At this point, I feel like it’s safe to say that the most-successful creative handoff in the New 52 has been from Scott Snyder to Charles Soule on “Swamp Thing.” With the title shifting from one strong writer to another, “Swamp Thing #23.1: Arcane” is a perfect example of how seamless the transition has been. Here, Soule and Jesus Saiz show us what Anton and Abby Arcane have been up to since the conclusion of “Rotworld,” as well as providing a glimpse of where they might be going.
Before we dig into Soule’s story, special kudos go to Saiz for the art in “Swamp Thing” #23.1. Ever since his work on “Midnight, Mass” many years ago, I’ve looked out for Saiz’s name on comics and enjoyed his art. This, though, is a huge leap forward for him. Just look at page two, showing Anton Arcane in the middle of his personal Hell. The blades of grass, the leaves on the trees, the delicate flower petals… everything is so carefully and lovingly drawn. I don’t remember Saiz’s art having quite this much detail before, or such expert rendering. What makes it work doubly so is the contrast between the lush surroundings and the sunken-faced Anton Arcane in the middle of it all. It’s the perfect clash between life and decay. Even the shift between Anton and Abby is great; she’s the new avatar of the Rot, after all, but there’s still a sleekness about her new form that is drawn perfectly by Saiz. You can tell just by looking at the page who’s the holder of the Rot’s powers now and who has been cast aside.
The story itself works well, too; Soule mixes past, present and future to provide a bit of everything. The look into Abby’s early days meshes well with what Snyder set up in “Swamp Thing” earlier, and it’s a dark but not overly nasty story. At the same time, the framing device in the present day looks to set up a future storyline involving both of the Arcanes. It’s a smart move, because it gives us as readers an answer to the question, “Why does this matter?” It’s a hook that connects the Villains Month one-shot to “Swamp Thing” in general, and it grabs your interest.
Soule’s working out quite well on “Swamp Thing,” and this issue is just another example of his strength as a writer. So long as Soule is interested in writing “Swamp Thing,” he (as well as Saiz, for that matter) is welcome as far as I’m concerned.