SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Justice League Dark #4 by James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez, on sale now!
Superheroes don’t have to conform to traditional inceptions in order to be effectively heroic in comic book universes. A character doesn’t have to hail from a dead alien planet to inspire humanity or grow up seeking justice in the name of their slain parents to have readers root for them in their exploits. This fact gives a slightly new take on the old adage that not all heroes wear capes (and no, we’re not talking about guys like Spider-Man), because some heroes are, in fact, literal monsters with origins steeped in horror. The quintessential example of this kind of hero would, without a doubt, be Swamp Thing.
For quite some time, especially in the ‘80s during which the character saw a film adaptation and a bit of a renaissance in his titular comic series at the hands of Alan Moore and Stephen R. Bissette, Swamp Thing was something of an anomaly. Despite being a hulking, monstrous beast without any tangible scrap of humanity (thank Alan Moore for that existential crisis, by the way), Swamp Thing became a relevant hero for the times. Perhaps it was due to the fact he hearkened back to the days of the Universal Monster Movies (at least the latter ones, anyhow) in terms of gaining sympathy from audiences.
In recent years, the creature once known as Dr. Alec Holland has not gotten the love he once used to. Sure, there have been stories surrounding the character from time to time, and a lot of them have been quite good (Brian K. Vaughan’s work with Holland’s daughter Tete and The New 52 incarnation were both standouts), but Swamp Thing hasn’t really been in the grander cultural consciousness in decades. This, however, looks like it might change if the events of Justice League Dark #4 are any indication.
Look, we get it. There are a lot of characters to juggle in Justice League Dark. And the fact most of the time it reads like the Zatanna and Wonder Woman show is awesome (any superhero comic to be able to pass the Bechdel Test is a welcome addition t your pull list), but with a character as complex and unique as Swamp Thing among their ranks, we would have hoped to see him a bit more in the spotlight.
Now, it’s hard to chastise a book for not giving us enough of a certain character after only four issues. However, it seems that may all changing, and fast. In Justice League Dark #4 Swamp Thing gets a glimpse into his worst fears becoming a reality when Black Orchid, who has been imbued with powers by goddess Hecate, threatens to destroy The Parliament of Trees, which would leave Swamp Thing the last guardian of The Green.