A major story line that’s ran concurrently across two DC books ended last week. Swamp Thing and Animal Man were both relaunched with DC’s New 52 initiative in September ’11. On a side note, people need to stop putting ‘New’ in titles. New Super Mario Bros came out in ’06. New Kids on the Block are in their 40’s. Just don’t.
Swamp Thing has been around since the early 1970’s, and has largely been kept in his own world (outside of DCU proper). While many writers have taken a shot at the character, the most prolific story was written by Alan Moore. This is typically the quintessential version. During this run Moore created John Constantine, lead of the Hellblazer series, which sadly recently ended with issue #300.
Animal Man had a similar history. Unlike Swamp Thing, Animal Man spent most of his time in DCU, but had a few series on his own. This character also had a defining run from Grant Morrison, another crazy UK writer. Seriously Moore and Morrison have tackled (separately) some heady concepts (I dare you to explain Final Crisis to me).
Cultivating from Moore and Morrison’s previous work (with a sprinkling of a few others), Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire took on Swamp Thing and Animal Man respectively. Not ignoring the characters histories, they set up a new status quo and dynamic. Both series were very much horror books. There are three forces of nature, the green, the red, and the rot. Each has their own avatar. The green is for all plant life, with Alec Holland serving as the current Swamp Thing. The red is for life, only Buddy Baker (Animal Man), is not the avatar. Through a very creepy scene at the end of issue one we see his 5 year old daughter is the avatar, and Buddy is granted power to protect her until she comes of age.
Anton Arcane, the original Swamp Thing villain, is the avatar of the rot (death and decay). None of these forces are innately evil, they exist, and their must be balance. Arcane, abusing his position, tries to kill the red and the green, creating a world of death and decay. Over 18 issues for both series, we see his plan come to fruition, and how Swamp Thing and Animal Man eventually prevail.
Some felt that the overall story meandered in the third act (the last 4 issues or so). I didn’t have this issue. What really stuck out to me was the art. Yanick Paquette handled Swamp Thing. We were treated to many gorgeous two page spreads, constantly breaking the panel grids. Sadly, he couldn’t keep up with the monthly grind meaning every 5 issues or so we’d see a fill in artist. Most were serviceable, doing their best to emulate Paquette, but issue 17 (the penultimate issue) suffered from very poor art.
Animal Man had even more tumultuous art problems. Travel Foreman wonderfully set the tone on the first 8 issues. Sadly, due to personal issues, he couldn’t handle drawing a horror book any longer. Art duties were mostly split after across each issue after. They tried to emulate the original before doing their own style. None of it really worked for me since then. With the conclusion of Rotworld, Snyder has left Swamp Thing, almost guaranteeing the book’s cancellation as many subscribers will jump ship with him (how do you follow that act?). Lemire is still continuing on with Animal Man.
I have no idea how they would begin to collect this story line considering the constant interweaving. I hope for some grand omnibus one day but that probably won’t happen. Both books have been a good ride. If either character sounds enticing I highly recommend the easily accessible runs from Moore or Morrison.
Did you enjoy Rotworld? Did you know it existed before today? Don’t lie to me, I’ll know. Comment or tweet!
When did I start doing this?