It seems the corner of DC’s new universe collectively known as “The Dark” is really producing some quality work, which is refreshing; whilst I do find superhero comics enjoyable, I do get a bit weary when it’s all I read for a few months. Comic books, much like Australian political parties, need variety every now and then.
As such, I’ve been enjoying what’s come out of The Dark so far; Animal Man back in May was not only an engrossing and well-illustrated tale of supernatural horror, but also a great juxtaposition against the flash and popcorn fun of Justice League. A few months later, Swamp Thing stands as a similar tale of gothic floral nightmare against the airy-fairy wish-wash of…something that’s airy-fairy wish-wash. I dunno, New 52 releases have been kinda ok this month.
But anyway, Swamp Thing: for those of you (like me) who never read Alan Moore’s seminal classic or any of the subsequent works that followed, Raise Them Bones does give a very good recap throughout of how put-upon botanist Alec Holland went from being dead, to being Swamp Thing, to being not-Swamp Thing, to being a postman…oh, wait. There’s quite a bit of expository dialogue that makes me think this book is trying to in some way act as a bandaid for the continuity that’s been as all over the place as an epileptic jaguar driving a sports car, but without prior knowledge of the mythos I can’t really comment – although I can say that I’m reasonably certain Moore wouldn’t have drawn Holland like a bodybuilder in the 80s, back when superheroic men didn’t have the proportions of a person made entirely out of protein shakes.
Holland discovers he’s at the centre of an ancient, supernatural plot by some dudes known as the Rot (whom you may remember from the aforementioned Animal Man title) and that he must once more become Swamp Thing in order to save the world and get out of that deadbeat carpentry job he’s got going on. Holland resists, meets a hot girl with a shotgun, fights an eight-year-old who can twist peoples neck 180 degrees and starts to really question whether or not he’s up to the task of turning into what might happen if Mr Potato Head and a Chia pet copulated.
The story is good, no doubt – come on, it’s Scott Snyder, of course it’s good – but I feel like it’s only really half a story. It’s presented as the start of a grand arc they way Animal Man was, but while Animal Man had a great character progression and ended on a satisfying cliffhanger that left me wanting the next one, Swamp Thing instead ends rather abruptly and leaves me with a sense of “Wait, that’s it?” It doesn’t help that the resolution to that ending won’t appear until April, so overall I’m left the same way the last two Harry Potter films left me – incomplete without the other half.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still definitely worth a read; the artwork by Yannick Paquette is marvelously gothic and brutally gory, and while it can get a bit cluttered at times – especially during the aforementioned exposition – it really does evoke the same kind of dread that Animal Man did, which probably makes sense, since the two are headed for a crossover later. The similarities gave it a sense of familiarity for me, and made me double check no flies or dead pigs were anywhere near my house (it makes sense in context).
The dialogue is the usual Scott Snyder standard of excellent writing, although it does get a bit bogged down when the former Swamp Things are explaining stuff to Holland at length; the repetitious orange speech bubbles detract from the atmosphere a little, and the flow of the narrative does get broken up a bit during these parts, but on the whole it’s still pretty good.
On the whole, Raise Them Bones isn’t bad at all. There’s not a lot more I can say for fear of spoilers, but rest assured it does away with any negative connotations or impressions you might have of the character. If there’s one thing DC are doing quite well at the moment, it’s reinventing superheroes with shot reputations and making them awesome again.
Speaking of, next week on Sunday Comics – AQUAMAN!