While the argument can be made that the entirety of this current run of “Swamp Thing” is a tribute to everything that has come before, there is no question Yanick Paquette’s cover for “Swamp Thing” #10 is completely dedicated to the wonderfully creepy creativity of Bernie Wrightson. Echoing Wrightson’s take on the same issue number from 1974, Paquette updates the monstrous matchup between Swamp Thing and Anton Arcane marvelously while maintaining the spirit of Wrightson’s composition.
Naturally, the cover spoils a bit of what goes on in the pages of the book, but Paquette doesn’t deliver any art inside this month’s installment of “Swamp Thing.” That duty falls to Francesco Francavilla, who handles all of the art chores save lettering. The opening page is all black and shades of red with only Travis Lanham’s creepy dripping dialog boxes straying from that palette. Those boxes are disembodied dialog from Anton Arcane, setting the story for the reader and establishing the timing of the remainder of this chapter.
That said, this issue follows a nine-part tale that included creation of the Rot, transformations of Alec Holland and Abby Arcane and the resulting battle between Swamp Thing and the minions of Sethe. By all accounts, “Swamp Thing” #10 should give the protagonist a chance to breathe in some fresh air, lick his wounds and recover — except the air is humid, thick and happens to be filled with figurative razor blades. The real threat is the newly-restored Anton Arcane, bent on reclaiming his heir. In this issue, Scott Snyder layers two stories together so tightly that by the end of the issue the two threads are merged, the threat is revealed and Swamp Thing is set to once more struggle against death for a chance at life.
The biggest problem I have with “Swamp Thing” #10 is it’s such a gripping read that in order to keep afloat, I had to keep turning pages rather than soak in the luscious artwork from Francavilla. There’s a flashback sequence that Francavilla frames with the standard-issue rounded corners, but his composition of those pages transforms them into throwback sequences with visual nods to all the artists who drew Swamp Thing before him, from Marco Rudy to Nestor Redondo.
While I have enjoyed the contributions of Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy to this series, Francesco Francavilla’s art takes control of Snyder’s story and makes it his own. Under his brush, Anton Arcane achieves new levels of fearsome creepiness, partially due to Francavilla’s penchant for rich shadows and implied detail in those scenes. Throughout this issue, the artist truly displays the full range of his abilities, from the lush undergrowth of the swamp to the grotesque creations known as the Un-Men. While I’m certain we’ll see more “Swamp Thing” work from Francavilla in the future, I’m disappointed that he doesn’t have the opportunity to complete this arc.