In the latest of our comprehensive series of reviews of DC Comics' 52 relaunched titles, we take a look at Swamp Thing #1.
Who's it by?
Swamp Thing #1 is written by Scott Snyder and drawn Yanick Paquette.
What's the history?
DC Comics' popular Swamp Thing character was created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson. After a successful first appearance in House of Secrets #92 in 1971, Swamp Thing was revamped and introduced in his first ongoing series in 1972.
The character returned in the '80s in The Saga of Swamp Thing, but after 19 issues sales began to wane. DC took a chance on a little-known British writer called Alan Moore, who turned the ailing book into one of the most acclaimed runs in comics history and launched his own remarkable career. In the process, he famously retconned Swamp Thing's origin and created ill-fated magician John Constantine.
Since then, the character has been tackled by industry heavyweights including Brian K Vaughan, Mark Millar and Andy Diggle.
Swamp Thing was originally conceived as Alec Holland. He was a botanist who, caught in an explosion in his laboratory, flees into the nearby swamp and rises as the morose plant man. Moore's acclaimed run turned the story on its head, revealing that while Swamp Thing possessed Holland's memories, he was not and never had been human. Holland was dead all along.
In the intervening years, Swamp Thing (along with Constantine) was removed from DC Universe continuity and became the publishers first Vertigo title. Following the recent 'Brightest Day' storyline, Swamp Thing and Constantine are back in the DCU, and Alec Holland has risen from the grave.
The comic opens as a series of strange phenomena strike the DCU, seeing birds tumbling from the sky and the oceans filling with the carcases of dead fish, causing Superman to seek the aid of Alec Holland.
Holland is in hiding, haunted by the memories of a monster he was left with following his resurrection (just as the monster was once haunted by Holland's life). And even if he is able to avoid the unwelcome attention of the superbeings, the spirit of the natural world (known as the 'Green') is not about to let Holland go.
What's the verdict?
Scott Snyder follows his acclaimed runs on Detective Comics and American Vampire with a strong debut for the new Swamp Thing series. Fans have been demanding a return of Swamp Thing for years, and this comic very much captures the spirit of what made Moore's run so powerful.
At its most fundamental level, Swamp Thing is a very personal story about a man (or monster) trying to make peace with himself as he is reluctantly pulled again and again into cataclysmic, world changing events.
Snyder captures that spirit, giving us an Alec Holland who it is easy to empathise with, a man who has seen too much and would rather see no more. At the same time, Snyder is deftly building a mysterious but already terrifying and titanic threat that only Holland will be able to face.
The issue also strikes a balance between its horror comic roots and its new reintroduction to the superhero populated DCU. Snyder plays up the similarities between Superman and Holland in a scene that could have proved very jarring. Elsewhere, the growing threat is one more horrible and disturbing than something you would usually find in the pages of a superhero comic.
Yanick Paquette is at his best here. The art captures the different facets of the story, from the sharp, sleek and bright superheroes to the more earthbound everyday tones of Holland's personal life - as well as the organic wonder of the Green, with panels laid out in neat lines or tumbling one over the other as the scene demands.
Swamp Thing is not the most friendly title for new readers, following as it does from the events of Brightest Day Aftermath: Search for Swamp Thing. The issue touches on - but does not fully address - the details of Swamp Thing's history and Holland's return.
This may however prove to be one of the title's strengths, taking time to build a tale rather than cramming in a complicated back-story in 22 pages. Certainly, there is enough intrigue and suspense in Swamp Thing #1 to draw back new and old readers for the second issue. We are eager to see where the series goes from this excellent beginning.
> Buy the digital version of Swamp Thing #1
> Read our review of Action Comics #1
> Read our review of Justice League #1
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