Following their first issue since the end of Scott Snyder & Yannick Paquette’s ground-breaking Rotworld saga, issue #20 of the New 52’s Swamp Thing is sticking to its guns with an in depth introspective into arguably one of the best and most interesting characters in the DCU. Struggling with his newly discovered strength and power since Rotworld’s epic close, Soule & Kano have lead Swamp Thing’s latest arc with a proto-philosophical comparison with DC’s foremost superhero, the Man of Steel himself.
I should probably underline this review with a side note – I am a HUGE Swamp Thing fan. After picking up the first Swampy Rotworld TBP “Raise Them Bones”, I have been on a massive exploration of the character – from Snyder/Paquette’s Rotworld, back to Alan Moore’s legendary and intricately complex portrayal, breaking Moore into the mainstream and setting him up to be where he is today, boasting the title of (generally accepted) greatest comic writer of all time. Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing” is an incredible achievement in both character development and comic book writing, and obviously a massive source of inspiration for Charles Soule’s latest run in Alec Holland’s world.
But, my biases aside, Soule & Kano’s Swamp Thing is still a fantastic take on a brilliant piece of horror fiction.
Issue #20 kicks off with another of Alec Holland’s beautifully twisted dreams, brilliantly encapsulated by Kano’s artwork; taking over from Yannick Paquette is a seriously intimidating task – readers and art critics alike have hailed Paquette’s latest work on Swamp Thing as elegant, beautiful and ground-breaking within the comic book world. However, Kano does Swampy more than justice with a highly “Saga…” influenced style that seems to perfectly illustrate Swampy’s solitary existence within the DCU, wondering alone through deserts and forests with nothing but his unbelievable power and his thoughts for company.
And since the revelations of Rotworld, a comparison with Superman is a beautifully elegant way to illustrate Alec Holland’s position, both actually and philosophically. Swamp Thing is delayed in his search for the Man of Steel by Scarecrow’s nightmare neurotoxin, causing his nightmare to manifest itself all over Metropolis, reeking havoc for Superman and the people of the city.
Now, as we know, Superman is philosophically one of the most interesting superhero characters – this is because Superman’s secret identity is in fact the fake one. Clark Kent is the creation whereas Superman is the reality – Kent is the way Superman perceives humanity; weak, clumsy, compromising, submissive – in short, pathetic. With the power that he holds, Superman could rule Earth as a God; however, he chooses to serve the Earth as a guardian due to his ethical position.
Swamp Thing’s position is very similar but, at its root is from a different perspective – Swamp Thing does have similar power however, the source of his power is also his drive to conquer and control – The Green has and always will want to control the Earth, to take over and have nothing live, even exist except the Green. Swamp Thing’s entire existence is to stop this, to control and keep the balance (between the Green, the Red and the Rot), therefore his ethical question makes him consider his own existence – If he was to submit and to use his power to control, he invalidates his own existence as the Swamp Thing. Whereas, Superman’s ethical conundrum is based upon his position as an outsider – as an alien, not native to earth, he feels no right to conquer and control it. Therefore the discussion of ethics between the two characters makes for a very interesting juxtaposition of perspective; an outsider quelling his desire to control through his ethical position, and an insider, the core of the Earth itself quelling its’ desire to control through negating it’s own existence.
Both intelligent and haunting, Soule & Kano’s run on the Swamp Thing is shaping up to be another extremely interesting insight into one of DC’s most complex and well-explored characters. Doing justice to both Snyder and Moore’s previous runs, these guys have demonstrated already how well they understand the Swamp Thing and, I feel, are building to something that all DC fans can and will be proud of with their latest run.