Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Swamp Thing #2 Review and *SPOILERS*

Parents Just Don’t Understand

Written By: Len Wein
Art By: Kelley Jones, Michelle Madsen
Letters By: Rob Leigh
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: February 3, 2016

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

On this rainy, sixty degree day in fucking February of all things, I feel ready to return to the humidity of the Houma, Louisiana swamp, where our clotted green vegetable man hangs his hat. If he grows a hat, that is. Actually, he could probably just take his head off and leave it on the nightstand, if he were so inclined. That’s the upside of being the Swamp Thing. The downside is that you’re a shambling horror that causes most red-blooded people to recoil in abject terror. That’s how life is, you know? You can have a really good jump shot, but you also have uncontrollable flatulence. Or you are an expert archer, but you have an unnatural compulsion to lick the undersides of public toilet seats. Life will always find its balance. This comic’s found its balance with issue number two, which I read, enjoyed, and then reviewed. What’s that? “Show all work?!” Well read on then, “professor!”

Explain It!:

Last issue, Swampy went all to pieces when he was ripped in half by Lazlo, the vengeful student zombie. So this issue begins with him knitting himself back together because it’s just something awesome he can do. Swamp Thing says he could just grow a new body, but it would be difficult to arrange with his mind split among his scattered body parts—really, I think he knows it looks awesome to watch someone stich themselves back together from the inside out, and I appreciate his dedication to theater. Swampo narrates the ordeal of putting yourself have together through several captions that really create a creepy mood, like a Vincent Price film from the 1950s. There’s a lot of talk these days about comics being overwritten, and when two talking heads are trading rapid-fire word balloons like some episode of the Gilmore Girls then I completely agree. But here, Len Wein is establishing a mood, a setting that requires a certain level of wordiness. And it is epic.

There’s a quick scene where two local cops are examining Lazlo’s latest victim, the only important plot point here seems to be that that Darcy Fox, niece to Lucius Fox (of WayneTech Enterprises) moved here to get away from the craziness of Gotham City. Cut to the French Quarter in New Orleans, where Swamp Thing is manifesting from a potted plant in one of many homes maintained by Shade the Changing Man, here depicted as a guy in Victorian dress (complete with top hat) and just about the most awesome pair of steampunk spectacles you ever did see. There are like magnifying glasses sprouting from the frames and I want a pair immediately. Swamp Thang wants some advice on fucking up zombies, but first Shade tells him the secret of Lazlo: it was not his fellow occult students that resurrected his deceased form and turned him into a bloodthirsty zombie, but his parents! I would have loved to see that exchange: “But daaad, I don’t want to be one of the walking dead!” “Shut up! You’ll do as you’re told!” “But daaad, none of my other friends are zombies!” “And if your friends refused to sacrifice kittens before the Dark Lord, I suppose you’d stop doing that, too?!” Shade gives Swamp Thing a needle and thread and a bag of sea salt, because as we all know the most powerful magic can be divined from cheap shit just laying around your house. Here, this bank calendar from 2004 can also ward of poltergeists.

Back on campus at the Crowley College for the Evolving Arts, Lazlo is still terrorizing the shit out of people when Swampola manifests in an incredible splash panel that I’ve lovingly recreated on my bedroom ceiling. He tracks Lazlo to his parents, the Wormwoods, who are staying in a trailer deep in the swamp because they are insane. He’s about to kill his ‘rents, when S. Thing pops up and beats the tar out of Lazlo. Then he dumps the sea salt in his mouth and goes to sew it shut, but Lazlo knocks the needle and thread out of his hand. No matter; Swamps just creates a vegetable fiber from his finger that does the job like a gross little mouth-sewing worm. I assume that after this issue, Swamp Thing is going to get lucrative offers from GAP clothing sweatshops throughout the Third World. Swamp Thing chastises the Wormwoods for being lame parents, who are then arrested by Darcy Fox. For no real reason the Phantom Stranger shows up and says nothing of interest for three panels. Look, you can check them out for yourself:

The issue ends on a cliffhanger, that you’ll have to read to find out! And read this comic you should, because it is now in its perfect Swamp Thing state: all of its vital organs pulsing with gross flying bugs, its pulpy heart coursing foul-smelling muck throughout its body. These are good things, when it comes to Swamp Thing. This wasn’t a shit-shattering issue, but it scratched all the right itches and was entertaining from cover to cover, so what else do you want out of life? If I ever stop glowing over Kelley Jones’ art in this comic, then you may take it for granted that I think it is perfect for the series and he executes complete mastery over the tenor of this book. If you’ve been curious about Swamp Thing in the past, here’s a good time to check him out in his most natural state.

Bits and Pieces

The Swamp Thing’s un-Swampy dialogue from last issue does not appear in this one, and so there was little to pull me out of the rich, spooky world created by Len Wein and Kelley Jones. There’s a little twist to the story at hand, and then it gets put to bed in two issues. And I love this comic for it. There’s obviously a larger connecting story for this whole miniseries, but just to see a tale concluded in two issues is so unexpected in mainstream comics these days. There are a couple of cameos but Swamp Thing as rendered by Jones steals the show here. That moss-encrusted mockery looks so gross and scary in this book.

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  1. I like this book even more after reading your review, it is a throw back to old style comics and I appreciate it. I swear that Swamp Thing was just watching Lazlo eating his parents but apparently Lazlo is really slow I guess.

    1. He always did like to linger over his meals

  2. Gotta interject, that's a Shade that's "not to be confused with Shade the Changing Man"
    An old old comics character, and frequently present in justice league animated series villain team-ups.
    However I'm sure there's technically no reason it couldn't be the changing man in his form - except does that shade always have to have his m-vest or whatever they call it on? I can't remember.

    1. Dammit! I took a stab...and missed. I had no idea who that was, and I did expect Shade to have his technicolor dreamcoat...oh well! Chalk that up to not doing my research!

    2. Shade the changing man, isn't he from the beginning of Justice league dark? I wish they would have used that crappy shade instead of ruining "The Shade."

      Hated this issue. I'm a huge fan of
      "The Shade" Richard Swift. I'm a devote Starman fan and the shade is a great anti hero in that series. In fact Shade is chronologically in continuity, the first Anti Hero in the DC universe. He my second favorite anti hero right after my favorite Jason Todd.

      Also they made him look old as shit. Shade is immortal. When he became immortal he was like 30 years old. He looked 60.

      The rest of this issue was okay besides phantom stranger. But I can't over look of the crap, DC is pulling with one of my favorite characters.

  3. Still have yet to read this issue but more excited to get around to it after reading your review. I nearly wet myself when you mentioned Shade the Changing Man. But when I saw it was Shade from Starman I still proceeded to wet myself.


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