Part one of the two-part “Rotworld: Finale” is credited to writers Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder, as the two team in “Animal Man” #17 to bring Buddy Baker and Alec Holland back together as the duo storms Anton Arcane’s fortress, hoping to vanquish the Rot once and for all. Seeing as this is only half the finale, almost predictably the issue is capped off with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger, but readers only have to wait long enough to actually pick up “Swamp Thing” #17 — also released this week — to finish the tale.
The art team of Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II and Joseph Silver do a nice job of telling their individual portions of the issue without distracting the reader from the story. “Animal Man” #17 opens with Animal Man’s team of Black Orchid, Steel, Frankenstein, Medphyll and Beast Boy combatting former allies-turned-Rotlings. Pugh handles this segment, with artwork bleeding off the pages. Green and Silver contribute pages depicting the escapades of Swamp Thing, Barbara Gordon and the Bat-bot which are encapsulated with white borders in a very traditional sense, giving the comic a wild, unbalanced overall appearance. Pugh’s panels are constructed in an off-kilter fashion, almost as though the characters within them are causing them to shift on unseen fulcrums. Lovern Kindzierski’s coloring serves as the chapter’s unifying thread, along with the lettering of Jared K. Fletcher, who aptly handles the different style balloons required by Frankenstein, the Green Lantern ring, Swamp Thing and Anton Arcane.
While particulars of individual issues from the “Rotworld” saga might be fading from readers’ minds, “Animal Man” #17 does a great job of providing a pinnacle from which to survey the expanse of the grand narrative. Nothing is cleaned up neatly here, despite the well-placed appearance from the cavalry drawing out what could have been a sloppy and quick conclusion. Instead, the arrival of unexpected help prolongs the battle and sets up a conclusion featuring Pugh’s disgustingly twisted perversions of beloved characters becoming the stuff of nightmares on the final page. The horrific imagery of Rotlings being rent in half, heroes and heroines twisted into repulsive, morbid versions of the darkest facets of their personalities and the demise of the most human of characters from either title is quite a bit to wrap a mind around, let alone properly process.
I’m unsure what awaits these champions of the Red and Green, but Lemire and Snyder have left an ample supply of story nuggets for future writers to mine. After all, there are plenty of tales to be told of the heroes of the DCU’s fall to the Rot, the fights they endured and the decisions they made. Lemire, Snyder and company provide some insight within the pages of “Animal Man” #17, but it is evident that the story is not completely told. As for the conclusion to Rotworld, readers only need to open the cover of “Swamp Thing” #17 to begin the end of this lengthy journey.