Book: Swamp Thing #1

Writer: Scott Snyder

Art by: Yanick Paquette

Price: $2.99

Pages: 32

In Comics Stores NOW!

It’s going to be hard to review this issue without mentioning comics supremo Alan Moore’s seminal 80s Swamp Thing run. But the first point of comparison is that, with this new issue 1, writer Scott Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette have created a perfect jumping on point for new readers eager for a more haunting superhero comic as well as this new story feeling like an intriguing next chapter for fans of Swamp Thing tales past.

Despite the character having become part of DC Comics ‘Suggested For Mature Readers’ Vertigo imprint, the opening of this story plants Swamp Thing firmly in the DC Universe but also defines its own tone and rules. While some readers have commented that cameos from other better known DC superheroes feel a little forced, to my mind any comic that opens by showing Superman looking unnerved at strange happenings outside his window is a comic that has me hooked.

The Swamp Thing saga of the past focussed on Dr Alec Holland, a talented scientist working on a bio-restorative formula whose lab was destroyed by a bomb, sending the flaming chemical-doused Holland into the Louisiana swamp. Soon a strange plant-like ‘thing’ emerged from the waters, sharing Alec Holland’s memories. Here writer Scott Snyder provides a new spin on the old stories, that Alec Holland himself also crawled out of the swamp and is trying to get on with his life, now with a memory full of the Swamp Thing’s adventures. This provides the clever catch-all that Snyder can re-introduce old plot strands but through the fresh eyes of Holland so new readers don’t have to have read anything of the Swamp Thing before to enjoy this series.

It’s impressive just how much Snyder and Paquette manage to pack into one issue as well: Juxtaposing inner monologue with unsettling imagery in some places and adding moments of pure horror in others, while not a self-contained story, this issue really feels like it has a satisfying beginning, middle and end of its own. In this respect, Snyder’s writing is superbly complimented by Yanick Paquette’s art. Not only does Paquette deliver on the unnatural phenomenon and grislier moments with an atmospheric rather than in-your-face deftness, but his work with expressions, body language and page layouts mean that a potentially static five-page conversation between Alec Holland and a very familiar DC icon is a set-piece in its own right. Snyder’s revealing but exposition-light dialogue is perfectly complimented by Paquette’s art demonstrating that what is not said between the characters is just as important as what is in the speech bubbles.

The different identities of Swamp Thing and Alec Holland have glimpses of a disembodied Jekyll and Hyde-style relationship but where, rather than human nature, Nature’s cruelty itself may be our dark mirror. This series hits the ground running with multiple visual and character hooks, clearly establishing a foreboding atmosphere and confidently deliberate pace that instils a sense of creeping terror. The hallowed ground of Alan Moore’s run on the title has finally seeded a take on Swamp Thing that seems set to grow and grow.

A damn-near perfect first issue.

Rating: ★★★★★



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This article was first posted on September 8, 2011