The title page of the issue, in which Levi recounts his nightly ritual of confronting the Pale Wanderer, is masterfully handled. Ram V’s narration is exquisitely poetic throughout the issue, giving everything a heady quality that recalls old school Vertigo and – perhaps most importantly – some of the finest Swamp Thing stories. Even though these nightly battles are between two figures (and they tend to end quickly and painfully for Levi), there’s an almost mythic feel to this section, giving readers the sense that this journey is only just beginning.
Beware of very mild spoilers ahead.
I do wish there were just a few more answers as to the how and why of everything, but I’m greatly appreciating the slow burn of it all. We get some tiny details regarding what Levi has been through in recent months, but it’s odd that Levi never seems to try to document his nightly transformations, leading to a few scenes of him trying to explain to his friend Jennifer what has happened. Although some parts of Levi’s personal life are still pretty vague, the overall storytelling here is exceptionally strong. Not only does the battle between Swamp Thing and the Pale Wanderer feel important, but longtime fans of the Swamp Thing mythos will definitely be able to pick out a couple of moments that hint towards the origins of the Green’s newest chosen champion.
Also, Levi himself continues to be a fascinating character. He’s a bundle of nerves, seeming like the strain of his past trauma and current nightmares are about to snap him at any moment. The fact that he’s finding a measure of power in the guise of the Swamp Thing makes the issue’s last act feel oddly like a celebration, even as the events playing out on the page are gory and unsettling. He somehow seems less cold and distant when he becomes the Swamp Thing, which may say a lot about what we have yet to learn of his past.
Speaking of the gory bits, Mike Perkins crushes all over this issue. The sequences with the Pale Wanderer have a dramatic weight to them, with the Wanderer towering over Levi and others in many instances. The villain seems almost insurmountable, sheerly due to his obvious level of confidence. However, when the tables are turned during the Pale Wanderer and Swamp Thing’s battle, we finally see another emotion plainly on the creature’s face: fear. And Perkins sells the hell out of it.
Likewise, the beleaguered sheriff with a death wish is one of the most expressive characters in this story. So much of the time, the Sheriff Dom finds himself in a smoky bar or a moonlit desert, which leaves much of his face in shadow. And yet, through the character’s physicality, the reader is able to glean so much of what the man won’t tell his friends. One of the most cathartic moments in these first two issues comes when we finally see the sheriff smile, both baffled and comforted by the actions of the Swamp Thing.
Mike Spicer’s excellent colors grant an additional human warmth to these sequences in particular. The sunny glow of the last few pages stands in stark contrast to the hazy neons of the bar where the sheriff tried to drown his fears. And of course, no Swamp Thing book would be complete without plenty of green, and Spicer delivers that particular color in multiple lush and vibrant hues. This is a great-looking book, from top to bottom.
The final pages of the issue tease plenty of what’s to come, including some surprising cameos and a hint toward the Swamp Thing’s long legacy. All in all, the stakes have been raised in this second issue, and I feel more confident than ever that this creative team is really doing something new and exciting with the long-running Swamp Thing mythos.
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