Friday, October 19, 2012

Comic Reviews: Saga of the Swamp Thing 1&2

Book One

    Swamp Thing was a movie I loved as a lad, what with Adrienne Barbbeau and her…assets.  But I never gave the character much more thought, and I never read the comics.  A few years back, I read some of Marvel’s Man-Thing, and enjoyed the mystical crazy of that (Howard the Duck!).  But again, gave it little more thought.  And though he’s held as a god among comic fans, Alan Moore is a mixed bag in my opinion, with some great and some crap, so the name wasn’t an especial draw.  At some point, though, I said ‘what the heck,’ and grabbed the first volume of the series.  Though issue one of the New 52 Swamp Thing re-launch left me cold, I was surprised to enjoy the recent issue 0 as much as I did.  I think that might be what sparked my decision to read the older book.

    The artwork is from that period of change, still carrying hints of old time comics, but with more dynamic and creative panel design.  And like the art, the story is more complex and twisting.  It has a vague Tales from the Crypt/Eerie/Creepy kind of vibe, feeling much more like a horror tale than a superhero story.  Even the appearance of the Justice League (my favorite! *yes, that’s sarcasm*) is mysterious.  They appear almost as gods, reigning in their space-based Olympus.  The Demon’s appearance is less awkward, and his weird 70s-type supernaturally cursed life fits well with that of the Swamp Thing and his associates.

    There’s something fascinating about the Swamp Thing’s alien nature, he is somehow natural and unnatural.  A manifestation of Earth’s flora, a force of nature, an echo of a murdered man of science.  And Moore seems to be setting up some interesting concepts.  It’s also early enough in his career that he seems to have some check on his rambling.  So while there’s often a lot going on, it’s not as needlessly dense and wordy as much of his later work.  You don’t get that feeling that he’s completely fallen in love with himself yet.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One
Author: Alan Moore
Artists: Stephen Bissette & John Totleben
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2082-2

Book Two

    With the exception of the issue Pog, which I neither get nor enjoy, this volume is even more intense and rough than the first.  This includes the first issue from DC to go out without the Comics Code certification.  It helped to break the back of the self-imposed censorship of mainstream comics.  There’s even a journey into the afterlife, with Swamp Thing as the crusading seeker.

    The art is varied, with some fill-in work and a reprint of some early Wrightson.  From what I understand about Alan Moore, even this early in his career, he was very specific about how panel layout was set up.  And you can see early hints of the crazy, confused kind of thing he’d put forward in work like Promethea.

    No doubt, some will find the fairly extensive, semi-poetic final chapter creepy, weird, or worse.  But as far as sex scenes between strange women and giant walking plants go, it’s kind of beautiful.  The cover for that issue, number 34 is actually one of my favorite Swamp Thing images.  I remember seeing it as a kid, and always thought it was especially effective.

    This is really a heck of a series, and I can tell why it’s considered a classic, and how Moore established a fanbase.  The art and the writing are there, and where they take the characters is surprising.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Two
Author: Alan Moore
Artists: Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Shawn McManus, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2532-2


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