Swamp Thing #1 Review
- Published on Friday, 09 September 2011 01:00
- Written by Andrenn
The New 52 has begun! Well technically it began last week, but this week is when I start getting my books. So for me it has begun! With four of the New 52 in my pull box this month there is plenty to be excited for. However, when I sat down and had to choose which was my most anticipated issue to read it came down to the new adventures of Alec Holland.
I have become an over night fan of Swamp Thing and my excitement for this title is through the trees! (That's some swamp humor for you all.) With a strong creative team and a great character, does Swamp Thing sing like a beautiful bird or does it get stuck in the muck? Let's find out!
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Yanick Paquette
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Story Rating: 8 Swamp Things out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Swamp Things out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Swamp Things out of 10
Synopsis: Alec Holland narrates about his father being a botanist. He talks about a machine his father had that would use a large steel blade to trim flower stems. The blad would screech and it sounded like the flowers were screaming.
In Metropolis, the birds start falling from the sky, in the Batcave all the bats die and in the sea the fish are all left as carcasses. Superman, Batman and Aquaman all contact each other about this.
In Louisiana, Alec is doing construction, we see a plant attempt to reach him. One older construction worker thanks Alec for a tip of using cabbage to heal his hurt knee. Alec shows off his knowledge of plants.
In North Western Arizona, the dug up fossils of a Mammoth are sucked up in a tornado. The tornado is sucking up tons of carcasses and various dead things.
Back with Alec, he is going through rotted wood, explaining how it rots not because of getting wet but because of a certain fungi. Suddenly, Superman shows up. Superman says it was hard to find Alec after he stopped going to his lab.
Superman brings up the mass death in animals and Alec does not seem to be worried. Alec says such occurances, while bizarre appearing, are quiet natural and nothing abnormal. When Alec asks again why Superman is there Superman admits he is checking up on him. Superman says that he knows how hard it is to come back as Alec has.
Alec mentions that he has strange memories of his time as Swamp Thing and how he cannot go back to his old life. Superman says how Alec can save so many people with his science. Alec brings up the misconception that plants are peaceful, showing two plants attacking others in their own way. Alec explains that the Green can be even more violent than other aspecs of nature.
Back in Arizona, the archeologists who were digging up the bones are upset that they are gone. They think a fellow archeologist stole them.
Suddenly, they hear some sounds they investigate only to be attacked by the decay. A fly from the beast flies into the main archeologists head and makes him snap his neck. When the other two try to escape the same happens and they are left as backward head zombies.
Back with Alec (at the Totleben Hotel) he is having nightmares about becoming Swamp Thing. His room is over run with plants. He gets his formula from his vault and runs out to throw it into the swamp. He is stopped by the Swamp Thing.
The Good: Swamp Thing #1 exceeds where it counts and the result is a great read that did exactly what it needed to do. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette both had a huge job of not only bringing Alec Holland into the DC Universe and making him fit, but making the massive legacy that Swamp Thing brings fit right behind him. For a new #1 issue, I can gladly proclaim that Swamp Thing #1 is a great starting point for an excellent character.
This issue is all about Alec Holland and where he is now. Rather than re-establishing him as Swamp Thing and shoving his back story down our throats for an issue, Snyder introduces the character in a much easier and far more engaging way. We get a piece of Alec's childhood, his fear of the pain that plants feel and we never lose the focus that this is introducing Alec to the world.
For the 30 years that a Swamp Thing has walked the Earth, Alec Holland was not the main character. Swamp Thing was the main character. All Swamp Thing had were Alec's memories.
Snyder addresses this without burying us in back story. Something that's really easy to do is to just pour out the character's history through generic exposition. It is something that many writers do, and for good reason, because it is easier and it gets all that pesky background out there so when we refer to it later we know what happened before.
Instead, Snyder chooses to only briefly mention the history of the Swamp Thing and that is far more effective. We do not need to know every single event of the Swamp Thing's past or every important little detail that happened before this story. It is far more effective to give us the little tidbits for now so we get the basics and reminders of what happened before. It also frees up the dialogue from dragging and helps keep the story fresh and interesting as it continues.
This issue is light on action but that sacrifice is to introduce Alec and make us interested in his character. Now, some readers may not like that. But, if you make that choice to focus more on developing the character and it pays off then it is well worth getting less action. If anything, it is far better to devote your debut issue to introducing the character because by the end we are more invested and interested in his story so it is even more exciting when the action comes later.
I was originally going to give this a little lower score since it is pretty much just Alec's introduction. However, it succeeds at not only introducing Alec but also making him likable and interesting. This should be the goal of any new reader friendly comic like Swamp Thing. You can know the character and already be invested and then find out something even more interesting about him or you can be unfamiliar with him and get invested in his story right away. Snyder succeeds at giving something to both readers old and new.
The narration Alec has from the opening to his discussion with Superman is all strong character work. Snyder shows us the kind of man Alec is, shows us why he's that way and by the end of it he's a richer character for it. We understand where Alec is coming from at this point and are left wanting to see where he goes. So, for a first issue, Swamp Thing #1 succeeds near perfectly at what matters most: introducing the world and making people excited to see what happens next in it.
At first, the discussion with Superman did not interest me. I honestly figured that Superman was added into the issue just to have a big name super hero that people flipping through the book at the shops would be interested in. However, Snyder utilizes Superman perfectly to show us more about Alec Holland. Superman properly fit into the story when he brought back how hard returning after death can be. This is a huge plot point for Alec that Snyder hits a home run on. Alec cannot adjust to his new life and since we are familiar with the character we cannot help but hope he will be able to.
Outside of introducing the character properly, Snyder also succeeds with introducing the villain. We know absolutely nothing about our mystery monster except that he is out to kill and he likes breaking necks. This may be the best part of the issue, if not for the great ending when we see the utter terror of the archeologists being attacked.
Scott Snyder has done horror very well before. American Vampire is one of the best titles on the shelves, his Detective Comics run was equal parts messed up horror and super heroics, Severed has been disturbingly effective and now Swamp Thing comes along and it may just be his best horror work yet. Which, at this point, is saying a lot.
The scene with the decay attacking the archeologists was just chilling and great terror. It is simple but effective as they are picked off, forced to kill themselves and turned into mindless horrors under its control. Sometimes the best fear is the simple ones that do not go for over the top gross out or big scary monsters in your face. It is dark, eerie and scary as all hell.
I am on the fence about if the previously mentioned scene or the ending is the best part of this issue. The ending is a great little run through the origin of the Swamp Thing without having to actually give any exposition and there is tons of little references (Totleben Motel, Alec's code is 1971 when the first comic with Swamp Thing debuted, etc.) which show Snyder and Paquette's love for the character and are also great nods for the long time fans who eat that stuff up.
It is also a strong scene for showing just how badly tormented Alec is by the Green. That he has ran away from the environment he is most familiar with and is willing to throw away his life's work to escape the Green. We see how maddened Alec has become from trying to escape the Swamp Thing now and how it is ruining the life he has back.
I also love the little nod with the Swamp Thing that stops him saying “If I were you...” a little nod to Swamp Thing once thinking he was Alec Holland. It is a small nod but a great way to end the issue.
When Yanick Paquette was announced on art for Swamp Thing I knew it was a smart choice. Just a look at his covers should tell you he can do the job. What is far more exciting about his art is not just that it is simply great art, but the detail he puts into putting the pages together. Many of the pages with Alec the panels look to be held together in sticks and twigs. The panels involving the Decay are held together by what look like dark gashes from a violent attack.
It is a great touch that really shows how Paquette is going beyond what an artist has to do to make his comic look great. Paquette is really pushing himself as an already very talented artist and doing things in comics that are a total treat for the eyes. Great artwork is one thing but the composition and how it is all put together makes it even better.
I always have to mention colorists when they succeed. Fairbairn does a perfect job bringing Paquette's artwork to even higher levels. The coloring on the greenery and environments around Alec are great especially in the final few pages. The darker colors when the decay is around and the reddish coloring when it forms are also effective. This is great coloring that really adds a lot to great artwork.
The Bad: Some people may be a little saddened coming into this issue with its lack of action. I say that sacrifice makes it a far better issue but for some it may be a detraction. I assure you it does not hurt the issue but if you are coming into this comic expecting a big monster mash action story right away then you will be disappointed.
It will also probably be a pain for new readers who pick up a comic called Swamp Thing, with Swamp Thing on the cover and Swamp Thing does not even show up until the end. I do not feel this really hurts the issue much if at all but it is something that could bother or confuse new readers unfamiliar with the character.
Overall: Swamp Thing #1 is a great start for one of the most important characters to the Dark of the DCU. Long time Swamp Thing fans should not miss out on this as the introduction to Alec Holland is not just feeding you the information you already knew. New fans who are interested in getting in to a great character need to pick this up for an introduction that will get you excited to see what happens next for Alec.
For Horror comic book fans this is a must buy. Snyder has become one of the most talented names in horror comics today and this is some of his best work yet. It has a truly chilling feel that is sure to impress horror readers of all kinds. Swamp Thing is a horror comic at its roots and Snyder doesn't forget that, giving a good scary read that needs to be seen.
Do yourself a favor and pick up Swamp Thing #1. There is something in it for everyone, new readers and old readers. People who love great character work and people who are big fans of horror. It gets things going right and it is one of the best starts in the New 52 so far. There is no need for hesitation. Dive into the swamp!