Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Halloween day 25 – A Review of Scott Snyder's "Swamp Thing v.1: Raise Them Bones"

As I mentioned yesterday, I was a big fan of Alan Moore's run on Saga of the Swamp Thing, and a mild-to-medium fan of many of the interpretations that came after his departure... a feeling that was apparently shared by many, as up until recently it had been several years since there's been a an on-going Swamp Thing comic book. As part of DC Comics' New 52 initiative,  a new Swamp Thing series was penned by Scott Snyder of American Vampire fame was launched last year, and the first six issues have been collected in Swamp Thing v.1: Raise Them Bones.

This new series is notable for two reasons. First of all, it marks the return of Swamp thing from the silo of DC's Vertigo imprint to the mainstream DC universe, where he can now interact with superheroes once again. Secondly, much like Moore did, Snyder vastly redefines what you know about the origin and purpose of the Swamp Thing.

The first big change for this series is the fact that Alec Holland is back from the dead, something that is never fully explained in the book.  The resurrected Holland's last real memory is of his death, but he does experience flashes from the Swamp Thing's existence. He is visited by an emissary from The Parliament of Trees, the ancient order of former Swamp Things, who explains that the Swamp Thing we know and love was actually a huge mistake; it was supposed to have bonded with Holland during his accident, but due to his dying before the process was complete, it was never able to achieve its full potential.  Now Holland is being called on to accept the power offered the Parliament and become the Swamp Thing he was always meant to be so that he can face the new danger facing The Green, a force known as The Rot.  Holland resists at first, but is soon drawn into the battle when he encounters Swamp Thing's widow, Abigail Arcane, who is potentially The Rot's human host.

While I wasn't sure what to expect going in to Raise Them Bones, I have to say I was very pleased.  The "everything you know is wrong" twist manages to keep the past continuity in play (apparently; it's a little hard to tell with the New 52 books) but still take the story in new directions.  The relationship between Alec and Abby is an interesting one, since she he has vague memories of her from a life he never led, and he's a constant reminder to her of the love that she lost.  There are a lot of balls in the air, here, and Snyder manages to juggle them well for the most part.

My only real quibble is that it's not exactly new reader friendly, which is a bit of a problem since the whole point of the New 52 was to provide a great jumping on point for new readers.  And normally I wouldn't mind the fact that the book is referencing things that happened in other books -- after all, growing up half the fun of reading comics was tracking those reference down -- but by sticking to the horrible modern comic practice of no footnotes, a new reader has no idea where to track down where any of the story leading up to this point happened.  Not a deal breaker, but something that's symptomatic of the problems comic books have with gaining new readers.  It may have jumped out at me more because I am familiar with enough of Swamp Thing's history to know that Alec Holland was dead, but hadn't been following the series where he was resurrected --which, for the record, was apparently Brightest Day. I think; the Internet has been relatively unhelpful in giving me specifics.

All that being said, if you're a fan of The Swamp Thing or just well written horror tinged comics in general, you should probably give this first volume a try.

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