The Swamp Thing returns in one banger of an issue from Ram V, Mike Perkins, and Mike Spicer. With Levi Kamei still missing, Jennifer Reece turns to the only person who has more knowledge of the Green than her enemies: Tefé Holland, daughter of Alec Holland and Abby Arcane!
My single favorite thing about the reappearance of Tefé Holland is how Ram V has chosen to bring her in fully-formed. She is a known quantity in this world and has presumably had many adventures in the years since we last saw her on the page. Her history appears to be intact, but left vague in some respects. Not only that, but her reintroduction is full of subtle world-building: Tefé appears to be surrounded by trophies or reminders of past adventures, like each set piece could tell its own story. Spicer’s colors make Tefé absolutely pop from the background, her strands of green hair a shock of life in this dark sanctuary. This feels like the absolute best way to continue a series that has already been so heavily steeped in legacy, and it made this longtime Swampy fan very happy.
On the same token, we get something of a new spin on another classic Swamp Thing story: “The Anatomy Lesson.” Here, however, Jason Woodrue is less concerned with studying the dead as he is creating something entirely new from death. Spicer goes wild in these segments, creating an unbelievable spread that will stick in readers’ heads for the foreseeable future. This surgery scene shows just how far this corporation is willing to go in pursuit of its goals, but the way the shot is framed and the involvement of Woodrue only further proves that mankind will keep making the same mistakes when it comes to the Green.
Even outside of Mr. Pilgrim and Woodrue’s machinations, the Green is very much in trouble. It is here that we rejoin Levi Kamei, who may be the most human avatar the Green has ever seen. In a heartbreaking and relatable sequence, Levi laments his inability to change the world entirely or to prevent his brother’s downfall. Instead, he focuses on the smallest aspects he can keep from falling to darkness, represented as a single rose within the metaphysical forest.
Approaching him from all sides are smaller manifestations of Hedera, each given misshapen and half-formed bodies that chill to the bone. It’s a thrill to see Tefé go to work on these beasts in the issue’s sole action sequence, but that really takes a backseat to the character growth seen throughout the rest of the issue. I can’t wait to see what happens when Jennifer finally finds the man she loves, now that she’s realized he’s the hero the world needs right now — whether it’s ready for him or not.
The last few pages of this issue set up not only an exciting new threat, but the return of a character that the DC Universe hasn’t seen in quite some time, not to mention a series of other teases for future issues. There are a few moments when this issue comes perilously close to feeling a tad overstuffed, but it also accomplishes the exceptional feat of getting readers up to speed, providing a compelling main story, and setting up the madness to come. It’s been a long wait, but I’m so glad The Swamp Thing is back.
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