by the Rot looks terrifying.
Oh yeah, there's a kid in a gas mask as well. Insert Doctor Who reference here. You know the one.
Final verdict is that Swamp Thing is an excellent horror comic that left me craving more, and I can't wait to get my hands on volume 2 when it comes out. Trust me, if you at all enjoy horror stories, then you need to read this. You won't regret it.

Next review will be Suicide Squad.

1 comment:

  1. Swamp Thing #0 goes into further detail about the circumstances behind Alec's death, with a teaser about him coming back to life, so the next issue seems like it'll cover his rebirth a little more in detail.

    And the Animal Man trade, which hints at a Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover, is pretty horrific in it's own right.