In “Swamp Thing” #37, writer Charles Soule, artist Jesus Saiz, colorist Matt Hollingsworth and letterer Travis Lanham introduce readers to the Machine Queen, self-proclaimed queen of the Rithm, referred to as the Metal Kingdom or the Machine Kingdom. Formerly ruled by a Calculus, this issue of “Swamp Thing” delivers a revolutionary shift in the kingdom’s construction and efforts. It is only fitting, therefore, that this tale is titled “Upgrades.”
Almost from his debut, Swamp Thing has had a distinctive, labored speech pattern crafted in rugged orange word balloons, a trait that has carried into this volume of the character’s adventures. Recognizing the importance to carry on further distinctions, Lanham gives each of the other kingdoms — and frequently the primary players in each of those other kingdoms — unique patterns: font, color and shape. In this manner, Lanham integrates into the visual creative team of “Swamp Thing” #37 as decisively as artist Saiz and colorist Hollingsworth. The colorist follows suit (or maybe vice versa) with the members of the Calculus each cast in distinctive hues to match their word balloons throughout the issue.
The art itself is painstakingly layered in details, from the differentiation in color between the flesh of an apple and the vicinity nearest the seed in the apple’s core. Saiz brings his very best to the issue as well, conscribing wrinkles around John Constantine’s eyes, pages and crinkles to the books and scrolls of the archives found in the temple of the Sureen and chain link fence in the alleyways of Philadelphia. The artist delicately draws fur on the feline victim in the final scene of “Swamp Thing” #37 and ensures every tooth is present in the skeletal remains shared on the cliffhanger final page of this adventure.
Underneath the appearance of forces being marshaled for a coming battle, Soule shows readers just how calculating the Machine Queen can be, a factor that was inherent to the character prior to this predicament, but when housed in metallic casing only becomes magnified. Through the Machine Queen, Soule is working towards the revelations of the “Futures End” issue, making “Swamp Thing” #37 a rich, satisfying read with vast potential for emotional impact.
“Swamp Thing” #37 continues to build on the significant and entertaining accomplishments of this series as Soule continues to craft a story that constructs new worlds, introduces new kingdoms, forges new alliances and breaks new rivalries. The Rithm is positioning itself to oppose the Green, specifically the avatar of the Green and is willing to do anything to accomplish that end. In doing so, “Swamp Thing” #37 shifts into fantasy/science fiction storytelling with a tinge of horror, temporarily putting the horror that made this character so wildly popular to begin with. Soule and company are still investigating the horror of the human — and post-human — condition, as sides are drawn and the battle appears to be on the horizon. This is a magnificent run, as Soule adds quite nicely to the legend of “Swamp Thing” that Scott Snyder laid the foundation for in September 2011’s “Swamp Thing” #1.