Swamp Thing’s rebirth was a journey of beauty and hot fire. Yanick Paquette’s panels were a smash-up of wondrous green visuals juxtaposed with the mutilated world of the rot. It made me look at Swamp Thing a whole new way. This is a hero that sits outside of the typical pantheon of DC Comics characters; you’ll rarely – if ever – find him off on a cosmic quest with Justice League heroes, facing intergalactic threats. But that’s what makes the return, and resurrection of Dr. Alec Holland so much more appealing. It’s a vibrant Woodstock journey of Earth Day allegories and green initiatives that falls on the shoulders of one very reluctant hero.
The first Swamp Thing graphic novel brought back Dr. Alec Holland from the dead. We learned that the real Holland died and the last Swamp Thing was a “fake” created by the Parliament of Trees. Any time a character comes back from the dead, the explanation is always far fetched – even for comic books. However, this one was okay because it’s the new 52 and just about every other dead character had already come back to life in the DC Universe over the past decade.
By issue #7, I was fully invested in Dr. Holland, hated the Parliament of Trees for forcing him to be their “greatest” Swamp Thing ever and dug Holland’s love interest, Abigail Arcane – who just happened to be the predestined queen of the rot. It was a nice yin-and-yang setup, which was well played by writer Scott Snyder right downed to the canned peaches. Every time Paquette penciled a two-page spread it was a visual feast of destructive imagery and grotesquely mangled body parts framed by beautiful paisley green flora. Paquette really captures the feeling of two worlds colliding as well as the internal struggles of Holland and Abby Arcane.
Swamp Thing Volume 2 collects issues #8-11, issue #0 and Swamp Thing Annual #1. Snyder continues the great story he began in the first volume. Dr. Holland has reluctantly submitted to his preordained legacy as Swamp Thing and he’s done so on his own terms. He’s depicted as an angel; it’s foreshadowed that he can be Earth’s greatest savior or destroyer. The latter is a possibility stemming from his love of Abigail. In issues #8 and #9, you get the feeling that Swamp Thing is drowning in death – bodies litter each panel in horrific fury with the green trying to break through.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this volume is the appearance of Animal Man. Unfortunately, once he shows up the adventure is cut short. We get two origin stories and some foreshadowing split between issue #0 and the Swamp Thing Annual.
Like most origin stories, these tales sap the energy out of this volume. While they do offer more insight into Holland and Abby, which may serve as a good setup going forward, the stories feel exceptionally lackluster following the events in issues #1-11. We learn more about Anton Arcane, who raised Abby. He is a centuries old Swamp Thing slayer, who was involved in Holland’s life long before Holland knew that he was the next Swamp Thing. More importantly, we get more reason to hate the green and the Parliament of Trees. They are supposed to be on the side of good, but their undying interest in suffocating Holland’s ability to choose his destiny will just piss you off. At least, it pissed me off.