New 52 Review: Swamp Thing #1

Scott Snyder captures the perfect storm of influences from his predecessors, Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson and Alan Moore.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Swamp Thing #1

Swamp Thing originated from the minds of comic icons Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. From there, the character was deepened and turned into the stuff of literature by Alan Moore, perhaps the greatest comic book author of his generation. So if you’re going to jump-start Swamp Thing in the shadow of those giants, what do you do? If you’re comic scribe Scott Snyder, you open fire with both barrels and start etching your name in there alongside the rest. Swamp Thing #1, the adventures of the post-reboot Swamp Thing, is the perfect storm of Wein/Wrightson horror, Alan Moore depth and the modern twist of Scott Snyder.

The first three pages of Swamp Thing #1 clue you in to how good this story is going to get. Brought back from the dead by the events of Brightest Day, Alec Holland tells a creepy story of working for his father and first learning that flowers can scream. During the story, we get three heroes: Superman watching thousands of birds die suddenly and fall to the streets of Metropolis, Batman standing in his cave surrounded by the bloody carcasses of fallen bats and, finally, Aquaman swimming through scores of dead fish. By the time we settle on Alec Holland, who is working construction to escape his former life, a real sense of dread has crept in.

Superman, who is both asking advice on the natural disasters as well as checking up on him, visits Holland. It’s a conversation that seamlessly sets up plot points while also reestablishing our connection with Alec Holland. Meanwhile, the bones of a Mastodon have been swept away by a natural force that later takes shape and kills three men by twisting their heads all the way around and making them zombies. The final pages of the book find Holland’s nightmare of becoming Swamp Thing again driving the doctor to destroy his greatest invention, but not before being confronted by his all-natural alter ego.

The crux of Snyder’s success with Swamp Thing is his ease with playing all the points of the characters history. Using his own style, Snyder sets up the mystery of the story. He reveals enough to keep you interested but hides enough to force you back for issue 2. Within that framework, Snyder ties in the Wein/Wrightson horror era with the murders and flying bones as well as folding the elemental work of Moore within the Superman conversation and the final scene. This isn’t mimicry; this is Snyder nailing the spirit of the origins of Swamp Thing and using it to tell his story. Like American Vampire and Detective Comics, Snyder brings a real sense of literature to what he does.

The art from Yanick Paquette is cool except for his glaring inability to draw Superman’s face. First off, this is the reboot and I hate the new Superman costume. The whole armor guise makes the Man of Steel look like he mugged Tron. I also dislike the new “S”; it’s way too big. None of that is Paquette’s fault and he does a solid job with the new design. The lion’s share of the art is spot on, especially the very awesome Swamp Thing. My only gripe is that Paquette makes Superman look like the guy from Man Vs. Food. It’s disheartening to try and focus on what Superman is saying but also keep waiting for him to take a spicy food challenge. Regardless of that, Swamp Thing #1 is an issue that can stand proudly with the long and brilliant history of one of DC’s most under appreciated characters.