Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Swamp Thing #1 Review


Alec Holland? Never Heard Of Him

Written By: Ram V

Art By: Mike Perkins
Colors By: Mike Spicer
Letters By: Aditya Bidikar
Cover Art By: Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 2, 2021

In SWAMP THING #1, readers are introduced to a new Swamp Thing named Levi Kamei. He's an average bloke with typical job and girl problems in America (his current residence) and family troubles at home in his native India. Beyond the mundane problems of life, Levi is also a type of Swamp Thing that has nightmares about a green force inside him, and his body randomly manifests across the world to fight an immortal, undead, ghoulish Civil War soldier living in the desert.

You might be saying to yourself "When you say it like that, it doesn't make sense" And you'd be right.

Was It Good?

The art is great. In many ways, this first issue is very reminiscent of an Image comic in that it has a grimy, grounded feel. It's almost noirish in its style with dark, heavy lines and realistic people designs.

The story, however, was a challenge to get through. As Jim has pointed out multiple occasions on the podcast, it always seems new writers on Swamp Thing are constantly chasing Alan Moore's version by going very deep and esoteric. This book feels like that same chase is happening but falls short of the goal.

What's It About?

We begin with a sheriff and his deputies from a South Western US location examining a dead body they found in the desert. The coroner on-site determines the body has been in the desert for about nine or ten days.

Again, the art is very striking and holds you're attention, but you're immediately thrust into a state of confusion: Who's the dead guy? How did they find him in the middle of the desert? Who are this sheriff and his men? What killed that man?

Yes, this is just the first issue, but a teeny bit of setup would have been nice.

As the (new to this town) coroner examines the body, one of the deputies tells him about a local legend called the Pale Wanderer. The Wanderer was a former Civil War soldier that retired to a desert town to live out his days in peace. When the town fell on hard times, the Wanderer left his home to go deeper into the desert. He goes so deep into the desert that he gives up on all humanity, including his own, and becomes some sort of immortal ghoul.

How does that happen? I don't know.

Is it explained later in the issue? It is not.

What does this have to do with Swamp Thing? No clue.

Decades later, an oil company is setting up drills in the desert, and the rig workers spot the Pale Wanderer in the same way you might spot Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. One scene depicts a rig worker encountering the Pale Wanderer drinking the crude oil from one of the barrels before he runs off.

Why is an immortal, ghoul, Civil War soldier drinking crude oil? I don't know.

Are we getting to Swamp Thing? You're going to have to wait a while.

We come back to the Sheriff and his team where they wax more poetically than Shakespeare about the nature of life and change. It doesn't at all fit how they were speaking to each other before the Pale Wanderer story, but here we are.

Suddenly, we cut to a passenger plane mid-flight where we meet Levi Kamei. He lives in the US but he travels to India for work, using the opportunity to try and mend the troubled relationship with his father back in India. While on the plane, Levi admits to being a nervous flyer when suddenly vines erupt from his body, and the green rips the plane apart. Happily, it's just a nightmare, and he wakes up as the plane lands.

Levi meets Jennifer, his friend with occasional benefits, who brings him home from the trip. During the pickup, we see two men in a parked car are spying on Levi.

Back to the desert, we see the Sheriff from earlier and a deputy casing out the spot where the body was found on a hunch the spot is a regular drug exchange location. They see a few unmarked cars pull up and activity happening when suddenly, something starts killing the men that got out of the unmarked cars. The Sheriff drives up on the mayhem and finds... the Pale Wanderer tearing off limbs and creating general chaos.

Switch back to Jennifer's apartment, she and Levi are talking about his trip to India. We get little insights into Levi's troubled relationship with his father, and how his company picked him to go to India to act as the company's liaison to negotiate a land deal with the local officials.

Later, Levi falls asleep on Jennifer's couch. He dreams of his trip to India -- the protests, the civil unrest, and a brief hint his brother is involved with dark magic in the woods. During his dream, he envisions vines bursting from his body again, and he sees himself becoming the Swamp Thing.

Back to the desert, Pale Wanderer is ready to tear the Sheriff apart, when the nearby cacti begin to shift and mutate. Pale Wanderer senses something is happening and decides to let the Sheriff go so he can give the cacti his full attention. The cacti sprout and grow into the shape of Swamp Thing who then attacks Pale Wanderer.

The two monsters fight, but during the battle, Pale Wanderer monologues that they're both manifestations of darker powers and they can't be killed by mortal means. Pale Wanderer proves his point by tearing through Swamp Thing, which causes him to dissolve.

Somewhere in NY's Central Park, Levi's unconscious body is spewed from a tree.

Wait. What?!? What happened? I don't know.

If his brother was playing with dark magic, how did Levi become Swamp Thing? I don't know.

Where's Alec Holland, the current Swamp Thing? It's never addressed. Is he still holding things together after the battle versus the Upsidedown Man and how does that tie-in and affect The Green? Who knows?

You've mentioned forests, parks, and deserts but no swamps. How is this Swamp Thing? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Bits and Pieces:

SWAMP THING #1 is a book with great art and imaginative elements but tries so hard to be different and thought-provoking it gets lost in its own confusion. The Alan Moore chase continues.



  1. I am not normally a Swamp Thing reader but this was an excellent comic book. I did not find it confusing at all. Levi is having hallucinations of the Swamp Thing that ultimately leads to a confrontation with the Pale Wanderer in the Arizona desert. Perkins art is ideally suited for the mood and ambience. The set up of the murder in the desert with the Sheriff and Deputy talking about the mythology and history in the opening pages brilliantly established the direction of the story. Ram V is excellent at character work. Levi's back story is solidly established and in a single issue we know he has a familial connection to India, has daddy issues and a potential love interest --- all wrapped up in his employer's undoubtedly hidden agenda and his brother's as yet unrevealed secret. Master class of a story. I'm in.

    1. i liked it...i don't think it's "master class", though. The longer the sheriff talks, the more he sounds like a literary PHD and less a small town sheriff (plus, we spend way too much with them and the pale rider than with Levi) and Levi is having more than halucinations. He appears to be part of the Green and I hope we find out more about the connection because Alec Holland was still Swmap Thing when we left him and the Green was in shambles. This feels more like a side story that would work in an anthology, but I guess that's why it's just a mini-series and not a ongoing monthly book. I liked it, but around a 7/10 because of the mystery and intrigue.

  2. I liked your review much more than the comic. Yes indeed, so many words, so few basic questions unanswered. And Levi seemed a tad nothingy.

    1. I think people get swept up in the fancy stories of swamp thing and don't look into what they are and aren't getting from the story a lot of times.