Scott Snyder has been on a tear in the comic book world, cranking out memorable runs in the pages of Detective Comics, American Vampire, and Batman. The New 52 reboot of Swamp Thing has been no different. Snyder’s reintroduction of Alec Holland and company has been an engaging and interesting ride, introducing all kinds of new and nasty foils for Swamp Thing while coming to terms with the character’s past. Eclipsing Snyder’s story, however, has been Swamp Thing’s art. Yanick Paquette’s incredible artwork has launched Swamp Thing back into the DCU proper in style. Paquette’s art harnesses the inherent weirdness of the character, and is unlike anything else DC is putting out. In fact, it is this reviewer’s opinion that Swamp Thing has some of the best art of all the New 52 titles. I showed up to the party for the Jim Lee; I’m staying for the Yanick Paquette.
Paquette splits art duties with Marco Rudy in issue eight of Swamp Thing, and their styles dovetail beautifully. You know that jarring sensation that happens when flipping through a book with more than one artist? None of that to be found in this issue. Rudy has a slightly cleaner, more traditional comic art style, whereas Paquette’s pages are denser, not unlike a thick swamp. Layers of characters and creatures intertwine throughout both artists’ pages, laid out in terrifically unique and intricate panels that resemble the cells of plants and the twisting growth of vines. The end result is a book that looks as strange and beautiful as the byproducts of nature. Although the panel layouts are not the comic book norm, the eye never has trouble following the sequence of events. In fact, the whole thing flows, well, organically.
Storywise, Scott Snyder pumps Swamp Thing up to Super Saiyan proportions in this issue, and proceeds to have the green monster unleash hell upon the minions of the nefarious Rot. This is a far cry from the introspective days of the character’s Vertigo past, but it works and still feels like something for “mature readers.” The Battle Armor Swamp Thing we’re shown is at once cool and sort of scary; exactly the line Swamp Thing ought to toe. However, for all the mayhem caused by Swamp Thing finally bringing the noise, bringing the funk to the Rot, there are some beats where not a lot seems to happen. Sure, there’s bodies being disemboweled and villainous taunting by way of the Rot, but at the end of several pages worth of carnage, readers may not feel that Swamp Thing has gotten that much closer to victory. That is more than forgivable though, as the gnarled war scenes look darn purdy and tickle some primal comic book erogenous zone.
With a storyline full of big ideas and stunningly original art, Swamp Thing continues to be one of the top monthly books following DC’s reboot last fall. The story and action in this issue offers a nice midpoint between the DCU superhero world and Vertigo’s adult landscape. At times, Swamp Thing’s pace feels a bit deliberate, with Snyder taking his time to examine where the character has been while setting the stage for his next chapter, and this issue is no exception. One wonders if the level of deconstruction and rebirth in Snyder’s telling has been really necessary, given that the New 52 reboot left the door wide open for a completely fresh start. Deliberate as it may be, the payoff for readers has thus far been satisfactory, especially when given detail-saturated pages of art by Paquette and Rudy to guide the journey.
It’s not crystal clear where Scott Snyder plans on taking Swamp Thing, but readers get the sense that he will no doubt leave the character in a more interesting place than the limbo he’s toiled in for years following the Alan Moore glory days. Swamp Thing fills a needed role for dark, offbeat superhero action in the mainstream market. Snyder and Paquette are slowly returning Swamp Thing to its pre-Vertigo roots while planting the seeds for a larger role for Alec Holland’s alter ego in the broader DC Universe. Intriguing stuff for fans of the character, both old and new.