Title: Saga of the Swamp Thing.
Writer(s): Alan Moore.
Artist(s): Stephen R. Bissette, John Totleben, Dan Day & Rick Veitch.
Colourist(s): Tatjana Wood.
Letterer(s): John Costanza & Todd Klein.
Release Date: April 10th, 2012 (first published in 1983).
Genre(s): Comics, Horror, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
In the early 1980s, the Swamp Thing was revived in a series entitled The Saga of the Swamp Thing with writer Martin Pasko leading the charge. While it stretched out till issue #19, its unpopularity and poor sales led DC Comics to consider cancellation until the editorial teams offered to hand over the reins to writer Alan Moore who was mostly only known for 2000 AD and V for Vendetta during this period. What they didn’t know is that they made one of the most benefecial and critical decisions within their organization as writer Alan Moore went on to shock the world with an impressive and memorable career filled with quintessential masterpieces, including Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, and From Hell. Offered a clean slate, he thus takes over The Saga of the Swamp Thing from issue #21 and reinvents the character’s origin story while constructing him on a much more intimate and metaphysical level.
What is Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book One) about? Collecting issues #20-27 of The Saga of the Swamp Thing and containing a foreword by famed horror author Ramsey Campbell as well as an introduction by Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein, this volume presents an origin story for the mythical creature from the depths of the swamps who struggle to understand its true nature as he only wishes to grasp onto intangible humanity. Following a brutal confrontation with the villainous Sunderland Corporation, the Swamp Thing’s fate remains a mystery. Then enters an unusual and radical villain, Jason Woodrue, also known as the Floronic Man, who looks into the Swamp Thing and discovers a fatal truth that will toss him into a furious transformation as he’s unable to comprehend his own self and spirals into a frenzied examination of environmentalism. The volume also explores a secondary arc where the Swamp Thing is needed to confront demonic beings and possessed children.
As expected by writer Alan Moore, he brings a metaphysical touch to a character that was only barely explored superficially. Through introspection and reality-altering sequences, he looks into the creature’s identity to try and decipher if he’s man, plant, or monster. He also brings into play the Floronic Man to further expand the mythology behind the Swamp Thing and establish their roots within the world, giving the villain a different perspective on how he should feel about himself and how the world treats their ecological terrain. In an organic fashion, writer Alan Moore also brilliantly incorporates the classic horror elements that immediately distinguishes this comic book series from the rest of DC’s repertoire in the 1980s. His ability to create adult-targeted mature content is, after all, what essentially leads DC to bring forth the Vertigo imprint that went on to be one of the bests in the game. It also helps when writer Alan Moore brilliantly integrates DC superheroes into his universe while making them incompetent in the realm of the Swamp Thing.
It wouldn’t be complete without the artists in the creative team who perfectly complement writer Alan Moore’s wild ideas. Reminiscent of trending artwork in the 1980s, this volume embraces the chaotic structure and vivid colours worthy of any hypnagogic sequence in comic books. Through rough penciling, unconventional panel structures, extreme close-ups, and oddly satisfying fusion of realism and surrealism, the artwork is able to capture the sinister, gloomy, and enthralling qualities of the story. The colours are also heavily assorted and used to contrast between the foreground and the background. This is even more evident on splash pages that make for some memorable moments within the story. If anything, the artwork brings a very hallucinogenic edge to the narrative, especially when it ventures into the metaphysical or the horror.
Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book One) is a reinvigorating origin story for a creature in the midst of an identity crisis while offering relevant social, political, and ecological commentary.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!
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