Picking up right where “Animal Man” #17 (also on sale this week) left off, “Swamp Thing” #17 is the second half of the big battle at the end of the “Rotworld” saga where Swamp Thing and Animal Man face off against Anton Arcane and the Rot. It’s not a surprise to say that; after all, it’s what Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have built up towards since “Rotworld” first began. While part of the conclusion of this comic won’t have readers bat an eye, it’s the other smaller details that ultimately make this comic fun.
After “Animal Man” #17’s big cliffhanger, it would be a fair guess that Snyder and Lemire’s big surprise was waiting there. The duo explain it a bit further in “Swamp Thing” #17, and while Arcane’s speech feels slightly more expositional than gloating, it still gets the story moving well enough that the comic is able to focus on the final takedown of Arcane. Of course, with the future of “Rotworld” about to be discarded so that the characters can be moved back to the present day, it’s always been a fair assumption that a lot of characters (if not all of them) native to this possible future would end up as corpses. I have to give Snyder and Lemire credit for not going for the completely obvious on that front. What readers end up with instead is a pleasant tying off of this timeline; there’s an actual conclusion presented here. Some characters die, sure, but others have more interesting things happen to them. Instead of lots of loose threads left dangling, Lemire and Snyder quite carefully tie them all off and in doing so make “Rotworld” feel much more complete than one might otherwise expect.
What will probably grab readers’ attention more, though, is what happens next. Mystical groups, entities, creatures and forces are a dime a dozen in comics these days, but I like what Snyder and Lemire do with their new introduction near the end of the comic. It takes some of the early ideas presented in “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man” in the New 52 and makes the current fight between the Green, Red and Rot into something more understandable. It’s not any sort of retroactive continuity, but rather additional information finally aligning with what we’ve already known. If nothing else, it’s essential for March’s grand conclusion to a story that will have run for a year and a half in both titles.
Andrew Belanger steps in on the art duties this month; we last saw him drawing a framing sequence in “Swamp Thing Annual” #1. Here he gets a full outing and on the whole I think he succeeds. It helps a great deal that this comes right after “Animal Man” #17, with his clean and iconic style having some common denominators with previous “Swamp Thing” artists Steve Pugh and Timothy Green II. I think Belanger is at his best when we get moments like the big fight between Arcane and Animal Man, where it’s a tight focus on just a couple of characters. The anger in Animal Man’s eyes is hard to ignore, and the texture of the feathers, spikes and plant tendrils that fill those panels feels perfect. Some of the big battle scenes feel a little harder to follow; there are a heck of a lot of characters for Belanger to draw, and while I appreciate Belanger’s attempts to take on Yanick Paquette’s custom panel border structure, it doesn’t feel quite right. On the whole though, it does look good; I just feel bad that Belanger’s first full comic at DC is one with so many elements all coming together. Hopefully after this outing, we’ll start seeing some more comics from him down the line.
“Rotworld” may have come to a close, but of course the big wrap-up/epilogue is still to come next month. So while the saga as a whole can’t be evaluated, does “Swamp Thing” #17 bring this chapter of it to a satisfying conclusion? I’d say so. The last page here is one that almost every reader must have seen coming (at least in terms of an end result, not in how it happens), but Snyder, Lemire, and Belanger made the way that it happens a fun one. With the setting of “Rotworld” laid to rest in a dignified manner, it’s even one that has resulted in a nice little surprise or two for the reader. Snyder and Paquette will bring it all home next month, but until then, I think this has delivered just what was promised to us as readers.