If you’re like me you’ve been digging Kelley Jones’ exquisite art on the recent renumbered series of Swamp Thing. The man is a master at shadows and the macabre — and Swamp Thing has plenty of those to flex from his muscles to the pockets that generate as his body changes. The darker classic horror movie feel has made this series feel strange and disturbing.
Last month Swamp Thing lost the powers of The Green which is a huge shift indeed. Swamp Thing #4: is it good?
Swamp Thing #4 (DC Comics)
Instead of recapping the issue here how about we let the first page do it for us!
Why does this book matter?
Writer Len Wein created the character and clearly has a handle on the dark nature of the character. He’s a monster who has lost touch with his humanity as he befriends snakes in the swamp and generally skulks around like a creepy has been. The story has slowly revealed new characters, but manages to feel self contained in each issue. Meanwhile Kelley Jones continues to do excellent work.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Wein is a master at making this comic feel awkward and strange. Take for instance a scene where Zatana takes off her clothes with Matt and Swamp Thing both throwing some serious “Va-va-voom” reactions. Or later when Swamp Thing goes nuts on a hunter who just shot a deer; he loses his mind with rage and tears the poor hunter into pieces with complete and utter glee. Wein never lets you forget Swamp Thing’s a monster.
You’re both adults haven’t you seen a naked lady?!
Wein is also showing us just how good a man Matt is now that Alec is Swamp Thing. Quickly it’s becoming clear the latter’s humanity is gone and what’s left is something that wants power and continues to show irrational behavior. It’s a fun way to show and not tell which is just plain good storytelling. The story in this issue quickly escalates and it feels like there’s a lot of content given the page count.
Jones makes every single panel count and reminds us some artists can deliver no matter the panel size or dramatic moment. Since Swamp Thing can change so quickly in form Jones constantly has his face shift, his body grow and move and it’s at once disturbing and interesting. He’s not just monstrous either, as Jones has a way of making the emotion of the monster come through loud and clear. In one panel he might look inquisitive and oddly distant while in another his eye sockets become sunken and he embodies death itself. In a lot of ways this series is worth reading for Jones’ inspired art.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There’s a point in this narrative where Swamp Thing makes it clear he’s batshit crazy and enters a local town. Matt, (who was previously Swamp Thing), isn’t phased by this very much and it just comes off as odd. Maybe being Swamp Thing for ages has made it difficult for him to read people, but his reactions just seem weird. Swamp Thing tears a man in half in front of him and, sure he gets mad, but quickly calms down and tells Swamp Thing there’s no way he’d leave him alone. Really the crazy emotions fly off way too quickly and characters don’t seem like rational beings. Take for instance another scene where an expat whips out a grenade (what the hell is he doing with a grenade!?) and throws it at Swamp Thing. This person must have been nuts to begin with because at this point all Swamp Thing has done is some property damage. These same odd reactions occurred in the opening pages too with Zatana. Generally put Wein doesn’t seem to do well with emotions unless they are turned up to 11.
While it’s nice to see a story move at a faster clip the pace does seem strangely off by issue’s end. A lot happens here, but it goes from quiet moments in the swamp to world domination in a few pages. It doesn’t allow the reader to experience the upturn in events and wastes what could have been a compelling story development.
Looking weird Swampy!
Is It Good?
Swamp Thing continues to be the most disturbing character on comic book stands today due to the fantastic art and emotionally charged storytelling. While characters seem to only react in high highs and low lows, and the story moves too fast, it’s still a darkly entertaining read.
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