SWAMP THING #1
Written by Len Wein
Art by Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: January 6, 2016
The Swamp Thing returns to his roots… literally, as original creator Len Wein partners with artist Kelley Jones to deliver a new tale of horror in the bayou. There’s another creature afoot, and it’s up to Alec Holland, the undead Swamp Thing, to stop him. But can a man of the Green be enough to conquer death itself?
Starting a new series with a new creative team, especially when the last run was so distinctive (and critically acclaimed) is always tough. Scott Snyder and Charles Soule both left significant marks on the man known as Alec Holland, so returning to their well could only spark unfair comparisons.
It is with the deepest sense of pleasure that I can say DC Comics found the best way out of that logjam. Ha. Len Wein returns to the character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson and not only delivers a Swamp Thing that is so diametrically opposed to Snyder and Soule’s (without directly contradicting, mind you), but recaptures the feeling of the original House of Mystery-style storytelling the man-monster originally grew out of.
It is a bit of an adjustment to experience a far less regal-sounding Swamp Thing, an expectation that seems forever ingrained in me after a lifetime of reading Alan Moore and Mark Millar’s runs on the monster of Houma, Louisiana. I’m not even sure that tenor of voice was even present in the last run, stretching out of the launch of the New 52, except where I put it in with the voiceover in my head. Wein, however, breaks that habit with very deliberately plain dialogue pattern — very human in fact — in the style of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Monster. It’s certainly self-aware, but deliberately normal to contrast to the macabre body from which it rises.
It’s also a beautiful contrast to the sheer poetry of overarching narration that begins the issue, a walk through of the environmental conditions of the Houma swamp in stunning detail. I get the sense that Wein’s narration could carry this comic as a novella, but then when you pair it with Kelley Jones. I mean, for real.
As natural inheritor to Wrightson’s claim as preternatural supernatural super-artist, Jones is once again the perfect pick to carry on the next iteration of the Swamp Thing. Besides having worked his magic on the green musty form for many a year off and on, Jones brings this deep horror to the character and his surroundings through a stunning play of shadow. Almost no form is every fully revealed, but the detail that crawls out from the darkness — a mouth frond here or a pair of yellowed eyes there — just awes and draws you in, no matter how repelling the reality would be.
In terms of story pacing, the chapter does indeed read like an older style story, not precisely as compressed as old school horror stories did in the 1970s and 80s, but still mimicking some of the style of their delivery. The supplicants who tell the tale of woe to motivate the mission. The surprise visitor who pops in and out with little fanfare. The shocking reveal that relies more on the mood Jones sets up alongside Wein’s description than pure artistic shock value. The genuine horror, it seems, is in your head more than the page.
Fans of the Swamp Thing is all his incarnations cannot afford to pass this comic up, nor can anyone who spent their childhood paging through old Tales of the Crypt comics under the bed sheets with a flashlight. Wein and Jones have delivered a stunning reintroduction to an intelligent monster I can’t wait to follow into the mysterious depths of the Louisiana swamps and beyond. Welcome back to the good old days, Swamp Thing. It’s time to reminisce.
The Verdict: 10/10