by Mike Hansen
I’d read a lot of positive comments online about the new Swamp Thing series by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
So far, it’s pretty good.
More than anything, I can’t help but notice the strong references to Alan Moore’s definitive run on Swamp Thing. I’ve read very few Swamp Thing stories beyond Moore and Rick Veitch’s runs, and the original run by creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, and I’m guessing that DC expects this of much of the new series’ audience: In addition to homages in the art backgrounds to significant Swamp Thing creators like John Totleben, Steve Bissette, and the above-mentioned writers and artists, series artist Yanick Paquette creates layouts that heavily reference the classic work of those same artists. It’s a nice tribute, and an easy way to say to the reader that this new series aspires to live up to the lofty standards of the previous classic stories.
I hope it doesn’t last too long, though: if it keeps up, it’ll look less like a homage and more like a ripoff. Paquette is a talented artist, and I hope he looks to work like J.H. Williams III’s Promethea and John Cassaday’s Planetary to see how an artist with a solid style can still adapt his work to the story and material. For now, Paquette’s work looks a lot like Kevin Nowlan finishes over Bissette/Totleben layouts – which looks good, but I’d rather see him become a first-rate Yanick Paquette instead of a second-rate Kevin Nowlan. (How many people can name all of the non-Mignola artists on the Hellboy titles?) He’s certainly referencing some top-level talent, but based on his past work on series like Batman Incorporated and Terra Obscura, I know he can keep striving towards work that is more “him” than anyone else. As there is already a fill-in artist on issue #4, I hope he can keep up the pace and quality while continuing to improve.
The only true flaw in the art, to my eye, is the inconsistent line weights on Paquette’s figures and faces. Some pages have thin, clean lines (like issue #1, page 5), while others have a heavy thickness regardless of how tight the close-ups. It’s a minor thing, but it can distract from the depth in each panel.
Getting (finally) to Scott Snyder’s story, the first two issues do a great job establishing the role of Swamp Thing in the new DC Universe. It quickly dispels with the past, establishing that the new chapter in the life of main character Alec Holland (who’s not yet Swamp Thing – again) starts now. Which is great for me, because I completely ignored the previous Brightest Day and Aftermath material, and the last thing I want to feel as a new reader is that I need to read other comics to understand what’s going on.
The story makes it clear that previous Swamp Thing stories (whether the early ’70s-’80s material or the later “Mature” Vertigo issues) could have “happened” – that is, whatever Swamp Thing stories you like are still a part of the character’s history, even if he doesn’t clearly remember them at this point. This is the perfect dodge around the notion of requiring a rigid “continuity,” which did nothing but strangle DC storytelling over the last several years. Keeping it loose, like most Marvel titles, basically tells the readers that previous stories “count” only if they want them to. That it doesn’t matter, because they’re not needed to understand this new series.
Snyder tells the readers everything they need to know to get the story moving, and while some of it feels unnecessary and editorially mandated (the too-long Superman appearance in #1, the too-heavy exposition in #2), for the most part the story gets moving about as fast as it’s able. Unlike some other New 52 #1s, the cliffhanger endings for these two issues feel right, not forced; and they reward long-time readers while not shortchanging new readers. That’s not an easy trick, but Snyder pulls it off well. Snyder’s acclaimed run on Detective Comics proved he’s got the chops for storytelling and pacing, and I’d say that so far Swamp Thing is interesting enough for me to come back for more.
- Reanimated: Snyder Reasserts the Moody Genius of Swamp Thing (Review) (popmatters.com)
- TRUE BELIEVERS REVIEWS Returns with Reviews of DC New 52 Titles! (alldaycomics.com)
- Review – Swamp Thing #1 (graphicpolicy.com)
- 26 of 52: Swamp Thing #1 (looksat40.wordpress.com)
- Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Swamp Thing (tor.com)
- What’s next for Batman and Swamp Thing? Scott Snyder reveals his diabolical schemes [Batman] (io9.com)
- Comic Review: SWAMP THING (“Raise Dem Bones”) (mralphafreakreadscomics.wordpress.com)
- ‘Batman’ and ‘Swamp Thing': Scott Snyder’s dark plans for DC (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- 26 of 52: Week One Titles (looksat40.wordpress.com)
- This Week in the DC 52 (graphicpolicy.com)
- Picks of the Week – October 5, 2011 (chyrondave.wordpress.com)
- ‘Batman': Scott Snyder on Bruce Wayne’s new nemesis (herocomplex.latimes.com)