DC hasn’t exactly given Swampy a smooth transition back to the DC Universe with the dismissible “Brightest Day Aftermath: Search for Swamp Thing.” After twenty-plus years of being a Vertigo property, Swamp Thing should have been able to be re-introduced with fanfare and trumpets, especially since he was the one character, time after time, panel after panel, convention after convention, that fans asked about, begged about and collectively willed to return to the DC Universe.
Reboot one universe, insert one Swamp Thing, bring to a boil with stunning art from Yanick Paquette and – voila! – instant jumping on point for one of DC’s most beloved characters. Except for one thing: As writer Scott Snyder has alluded to in interviews, there are things below the surface that will pave the way for stories to come. The Len Wein/Bernie Wrightson stories that established the muck monster are still to be considered part and parcel of the character’s mythology, as is the Alan Moore stuff, the Rick Veitch stories, the Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan and Andy Diggle tales. No story is going to be undone.
This could lead to a tangled mess of roots and twigs, prickers and thorns. Or, as Snyder displays in this issue, it could be the revelations that begin to rebuild the darkest corners of the DC Universe like a tiny seed thumbed into moist topsoil and given proper care, sunshine and plenty of water.
Choosing to dial in on the man behind the muck monster, Snyder gives us an issue that puts Alec Holland right at the heart of the action and leaves Swamp Thing in the background. For now. In doing so, however, Snyder reflects back to the earliest days of “Swamp Thing,” giving us a tale not unlike Wein and Wrightson’s earliest stories from the first series of the muck monster from 1972. Those early tales featured Swamp Thing shambling through life, trying to figure out who and what he is. Here, Snyder gives us Alec Holland, shambling through a newfound life, trying to figure out why he has returned, especially with the memories of the Green hounding him.
This is an interesting take, investigating the man behind the Swamp Thing, as he reestablishes himself in a universe he has known, but doesn’t really know. It’s an interesting parallel for the fans of the DC Universe who step into this reboot with the same handicap Holland has: we think we know where we are and who these people are, but we’re not quite sure why or where things are supposed to go from here. Memories haunt us, but the promise of new life leads us onward.
Snyder promises a revelatory adventure for Holland and the reader, and wastes no time rooting Holland deep into this new DCU with appearances by Aquaman, Batman, and Superman. Snyder does some additional landscaping around Holland – but not too close, yet – with creepy scenes involving flies and heads unnaturally turning upon torsos. The scene is disturbing and unnerving, but it somehow just feels right in a book titled “Swamp Thing.” It has to be seen to be truly appreciated, and Yanick Paquette’s art is definitely something to appreciate.
Paquette jams every panel full of detail. I hesitate to refer to them as “panels,” but do not have a more descriptive word readily available as each page is a montage of beautifully detailed art. This world around Holland is lush and green, full and deadly. There’s a beautifully consolidated rendition of Holland’s origin as Swamp Thing, a magnificent and humbling appearance by the Man of Steel, and eerie, frightening, nightmare-inducing pieces that feature the yet-unnamed threat. While I knew what to expect with Snyder writing, I had less defined expectations of Paquette and this first issue absolutely obliterated them.
Nathan Fairbairn’s colors bring a lush Kodachrome beauty to the world Alec Holland walks through. Equally, the horrors of the mastodon dig are harshly steeped in disturbing shades of red that deliver uneasiness in massive quantities. Fairbairn and Paquette make a powerful combination on the art of this book, and their efforts are rounded out quite nicely by John J. Hill’s lettering delivering rumbling, painful dialog from the plant kingdom’s greatest champion.
This isn’t a simple done in one, but it is also not a fluffy, drawn-out, slow-motion intro. There are gems here for long-time Swamp Thing fans, nestled with enough suspense and teased information to beckon readers back for more. This is only the second book of the relaunch I have read to this point and, honestly, I’m good right here and declare the reboot a success. I hope the other books have seen the effort put into this title so they know what to aspire to.
Now if we could just do something to hurry up the days in between so I can read the second installment of this brave new Swamp Thing world.