The Man Within the Monster
After all he's been through recently Alec Holland just wants to live his life, but The Green is not content to let him be.
Scott Snyder is one of the most blessed writers to work in the game. How many writers can boast to have worked with such luminary talents as Rafael Albuquerque, JOCK, Francesco Francavilla, and Greg Capullo in such a short time?! Now he can add Yanick Paquette to his rolodex. Paquette is turning in what I must say is some of, if not the best art of his career on this book. Bernie Wrightson would be honored by the nods to his work that permeate this comic. Snyder truly has an uncanny knack for selecting artists who were born to draw a specific book. I'm calling it now, before it's all said and done Paquette will go down as one of the many great artists to have penciled this landmark title. His work truly is in the tradition that this book demands but he honors the past while simultaneously establishing his own, soon to be, legacy. His detail work on this book truly warrants rereading just so you can examine the art as closely as it deserves to be. Look no further then the very cover of this issue to see evidence of what I've proclaimed. Don't even look at Swampy, just really look and examine those birds, frogs, and plants...
Much like his friend Jeff Lemire, Snyder honors the rich history of his book while establishing his own mythos. Nearly every imaginable Swamp Thing story's been told and retold. Snyder has opted to focus on the man behind the swamp walker, Barry Allen. It's truly amazing that something so obvious has never been done until now! Despite his long history as a character, Alec Holland is essentially a blank slate. Snyder has a rare opportunity to more or less build up an iconic character form the ground up and he realizes it, and judging from this initial issue, has every intention of doing exactly that.
Snyder excellently handles Holland's internal voice. Immediately I had a strong sense that this is a man lost, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted by all he's been through. Paquette's pencils subtly manifest the mental and emotional weight on Holland through his physical form.
One of my biggest concerns when I saw Swamp Thing return to the DCU was that all the wonderful works of Moore and others at Vertigo would be null and void. I was concerned that the book would devolve into a typical tights story with some heavy handed environmentalist propaganda thrown in for good measure. You know, exactly what Geoff Johns did in Brightest Day becoming the new status quo. Then I heard that Snyder would be writing the new ongoing and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I now have hope that this book will remain as mystical, spiritual, psychologically intense, intriguing, and horrifying as it's always been at its highest heights. Snyder does a great job of establishing that Swamp Thing is now firmly in a shared DCU while giving this book it's own truly independent, personal feel. The first few pages featuring Superman, Batman, and Aquaman look great and paradoxically coalesce and contrast perfectly with Alec's narration.
Snyder writes an absolutely perfect Superman in this issue! Seriously, he nails Clark so perfectly that it makes me wonder at the possibility of him taking a shot at the book someday. His conversation with Alec was pitch perfect and firmly establishes everything that's good about the character of Superman. And I'm saying this as guy who has never been a fan of his comics or the character. With Snyder writing like this I actually can't wait to see more capes make an appearance in the pages of Swamp Thing.
I love that from go Snyder establishes a new foe for Swamp Thing while likewise paying homage to the past. The unveiling of this mysterious enemy truly ratchets up the horror. And Paquette, who's more known for how pretty his art is, was more than up to the task of getting ugly. There are some moments in this comic that genuinely made my skin crawl. I hope Snyder keeps feeding Paquette's dark side because I can't wait to see what new horrors these two mad men can whip up from issue to issue!
The discussion of the green between Alec and Clark and it's lingering presence throughout the issue does a superb job of building up a thick tension which permeates the comic. Snyder is a master of pacing and building an atmosphere and this is an asset that shall serve him well on this book. The entirety of this issue serves as a slow build up to the last few pages that perfectly end the story.
Having avoided the Search for Swamp Thing mini like the plague I was more than a bit confused by the start of this issue. If you're like me and the last time you saw swampy in the DCU was in Brightest Day then reading a quick summery of at least the last issue of the 3 issue mini series will make this a smoother read.
There's not a lot of action in this issue, it's very, very dialogue and character driven. That's right up my alley and really what Swamp Thing's always been about since the seminal Moore revamp but new comers may find this a bit chatty.
BUY THIS COMIC!!!
Swamp Thing is back and back in a big way. This book couldn't be in more caring and capable hands as Snyder/Paquette stand poised to create what may very well be the work of their careers. Honestly, there's nothing I can say here that wasn't said in my review already so do yourself a favor and check out this book!