If it's crap ... We'll tell you
As many far-more-informed comic book fans know, DC recently completely relaunched pretty much all of their properties; cancelling all current story lines and starting from scratch in an experiment known as The New 52. The design of this experiment was to entice new readers by giving them a chance to come in on the ground floor on any of 52 brand new titles. As someone pathetically out of touch with almost everything related to comic books and comic book characters, I decided to test this experiment by diving headfirst into each and every issue. I will judge these issues based on the art, the story, and how well the writers made this alien world accessible to noobs like me. I will end each piece by explaining what I now understand about the worlds of these characters, based exclusively on what The New 52 has taught me with no other (or very little) previous frame of reference. Join me, won’t you?
Title: ‘Swamp Thing’
Writer(s): Scott Snyder
Artist(s): Yanick Paquette
Going In, What Do I Know?Being a connoisseur, or rather indiscriminate consumer, of all things B-cinema, I have seen both of the 'Swamp Thing' films. I didn’t harbor much delusion at the time that what I was seeing was a faithful screen translation of Swamp Thing canon. What I did discern is that Dr. Alec Holland was a botanist transformed by a laboratory explosion into the creature known as Swamp Thing. His power is…nope, guess I couldn’t even tell you that. But I do remember plenty of other monsters created for him to fight.
Artwork:Artistically, there’s a great deal to admire in 'Swamp Thing.' The construction of the bone monster is at once shadowy and clearly menacing. The facial detail throughout the issue is striking and ends up serving the later scenes in which people have their heads snapped all the way around; the anguish of that transformation is painfully and eloquently communicated. I love the fine detail on natural elements as well; the birds and plants in close-up are highly defined. I also love the ashen, fading borders between the panels during the horrific moments; creating an effective atmosphere of chaos.
Story:What I think is interesting about 'Swamp Thing' in terms of the New 52 is that, contextually, it’s sort of the exact middle ground between doing an honest-to-goodness reboot and simply continuing a previous storyline. There are many references made to something that happened to Dr. Holland that has returned him to human form and makes him not want to be Swamp Thing anymore, which I assume was covered in a previous issue. However, not knowing all the details right up from did nothing to detract from my interest in this story and where it was heading. Because he was human again, even though clearly this character has a preexisting history, it created the opportunity for the man to become the monster all over again. The catastrophic, worldwide “natural” event coupled with the monster in the desert presented plenty of fascinating horror elements, which will always play well with this noob.
What The New 52 Taught Me:Swamp Thing very clearly exists in the same world as The Justice League. He’s not a member, but he’s on their radar…or at least Superman’s radar. He was in fact caught in a lab explosion and was, at one point, Swamp Thing. He’s found a way to become human again and has troubling dreams of his experiences as the creature. His specific powers are still a bit vague, other than his being deeply in tune with nature.
Will I Remain A Noob?
I definitely want to continue reading 'Swamp Thing.' The artwork is fantastic, the story is chock full of horror elements to compliment the character and hopefully will continue to define the tone of the series. The issue gave me just enough info on Swamp Thing himself to pique my interest in the character while not actually telling me much about him at all. It’s impressive. The cliffhanger ending is quite bizarre, and I am wholly intrigued.
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