Exploring Roots in “Swamp Thing” #1 (Review)
Writer: Len Wein
Illustrator: Kelley Jones
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Swamp Thing is one of those characters that I find hard to define as being well embodied. I feel the work that Alan Moore did with him in the 80s set the standard very high, so it’s tough to reach the bar that was set once he left the title. Perhaps this is the reason that DC has brought Len Wein to the creative team behind the relaunch of “Swamp Thing.” As one of the co-creators behind the character, Wein surely has something to offer to a character that has fluctuated so heavily throughout his publication history.
By no means is varying ability and power exclusive to Swamp Thing, but this fluctuation is something that we see again illustrated in this most recent relaunch. When reviewing this issue I turned back to some of my older “Swamp Thing” issues to see how the character has evolved over the decades since his creation. Swamp Thing is a character that has gone from primarily manipulating plant life to enveloping whole cities in flora with near god-like power. With Snyder’s more recent run on the character, Swamp Thing seemed to fluctuate somewhere in between these two points, and with Wein taking over I feel as though we’re moving more towards the Swamp Thing of old.
This isn’t Moore’s introspective Swamp Thing but Wein gives a version that seems much more human. We’re getting a Swamp Thing that has distanced himself from the Parliament of Tress and seems well involved in the affairs of the everyday—even though his adventures can hardly be considered everyday. This adaptation of Swamp Thing seems more relatable and this really emerges in Wein’s writing.
Wein does an amazing job of setting scenes and really giving the audience a sense of time and place. Much like his earlier work when the character first began, the opening pages are really able to set the groundwork and provide a vibrant environment that is blooming with life. While Wein’s descriptive work is great, there are moments of awkwardness that poke through the dialogue. Wein’s work embodies well that fragmented way Swamp Thing speaks, but on occasion an idiom or phrase is used that just seems a bit out of place—as something I might expect from the mouth of Ben Grimm.
While Wein’s writing does a good job of distilling the history of the character, the art is what you might expect from the comic genre. I can’t say that I was particularly dazzled by the art, but at times if feels as though it’s paying homage to the styles used to previously illustrate Swamp Thing. Generally, there are large swathes of black and the character almost appears to be carved from that in shades of green. Considering the lush artwork and vivid splash pages of the last volume, it’s no doubt hard to compete with the work of the pervious creative teams. However, it’s important to remember that this is only the first issue and it’s not necessarily fair to compare their work against that of the many who have composed the character prior.
Even though my favorite Swamp Thing was the version that enveloped all of Gotham in vegetation, and delivered a serious beat down to Batman, this most recent version is still an amazing reflection of the character. The creative team does an awesome job of staying in touch with the character’s roots and provides the audience with an incarnation that is true to his history. This remains a solid start with lots of potential, but returning to his origins may take some getting use to because we’ve had such a variety of creative teams take on the character in a short span of time.