After conquering the Pale Wanderer, it’s time for Levi and Jennifer to learn more about the Swamp Thing. What begins as a simple test turns into a fantastical journey into the green.
Every element of this issue comes together in an interesting way, showing how alienating this trip into the Green is for everyone involved. From the opening sequence, in which Mike Perkins illustrates Jennifer being slowly covered in plant growth and Adityka Bidikar subtly changes the box and lettering on Levi’s narration, it’s clear that these characters are not in Kansas anymore. The “real” world is being left behind, replaced solely by the Green.
The Oz metaphor seems apt in this case, as Ram V spends a good deal of the issue bringing our lead characters into contact with a series of fantastical new acquaintances. It’s fascinating to see Levi and Jennifer being introduced to characters that comics fans have known for years, as it reinforces how utterly new all of this is for the protagonists.
The character designs throughout are exquisite. The two Ivys are distinct from one another, from their demeanor to the way they move. The kind version seems lighter on her feet, and even a bit timid at times. Meanwhile, there’s a rigidity to the more regal of the Ivys, a surety of being that is oddly frightening and cold. Woodrue seems to be enjoying himself a bit too much, a wicked grin spread across his craggy face at all times. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the incredible design of the Wodewos, which is like something out of Hayao Miyazaki’s nightmares. All of this is beautifully colored by Mike Spicer, who plays with different shades of green to make each set piece feel unique and different, even within a world overrun by the color.
This issue also begins to dive into the loss of humanity that can occur when someone touches the Green. Whether it’s Woodrue’s knowing manipulations or Poison Ivy’s pointed rejection of her kinder impulses, Levi has discovered that there may be a greater price to his newfound power than he ever expected. Levi is still a difficult character to get a read on, but that seems to be by design — and it’s used to great effect in this disorienting and enchanting installment.
This issue is very ponderous, in a way that is almost intoxicating. It’s easily my favorite issue so far, thanks to the ways in which it both forwards Levi’s character evolution and embraces the legacy of the Swamp Thing. This whole series so far has explored different facets of what it means to transform, to become something else. However, this is the first one to take that concept and view it through the lens of the character’s greater history. The result is an story that reads like a vision quest, challenging the reader to uncover Levi’s purpose as he does.
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