Perhaps as much for their own benefit as for the readers’ sake, Len Wein, Kelley Jones, Michelle Madsen and Rob Leigh provide a brief history of Swamp Thing in “Convergence: Swamp Thing” #1. As so many of these “Convergence” tie-ins do, this one inserts the lead character into Gotham City.
Wein’s story would have been just as effective in any other setting in the DC Universe, from Metropolis to the bayou of Swamp Thing’s origin, but then the tale would have lacked an easy plot device to separate Alec Holland’s muck-encrusted existence from the power of the Green and would have also excluded the pair of quaint cameos from Batgirl and Poison Ivy.
Against the Gotham City backdrop, Wein gives readers plenty of opportunity to learn about Swamp Thing’s powers and origin. The writer also ties in the Red Skies of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and actually uses those as the impetus to transplant (no pun intended) Swamp Thing to Gotham. Swamp Thing’s struggles to reach the Green and his subsequent withering grab the reader’s attention and drag them deeper into the shadowy, murky art from Jones.
Kelley Jones delivers tributes to original Swamp Thing artist Bernie Wrightson and every artist since, but never loses control of his take on the leafy refugee. One panel in particular is drawn in Wrightson’s signature Swamp Thing style: hulking and muscular, with parched lips, glowing red eyes and — yes — ears. If I didn’t know better, I would do a quick check to make sure Jones didn’t lift it from Wrightson directly, but it is so very clearly an homage to the legendary horror artist. Readers familiar with Jones’ work will recognize the creepy blend of rich, black shadows and finely detailed backgrounds, which give every panel a deep sense of uncertainty and anxiety.
Michelle Madsen is the ideal colorist for Jones’ work here, layering in subtle gradients and rounding shapes ever so deftly. She uses magnificent hues when items need to separate themselves from the backgrounds and fills the issue with color, only occasionally peeling back the colors to set the characters apart from negative space. Rob Leigh’s letters stick with the traditional appearance of Swamp Thing’s dialogue: chunky orange balloons with dramatic, strained pauses, as Swamp Thing struggles to vocalize his agony and frustration.
Throughout “Convergence: Swamp Thing” #1, Wein keeps Abigail Arcane close by Swamp Thing’s side and even propels her into the spotlight. Jones draws Abigail as beautiful as Swamp Thing is massive and terrifying, providing a nice visual contrast to the unlikely fan-favorite couple. Coupled with a marvelously dense backstory, the end result is one of the best issues of the “Convergence” event and, certainly, an adventure worth seeking out for fans of Swamp Thing, Len Wein or Kelley Jones.