Swamp Thing is back in a new six-part miniseries written by his co-creator, the legendary Len Wein. This mini-series was pitched by DC as being for both long-time fans and new readers alike. This is a difficult tightrope to walk, and Wein does so with grace.

A standalone story, the first issue respects the iconic character’s four decades of history without relying upon them in a way that would disadvantage new readers. Wein succinctly reiterates the Swamp Thing Alec Holland’s origin story in one page, providing the necessary background without boring returning fans. This devotion to demonstrative storytelling is the issue’s greatest strength.IMG_0093

For example, Wein illustrates Holland’s powers early in the issue during an impromptu struggle with an alligator. Instead of using captions to describe Holland’s inner struggle between savagery and humanity, he shows it in his rage at the alligator and yet mercy towards him. This brief encounter doesn’t feel like setup, lasts only three pages, and yet informs/reminds readers of the hero’s unique body composition, healing abilities, super strength, ability to control plants, and most importantly, personality.

Through an interaction with the Phantom Stranger, we learn that Holland has been isolating himself in the Louisiana bayou. He states that he “would rather spend one more minute a man… than a million years as a plant,” articulating the profound self-hatred and inner struggle that is his hallmark.

Holland is drawn out of his swamp and into the conflict of the story by Frank and Grace Wormwood. They have sought him out to help them save their son, a college student who volunteered for an experiment on regeneration that went horribly wrong (don’t they all?). Since the experiment, he has been wreaking havoc on his former campus, hunting down and killing the professor and other members of his class, whom he blames for his transformation.

IMG_0095This is where the issue begins to break down. The parents’ description of events is given, and then almost immediately the story jumps to the battle between Holland and Wormwood. Veteran readers will recognize that they are meeting the new avatar of The Rot (with a name like “Wormwood,” this back-from-the-dead villain can’t be anything else), which makes the lack of information disturbing.

While it’s stated that Wormwood is a zombie, no explanation is given as to how he became one. How did he go from a normal college kid in a coma to a shriveled, decaying zombie with super-strength in a matter of days, all from his parents “pulling the plug,” as they describe it? Furthermore, Holland says that he has “never faced anything this strong.” While that’s exciting, he has faced a lot of villains over the past 44 years. If readers are to believe that this is the biggest and the baddest, then that claim is going to need some backing up. The support, however, never comes.

Based on Wein’s expertise earlier in the issue, it seems unlikely that he would revert so badly here to shallow, unsupported statements. The sudden abruptness and jerkiness of the story feels like pages and panels were removed, which perhaps they were. My guess is that the original story was edited for length to maintain the issue’s $2.99 price tag.

Despite this hiccup, the resulting battle with Wormwood is thoroughly enjoyable. Though we don’t know why Wormwood looks the way he does, he is masterfully drawn by Kelley Jones (Batman, Sandman) and colored by Michelle Madsen (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel & Faith).  Their work echos the original Swamp Thing while adding a layer of emotional subtlety.

Though Holland and Wormwood’s faces are distorted by their transformations, Jones expertly articulates their feelings through their eyes. In Holland, we see the gentleness in the giant; in Wormwood, we see the hysteria and break from reality. Rob Leigh’s lettering is also an homage to the original run, which adds a nice finishing touch to the book. Though the second half lacks the precision and technique of the first, the final page will leave old and new readers alike clamoring for the next issue.

Swamp Thing #1 can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop, from DC Comics, or on Comixology.com

Overall Score
75 %

Original co-creater Len Wein delivers a new Swamp Thing story that will satisfy long-time fans and new readers alike.

Writing 70%
Art 80%

About The Author

Kate Skocelas is a comic and book reviewer at DestroyTheCyborg!. When she’s not reading, she enjoys indoctrinating friends into Image Comics and explaining why Kate Bishop will always be the best Hawkeye.

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