Swamp Thing 20
Charles Soule, Kano
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
Only two issues in and Charles Soule has proven himself a worthy successor to Scott Snyder. The issue’s artist, Kano, is no stranger to superhero books, and he also shows new and old readers alike that he has found his place at Soule’s side. Their storytelling ability is matched only by the epic scale of a character that I didn’t know I cared about until the launch of the New 52. That’s right. Swamp Thing is not only terrifying and monstrous, but also, at his core, very human. Just like the title character, the humanity of this series is revealed not by having a few scenes of old Swampy lamenting his past life as Dr. Alec Holland while performing godlike feats, but rather, by expressing his greatest fears through a more traditional approach: a nightmare.
And that is exactly how this issue starts. We are presented with a scene of Alec and Abby, happily married with a child, warning their young one to watch out for monsters. Naturally, Swamp Thing appears and kills her, then possesses Alec. Then, back in the real world, we are reminded that last issue ended with Swamp Thing’s powers going out of control and taking over Metropolis, garnering the attention of the city’s mightiest resident, Superman. So as Alec goes through nightmare after nightmare, Supes takes the lead as narrator and tries desperately to find the source of the problem. And that’s when he finds a comatose Swamp Thing and a totally sheepish-looking Scarecrow, and decides to save everyone’s life by lighting Swamp Thing on fire. This ends up saving him and the city, but when Swamp Thing asks him how he knew it would work, he simply answers that he didn’t. They then have a brief chat about what it means to be a monster and what it means to choose to be a human. So the saga continues, but the ending of this issue leaves us with two questions: Who is the person kneeling before the “avatar” of the green? And just how long will Superman allow Swamp Thing to figure out how to connect with humanity?
Realistic dialogue was always one of the strengths of this new interpretation of the character, and that is no exception with this new creative team. For example, it was a brave move to have Superman narrate a title that isn’t his own, but it was one well worth it. We got insight into the character that hasn’t really been present in his own books since the relaunch, which is a testament to the writing chops of Soule. It was a nice touch when the firefighters and cops of Metropolis don’t even take Superman serious, pretty much making fun of how little he was helping them. It was also nice to see him make an impossible decision and perform a task that would kill one person (Holland) but potentially save millions of other lives. And when he chats with Swamp Thing at the end, while pretty much just ignoring Scarecrow’s antics, he’s not the usual “cheer up, chum!” guy that Superman is so often portrayed as being. He’s realistic. He’s honest. And he tells Swamp Thing exactly what he needs to hear, not necessarily what he wants to hear. So the fact that this was a good issue is not why the grade is so high for me as a reader. It’s the fact that the guest star was finally written the way he should have been written in his own books for the last twenty months.
My Rating: 5/5
It's nice to hear that Superman is being treated perhaps better than some of the other writers have done him in the New 52. Swamp Thing was one I wanted to love, but just wasn't doing it for me. I've never truly gotten into the character though, so not really anything to do with the creators (and over the years he's had stellar creative teams). It's more the character. Maybe if he wasn't part of the DCU but was somewhat standalone… You know, like Constantine used to be.
I know how you feel. But let me tell you, Snyder's run was pretty good stuff and this run looks like it's going to rival that one. You've only got two issues to catch up… It's worth a shot if you want to see Swamp Thing humanized and Superman written correctly.
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