I’m reviewing Animal Man #12 and Swamp Thing #12 because they are two halves of one story. I’m also pretty sure I’ll be packing it in with these two books until they get past the battle with The Rot. I can only venture to guess what Swamp Thing scribe Scott Snyder and Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire are trying to do. Either they want to rival The Neverending Story in length, or they want to drag a comic book arc on as long as the '80s Hobgoblin story. Whatever they’re up to, I cry uncle, I tap, I quit, I am all done.
The combined talents of Snyder and Lemire come together for both Animal Man and Swamp Thing #12. "Rotworld" is the newest chapter of the year-long Rot story, the first part of which kicks off in Animal Man. Buddy Baker is still on lam from the Rot warriors who are out to stop him and his little daughter, the avatar of the Red.
Wait; let me bring you up to speed.
The Red is the power of all flesh life, the Green is all plant life and the Rot is the decay of both these things. When in balance, the three work in symbiosis to keep the natural world maintained. If one of these powers gets bigger than the other, well, then they become evil. Part of my overall problem with this Rot story is how characters keep reiterating that the Rot is part of the natural balance of things, but yet it is unadulterated evil. Are we as readers so stupid that The Rot can’t be written as a benevolent force that has gotten out of control instead of being portrayed as this easy zombie like nightmare creature? Why would death and decay be evil? Why would a force that exists in nature have somebody like Anton Arcane as its avatar?
Let’s get back to Animal Man. During one of the more torturous parts of the Rot saga, Buddy Baker’s body became infested with the Rot. Buddy’s spirit managed to fight its way back from Rot Hell, then Buddy grew a new body (how convenient) and fought his old body to the death. Problem is now Buddy’s oldest son is infected. To find a cure, Buddy, his daughter aka the avatar of the Red, Buddy’s wife and their Yoda cat…
Oh wait, did you not know about Yoda cat?
Apparently, the Red sent a guide back with Buddy and his daughter to help out. Just like every other mystical assistant, whenever this cat has to explain anything it speaks in riddles and vague descriptions. Nothing like getting your Yoda speak on when the balance of the world is at stake.
So, anyway, Buddy, the family and Yoda cat venture into the swamp to find, you guessed it, Swamp Thing. Apparently, Swamp Thing can help Buddy’s son by helping Buddy attack The Rot at its source. After a long-winded speech about Buddy feeling the life force of the swamp, he finds Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane, though I half expected him to raise an X-Wing fighter out of the bog.
Swamp Thing and Buddy decide to venture into The Rot, because they’ve beaten it back and have it scared. Yep, Swamp Thing and Animal Man have slapped one of the most horrific forces in the existence of anything and now it is close to being destroyed. Not only does that not make sense within the parameters that both comics have given us about the Rot, it’s also a trap any five-year-old would avoid.
Buddy and Swamp Thing leap into a portal, which takes them into The Rot. The only lifeline these two have to return to their world is a giant vine growing out of Swamp Thing’s head. At the end of Animal Man #12, these Rot bugs have crawled out of the portal to attack Abby and Buddy’s family.
Swamp Thing #12 opens with Buddy and the Green One heading down huge ladder made of bone. Back on the surface, Buddy’s daughter is using her powers to take down the Rot attackers while Abby uses her fists and Buddy’s wife a shotgun. As Buddy and Swamp Thing make their way towards the heart of the Rot, Anton Arcane shows up and…. surprise, surprise… it’s a trap. On the surface, Abby is forced to close the portal (she has Rot powers, long story) and cut off the only way Animal Man and Swamp Thing have to return home. Don’t worry though, Abby knows where the long lost heart of the Rot is and plans to go there.
Meanwhile, Buddy and Swamp Thing are forced to listen to some egocentric Arcane babble before being told they’ve been in the Rot for an entire year. Suddenly, the two heroes are back home, but all of the world has been overrun with The Rot. Two issues, 44 pages give or take and we’re not any closer to a battle with The Rot. This is an astounding turnabout, because the Rot story was an incredible idea, one that’s been polluted with filler issues repeating the same things over and over.
Lemire and Snyder retain their ability to write. The dialog snaps, the pacing is solid and the action is really well done. None of that matters when you’re essentially writing the same issue over and over. The Rot is here, we should be scared, I want to fight it, the child is so powerful, oh no the Rot got the better of us. Time to run away. The last seven months have been that basic story idea, in both issues, over and over.
Steve Pugh handles the art in Animal Man and, while he does a decent enough job, nothing here really jumps out at me. Wait, I’m wrong, the fact that Pugh makes Animal Man look like Eminem is a little weird. Outside of that, the art is cool but as always, not Travel Foreman. I do like Pugh’s strong line work and the way he pencils Swamp Thing, but his faces leave a lot to be desired. Everybody has the exact same look on their face for nearly the entire book.
Marco Rudy pencils Swamp Thing and, while I enjoy his style over Pugh, it’s not the greatness of usual Swamp Thing artist Yanick Paquette. Rudy’s work is a lot more fluid than Pugh’s; it always seems to be moving. I like Rudy’s detail work and his faces have a much deeper range of emotion than Pugh. Where Rudy’s work really suffers is the color work from Val Staples. I realize the story takes place in a swamp but it is too muddy, too steeped in brown overtones and muted colors. Nothing Rudy does is awful, but it all lays on the page unable to combat the color scheme.
As of right now, I’m out of Swamp Thing and Animal Man. I’ll be back once the Rot story arc is over.
SWAMP THING #12
(4 Story, 2 Art)
ANIMAL MAN #12
(3 Story, 2 Art)