In “Swamp Thing” #35, written by Charles Soule with art from Jesus Saiz, Alec Holland encounters a new kingdom: the Machines, the concept of which was introduced in “Swamp Thing: Futures End” #1.
Soule frontloads “Swamp Thing” #35 with the origin of the Machines achieving awareness and seeking even footing with the other kingdoms. Despite the technical nature of the entity, Soule manages to keep the “If” scenario that spawns Machines from being dry and clinical. The narrative threads quickly into the other kingdoms and leaps into present day as the representative — not avatar — of the Machines approaches Swamp Thing with an offer on the streets of New Orleans.
Saiz meets Soule’s intent in the middle and translates the representative into a smooth, digitized being with a featureless (think silver Cobra Commander mask) head and a pinstriped suit. That appearance gives the Machines, who present themselves as a Calculus, a gangster-like appearance, amplified by the offer they level at Alec Holland and the Green. In “Swamp Thing” #35, Saiz provides yet another example of his talent being the perfect match for the subject matter and the situation. Alec, Jonah, the Calculus, the streets of New Orleans and more all look perfectly appointed, thanks to Saiz’s work. The artist conscribes powerful storytelling to the confrontation between Swamp Thing and Calculus, giving the muck monstrosity as much emotion as his digital adversary lacks.
Saiz and colorist Matt Hollingsworth collaborate nicely, each overlapping the other to elevate the visuals of “Swamp Thing” #35. Hollingsworth doesn’t hold back with his color choices, but they always work, whether in the orange hazy sky as vegetation triceratops from the Green attack Tyrannosaurus Rexes from the Red, or in the murky green depths of the Grove, or the digital green glow of the machine achieving sentience. The colorist also adds textures to this world, from the mossy “skin” on Alec Holland to the gritty cement dust where Holland split the streets of New Orleans.
While lettering is important in every comic book, Travis Lanham is as much a part of the creative process in “Swamp Thing” #35 as Saiz, Soule or Hollingsworth. The letterer gives every character — and every kingdom — a voice and differentiates each one, maintaining consistency throughout the book while celebrating diversity. Lanham’s locations are sharply designated throughout the issue, giving readers reliable notes throughout this comic book.
The Calculus is reminiscent of the Construct, but with a decidedly timeless spin. (The Calculus is technologically tethered, but independent of specific tech, whereas the Construct usually had connections to transistors, keypads or LCD.) “Swamp Thing” #35 widens the scope of the Kingdoms, and gives Swamp Thing and the Green a whole new set of beings with which to contend. Soule, Saiz, Hollingsworth and Lanham craft a sharp set-up issue here and position the Machines to make a lasting impact in a story that showcases a different kind of horrific monster.