Swamp Thing #1

Swamp Thing #1

A-

I owe Scott Snyder an apology.

See, when I’d read that Snyder would be taking up writing duties on Swamp Thing — a title starring one of my all-time favorite characters — as part of DC’s New 52, I invested a lot of hope in him. Too much, probably. Sure, there are plenty of other books to be excited about, but I know Grant Morrison can tell a killer Superman story, I know Jeff Lemire can really knock any story he wants out of the park. From books like Gates of Gotham I knew Snyder was good, but could he do this character justice?

Actually, scratch that apology. Scott Snyder has exceeded all of my expectations here. This is only the third book of the relaunch I’ve read so far, but it’s the first one where I’ve really thought yes. This is exactly how I believe this book should be done. If I have anything to apologize for, maybe it’s that I doubted Mr. Snyder in the first place, because holy crap, this is good.

Swamp Thing #1 opens a few weeks after Alec Holland has risen from the dead. Now he’s in possession of the memories of Swamp Thing, a monstrous elemental force who once believed himself to be Holland (I know, this sounds weird). Alec wants nothing more than to live a simple life free of the Green. He’s quit his life’s work as a scientist and has taken up a construction job in Louisiana, though his plant past still haunts him. When a series of concurrent ecological disasters attract the attention of the superhero community, Superman seeks out Holland’s aid but finds him unwilling. Unfortunately, the Green may force him to reconsider his passivity.

I recently completed a six-week study of Alan Moore’s character-defining run on Swamp Thing, surely one of the must-read series in comic book history. I’m thrilled to report that Snyder seems to have the same love of that material that I do. Many of his writerly tactics pay homage to Moore, whether it’s the little vignettes that let us get inside of supporting characters’ heads, the flawless scene transitions that hinge on a segment of relevant dialog carried over between panels, or the pervasive atmosphere of horrors both subtle and overt that penetrate this book. Snyder’s opening scene, showing animals facing mass extinctions in Metropolis, Gotham City and Atlantis, sets the perfect tone to carry this issue forward. It also, interestingly, ties in to some recent ecological woes — much like Moore, Snyder seems to have his eye on the real world as much as fictional ones.

Penciller Yanick Paquette provides the perfect match for Snyder on this book. I can’t think of an artist who draws such compelling regular, non-costumed characters in comics — everyone from his Alec Holland to his Clark Kent to his random archaeologists are true to life and full of detail (this also helps prove my theory that no artist, no matter how talented, can make the new Superman costume look okay). The supernatural scenes, too, shine; I love the two pages in the middle of this issue where a mastodon skeleton comes to life, animated by otherworldly forces. Paquette’s shaky panel borders there again recall Moore’s run (much of it with greats Steve Bissette and John Totleben), proving that he, like Snyder, is totally equipped to take this character on his latest adventures.

SPOILER ALERT. For long-term fans of the property, I can’t help but think that there’s a lot of tantalizing stuff here. The climactic scene of supernatural assault especially seems full of portent — this isn’t the first time a Swamp Thing character has been possessed by a fly, nor is it the first time we’ve seen evil creatures with backwards heads. Whether or not Snyder and Paquette are directly referencing past plot points or merely giving fans a nod remains to be seen, but that’s certainly a mystery I plan on sticking around for.

Pull list verdict: KEEP IT.

 

tags: scott snyder, swamp thing, the new 52, yanick paquette

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