Swamp Thing #1

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Enrique Breccia
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Poor Swamp Thing. He never seems to get a break, really. After a 24-issue series in the 1970s, most would have thought that he’d slip back into the swamp, never to be seen again. Instead he got a new series in the early ’80s that lasted for an astounding 171 issues, followed by yet another series a couple of years ago starring his daughter that lasted for 20 issues until cancellation. Now a fourth series has begun, and the question remains: is it time for the character to be retired back into the bog, or is there eternal youth lurking in that swamp water?

Swamp Thing and his family are scattered around the world. His wife, Abby, is hiking in the mountains of Colorado. His daughter, Tefé, is in the jungles of Brazil. And Swamp Thing himself? Well, his skeleton is in Louisiana under the care of his sometimes-mentor John Constantine. But there’s more to Swamp Thing’s current predicament than immediately meets the eye.

Andy Diggle had a tough decision to make—try and pick up the pieces from the character’s previous appearances, or start from scratch? It looks like Diggle’s gone for the former, but I’m not sure it’s the right decision. Swamp Thing #1 is hung on the character’s recent appearance in Hellblazer, and Tefé’s storyline looks to be based a bit on the previous series as well. The problem is, a new #1 should mean a fresh start for readers and that’s not the impression one gets. Even the basic idea of this new storyline itself, with Alec Holland and Swamp Thing becoming separated, bears more than a slight resemblance to Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s “Bad Gumbo” storyline from back in the 1990s. This just all feels like a retread of things we’ve seen before, and while it’s certainly competently done, there’s just not anything here so far that makes me think I shouldn’t just pull my Alan Moore-written Swamp Thing collections off the bookshelf, or the Mark Millar and Phil Hester issues out of storage.

Enrique Breccia’s art is quite lovely in Swamp Thing, on the other hand. There’s a nice mix of classic horror stylings and modern sensibilities on display here, with the skeleton of Alec Holland reaching up towards John Constantine, or the punk-rock Tefé among the husks of the Parliament of Trees. Breccia understands that a book called Swamp Thing needs to be able to bring the setting of the swamp to life, and that’s exactly what he does with the dark greens of the plant life that grows everywhere, or the murky water holding its secrets. It’s a perfect contrast to Abby’s experiences in the mountains of Colorado, with their bright blue skies and stark landscape. Scenes that should impress, like the double-page reveal of why Abby is in Colorado, work well because Breccia’s able to make the unreal look real… or more accurately, like the impossible has happened in our own rational universe.

Now many Diggle’s story in Swamp Thing will pick up in later issues, and I hope that’s the case. But right now, I just don’t feel like I’m getting anything new out of this book, aside from some really lovely art from Breccia. But if that’s all that the all-new, fourth volume of Swamp Thing has to offer, you’ve really got to question the decision to bring it back from the dead again. Maybe it’s time for the Swamp Thing to rest under the Louisiana swamp waters again for a time.

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