When the rot is involved there are always monsters
Wanting to learn more about her role in the war of the rot Maxine asks Socks about the history of the red and the green. Socks recounts the tale of Jacob Mullin and Jack crow to her; the animal man and swamp thing of the 1800s.
Animal Man and Swamp Thing have been my top two books of the new 52 initiative, so to see the characters team up for a giant one-shot story was a great treat for me (even if it's technically not the proper characters from the respective series). Framing the story as being told by Socks worked very well and I was genuinely interested by the events.
One of the reasons I feel the story was so gripping for me was due to the story being set in the past; there's no guarantee any of the characters in the story will survive, as it's not like they're major players in the series, so I found myself actually worried about the characters' fate, a feat hard to achieve in comics these days.
There was also some nice mirroring between Jacob's story and Buddy's, the fact that he called his daughter "little wing" and the eye bleeding scene in particular. It really highlighted the cyclical nature of the red and the green, not only their war with the rot but also the effect they have on people.
Travel Foreman set a really distinct look for the book in the first five issues and I think Timothy Green II manages to capture the feel of this style well without necessarily just copying Foreman's look. His lines are very thin and calming which lures you into a sense of security which is completely blown away when the creatures of the rot appear. The panel layout, specifically in the dream scenes, were well done. Overall this was a great looking book.
Despite being a on-shot story the issues does manage to drop some hints towards the future of the book, and without spoiling it let's just say things don't look good for our good friend Buddy Baker. I was also a fan of the mythos building present in the issue, and it manages to develop themes and ideas I found interesting in the main books, such as thre being different Animal Men and Swamp Things over different generations.
If you are a fan of either series, particularly Animal man, then I would whole-heartily recommend this annual as there are some good hints towards the series' future and there is some good world building made for both books. That being said if you are a little low on funds or have no interest in diving into the lore of both series and just want to see the continuing stories of either Buddy Baker or Alec Holland then this issue is entirely skippable, though most likely if you are a devout fan you will find a lot to love here and would benefit from picking this one up.
Next up, the war of the rot begins!