Scott Snyder left some massive shoes to fill when he departed Swamp Thing but, as he’s proving on Red Lanterns, Charles Soule seems to be a writer more than capable of stepping up. He’s taken the character in a much more (pardon the pun) grounded direction, shifting focus from matters of the metaphysical and grand to the concrete (at least as concrete as a book about a swamp man acting as avatar for all nature gets) and intimate. After the enigmatic Seeder made a literal whiskey tree grow in a small, destitute Scotland town, which eventually nearly brought it to ruin, it became clear that he wasn’t aware what he was doing had negative consequences (he initially made the tree grow because of a townsperson telling him it would be the village’s fondest wish to again distill whiskey and become prosperous), he left Alec Holland a very personalized message that it was time to meet. And meet they do as it turns out the Parliament of Trees may have more to do with this than initially believed or suspected.
Andrei Bressan has the absolutely perplexing title of “guest artist.” I have literally never seen that as an actual in-book credit, but I hope he turns out to be more than a guest, because his work on this book is absolutely top-notch. If you take a look at his (very violent) deviantart page, you can see he’s not only quite the Lobo fan and he’s very adept at drawing the gruesome, grisly things that are required of him on this title. Something that the creative team is definitely continuing is the tendency toward what can only be called “body horror” that would make David Cronenberg nod his approval. The action’s very sparse in this title, but it becomes much more impactful in its rarity, and seeing the reveals of certain...bodily modifications have far more impact than a full-on superhero throw-down. Matthew Wilson’s colors really come alive at these moments as well, bringing the horrifying imagery to chilling life. This is a book where the colors have to absolutely be spot-on and Wilson more than delievers, particualrly with subtle differences between the greens and browns, the colors of the plant life.
There’s a reveal in the middle of this book that is treated with an incredible amount of gravitas and impact. And it meant little to nothing to me because I was completely unfamiliar with the character that was revealed and the book did little to contextualize the person’s role in the past or present of Alec Holland. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect them to go into a two-page diatribe about who this person is and what they mean, but SOME kind of backstory beyond what the main character already didn’t know would have been most appreciated.
When Swamp Thing confronts Seeder about how his actions have unintended consequences, the events of the last two issues, in which a small village was nearly obliterated and John Constantine plied his horrid magicks, are completely left out. There is an off-panel incident mentioned, but the events of two issues seem like they’re completely forgotten, and while I get that it wasn't exactly a world-shattering event, it’s the one that the reader has been following most recently.
I ultimately like the new direction Swamp Thing has taken. There are only so many times you can threaten all of existence and the universe through weird time/dimensional travel and have it be impactful in a book like this, so I’m glad things have mellowed somewhat in terms of the more grand consequences. Things are still, of course, highly meaningful to Alec Holland, but it’s much more his story than the story of the entire DCU. I’m also a big fan of the newly introduced Capucine. She’s a very unusual character to be appearing in a mainstream comic, and I hope that she continues to develop and be central to the storyline.