Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: SWAMP THING #1

SWAMP THING No. 1 (2016)

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Len Wein
ART: Kelley Jones
COLORS: Michelle Madsen
LETTERS: Rob Leigh
COVER: Kelley Jones with Chris Sotomayor
32pp, Color, $2.99 U.S. (March 2016)

Rated “T” for Teen

Swamp Thing created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson

“The Dead Don't Sleep!”

Swamp Thing is a horror comic book character from DC Comics, of which there have been different versions.  Swamp Thing is a plant elemental and a sentient, walking mass of plant matter.  Created by writer Len Wein and artist Berni Wrightson, Swamp Thing first appeared in House of Secrets #92 (cover dated July 1971).

The best known version of Swamp Thing is Alec Holland (Swamp Thing #1, October/November 1972), a scientist who becomes Swamp Thing due to a complex process involving his death, a “bio-restorative formula,” and a bomb.  British comic book writer Alan Moore came to fame in the United States when he began writing the early 1980s Swamp Thing comic book, Saga of the Swamp Thing, with issue #20 (January 1984).  Moore re-invented the character with issue #21, and since then everyone who has written the Swamp Thing has worked in Moore's shadow...

That is except Len Wein, who is probably one of the most underrated writers and creators of comic books during the last five decades.  He is Swamp Thing's proud papa (or co-parent), defining the character with moody storytelling that blended EC Comics and weird fiction with a Gothic sensibility.  Everything done with Swamp Thing after him sprouted from the seeds Wein sowed.

Wein returned to Swamp Thing last year for a two-issue miniseries that was part of DC Comics' “Convergence” event.  Earlier this year, DC Comics published a six-issue miniseries, entitled Swamp Thing.  It was written by Wein; drawn by Kelley Jones; colored by Michelle Madsen; and lettered by Rob Leigh.

Swamp Thing #1 (“The Dead Don't Sleep!”) opens in the “Bayou Country” of Louisiana.  The Swamp Thing is doing his... swamp thing when The Phantom Stranger arrives to offer a few vague misgivings and omens and portents.  That conversation is interrupted by the clumsy arrival of Frank and Grace Wormwood, who are stumbling through the bayou because they are actually looking for the Swamp Thing.  They have come about their college student son, Lazlo, who is worse off than they could possible ever imagine.

I could call this Swamp Thing miniseries one of the best comics of 2016 after reading just one issue.  It's moody and suspenseful and downright scary, particularly because of the way the art brings Len Wein's story to life.  In artist, Kelley Jones, Len Wein has the perfect post-Berni Wrightson Swamp Thing collaborator.  For three decades, Jones has been doing the best Wrightson homage by creating his own unique style, which blends Wrightson's pen and ink influenced compositions with some graphical flourishes and graphic design sensibilities from Mike Mignola (Hellboy).

Jones' Swamp Thing is part muscular, hulking plant monster and part bodybuilder's physique.  In this static image, Jones infuses humor, sharp wit, and intelligence.  It's alive! for real.  The swamp setting is more expressionistic than representational, but that helps set the German expressionistic, Nosferatu-like atmosphere which turns the second half of this comic book into a fantastic horror comics pop confection.

Yeah, I'm recommending this.  Find the back issues or buy the trade paperback collection.  I can't wait to read more of Len Wein and Kelley Jones' fab return to Swamp Thing.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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