Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Swamp Thing #1 - A Review

Swamp Thing may well have the most convoluted publishing history of any title in existence. Originally conceived in the 1970s for a one-shot story in the horror anthology House of Secrets, the character was reimagined as a more heroic figure for a solo-series at a time when books about monster protagonists were all the rage. Alan Moore revamped the character once again in the 1980s, with the concept that The Swamp Thing was not a dead scientist mutated into a plant monster but an elemental avatar and guardian of nature who had absorbed the memories of that scientist.

Things have become endlessly complicated since then with authors such as Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Andy Diggle and many others muddying the waters with their attempts revive and revamp the character. The latest attempt, coming out of the aftermath of the Brightest Day event, returned Swamp Thing to his original roots, with Alec Holland coming back from the dead to reassume his role as Earth’s champion. There’s only one problem – he wants no part of it.

As Swamp Thing #1 opens, Alec Holland is freshly resurrected and in hiding, trying to cope with a head-full of memories and feelings that aren’t his. Writer Scott Snyder (of American Vampire fame) wisely skirts around the previous volumes of Swamp Thing, ensuring that the book remains accessible to new readers while painting a sympathetic portrait of a man adrift who wants nothing more than a normal life. Naturally things won’t be that easy but this first issue gives us little sign of what is to come until the very end...

While the pacing of this first issue is a little slow, establishing things for those readers who are unaware of the history of Swamp Thing, I can find no fault with the artwork. Artist Yanick Paquette and colorist Nathan Fairbairn team to create the perfect imagery for this title, giving us lush, vibrant greenery and horrific skeletal visions where appropriate. It is a rare artist who can prove equally adept at depicting beautiful nature scenes and nightmarish supernatural elements but Yanick Paquette is such an artist.

Skeptics may want to wait for the first Trade Paperback collection of this series. Based on the first issue, I believe it may well read better in a single volume. But fans of classic DC Horror can rejoice for it seems that Swamp Thing is in very good hands.

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