Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Publisher: DC Comics
Release: 7 September 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Aryan
One of the world's most iconic characters has returned to the heart of the DC Universe, and every step he takes will shake the foundations of the Earth!Swamp Thing is another of those unusual comics in the new 52 from DC. I do enjoy some of the more traditional superhero comics and I am planning to pick up and review some of them (Batwoman, Green Lantern, Detective etc) but I also enjoy the darker, more adult titles. These are comics that are technically Vertigo comics without being Vertigo (DC comics mature imprint). The ones that are targeted towards a more adult audience and may have been printed by Vertigo at some point, like Animal Man and Swamp Thing. There again, this character has a fairly complex history but you can pretty much ignore all of it and start with this first issue. All you really need to know is Alec Holland is a scientist and at one point in the past he was Swamp Thing, a creature of nature that was part of The Green. Swamp Thing is a sort of plant elemental, a living embodiment of Mother Earth with a conscience and powers that are terrifying and amazing. This was very firmly a horror comic in the past and it seems to be heading in that direction again, despite the appearance of a costumed superhero in issue 1.
Alec Holland has his life back…but the Green has plans for it. A monstrous evil is rising in the desert, and it'll take a monster of another kind to defend life as we know it!
As with many of the first issues so far, Swamp Thing 1 introduces the character to new readers and the current status quo, although it's not as clear what is going on compared to some of the others. The reason is not the fault of the writer, it's more that explaining what Swamp Thing is and what he can do, and what his 'mission' is, cannot be explained in an elevator pitch or catchphrase such as 'Truth and Justice' or 'An endless war on crime'. There is more of a mystery around Alec's relationship to Swamp Thing and it's not completely clear at this stage if he is still connected to and part of it. But that's fine. I didn't expect or want all of the answers in this first issue, otherwise it would end up being 22 pages of tedious exposition, which is exactly what the new 52 was set up to avoid. You shouldn't need to read an encyclopaedia before you can pick up a comic and so far I think the new titles have done very well and steered clear of this. There has to be plenty of hooks and mysteries in a first issue to interest new readers and make them want to come back, but you also need to give some a solid grounding.
There again, like Animal Man, I can see this will not appeal to everyone, but that's fine. It's not a traditional superhero comic and was never meant to be. There is no obvious villain and it's not going to be a fast paced punch up or a crime comic, nor will it feature teams of brightly dressed heroesin spandex fighting each other. That's not a criticism of thoes sorts of comics, I'm just trying to make it very clear what this is and what it isn't. Personally I quite enjoyed this comic and it is one I will look to continue picking up in trade. The issues may end on a cliffhanger, but I don't think they are likely to be gut-punching stories where you are biting your nails and just need to know what happens as soon as possible and have to race out to the comic shop next month. I could be wrong, but for me, this will read better in long form in a collected trade paperback.
I also hope that DC will give some comics a while to build an audience and they don't pull them too soon because they are not performing as expected when compared to say a comic like Justice League. That title was always going to do well because it features some of the most well known comic book characters in the world, together, in one comic. Expecting Swamp Thing to sell the same quantity (currently 200,000 copies were pre-ordered of Justice League issue 1 in the US) is not sensible. The real test for all of the new 52 will to be see how many of them are still available in a year, or after 12 issues. By then I expect some of them will have fallen to the side of the road, but other new titles are already in the pipeline, so there could easily be more than 52 ongoing comics available from DC by then. It's definitely a case of watch this space.