Charles Soule's opening line for "Swamp Thing: Futures End" #1 is a pure winner, but it is dynamically overshadowed by the phenomenal artwork of Jesus Saiz, with colors from Matt Wilson and lettering from the tag team of Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito. Each one of these creators delivers the absolute best they have to offer in every stroke of their brush, pixel of color or letter of text. From the beginning, Soule makes it clear this is Swamp Thing's tale, but over the course of "Swamp Thing: Futures End" #1, there is no denying the integral roles played by each of the six kingdoms: Green, Red, Black, Grey, Divided and Metal.
Some of the kingdoms have been seen before, quickly or in greater detail, but Soule visits each one with significant opportunity for explanation and definition. Each kingdom in turn negotiates with Swamp Thing towards a shared common interest. As the journey builds in scope and the cast deepens, Soule works with his lettering duo of Sienty and Esposito, crafting a tale that is equal parts fantasy adventure, science fiction epic, comic book blockbuster and morality fable. It is as if Soule doesn't realize this is a comic book, or -- perhaps more poignantly -- he realizes "Swamp Thing: Futures End" #1 is of direct lineage for what many would argue was once the greatest (or at least more daringly innovative) comic book series of the modern era.
"The Zeugma" stands as what may very well be the "Swamp Thing" story that readers of modern DC Comics point to the same way more seasoned readers point to "The Anatomy Lesson," or fans of the early days of the New 52 point to Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette's "Raise Them Bones." Swamp Thing, as a character, can have successful stories in any era, with any outside resistance molded to be an antagonist. Soule seizes that and provides a comic book filled with antagonists. He also shows readers why Alec Holland may be the greatest champion the Green has ever known, all the while assembling a fine roadmap for future tales of the avatar of the Green. The fact that this comic is part of the "Futures End" event is almost irrelevant. This simply seems to be a tale Soule would have told regardless, but decides to adapt to the event at hand.
As mentioned before, Saiz delivers jaw-dropping work from the first image. A perfect fit for this character and Soule's approach to the darker corners of the DC Universe, Saiz's art is beyond reproach, but he pushes the visuals a little harder in "Swamp Thing: Futures End" #1. As has been the style for this title since it launched in 2011, the panel frames are organic to the tale, filled with mushrooms and molds in the land of the Grey, sinews and tendons in the Red and creepy, black inkiness throughout the Rot. Colorist Matt Wilson shared some of Saiz's pencils and graytones on Twitter, mentioning that Saiz makes his job a little easier, but in reality, it appears as though Saiz reaches out to Wilson, extending the visuals for true collaboration. The visuals in this comic book would be dazzling enough without words, but Soule's story adds so much depth and passion to the characters on the page, all of which are masterfully translated by letterers Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito. Each kingdom is bestowed its own text style and word balloon shade, and the narrative that glues this adventure together receives yet another treatment. The end result is an amazing composition that demands to be read again and again and again.
DC's September offerings can be perceived as gimmicky and forcing every title to pause their progress and visit a common thread seems counter-productive. That recipe alone sets these tales up for mediocrity or worse. Some issues stand a better chance than others to shine, but rarely can readers expect to find a dazzling display of all that is right with a title. Thanks to Soule, Saiz, Wilson, Sienty and Esposito, "Swamp Thing: Futures End" #1 is representative of the very best an event tie-in like this could offer. Readers need no part of anything else -- "Swamp Thing" or "Futures End" -- to enjoy this tale and find purchase with the characters in this comic book.