Back from the Dead, Like an Old Time Movie: "Swamp Thing #12"

Jay Mattson

Swamp Thing writer Scott Snyder changes gears dramatically by writing an action-oriented issue on the eve of the coming "Rotworld" saga. But does the gamble pay off?

Swamp Thing #12

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Marco Rudy
Price: $2.99
Publication Date: 2012-10

As we inch closer and closer to the epic “Rotworld” crossover, scribes Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder have joined forces to write the prologue. Buddy Baker and Alec Holland will descend into death and decay, with Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder as tour guides. One of the best elements of both Animal Man and Swamp Thing is just how well both writers utilize symbolism. For both writers the symbolic becomes an intricate and subtle tool to explain the conflict each character is faced with. Fans of this form might be a bit jarred by this month’s Swamp Thing #12, an issue that forgoes it’s subtle, metaphorical nature for a more blunt approach to moving the story along in a timely manner.

So often these days, writers parcel out the narrative elements of a storyarc, allowing a bit more to be uncovered with each subsequent issue (or in the case of the four-issue Siege, each subsequent scene). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and, in fact, it’s usually more effective to structure stories this way. But in Lemire and Snyder’s case, Swamp Thing #12 is structured like a bridge that doesn’t need to be anything more than just that: a bridge. With Snyder and Lemire's style of storytelling however, there needed to be that one issue that took readers from a place of preparation to a place of action. This is that issue.

While Animal Man #12 languished in talks of the past and the more visceral elements of this “Rotworld Prologue”, Swamp Thing #12 asks readers to take a step back from the emotional front and remember that there’s going to be a lot of awesome fights in the coming months for both of these series. Lemire and Snyder do a deft job of mirroring their scripts and narrative flow to the different emotional states each of these characters is in.

As the two heroes enter the world of Rot to find themselves under attack by the Un-Men, it takes less than a page for the soldiers of the Rot to fall because of Alec and Buddy’s focused determination, while the climb down the bone ladder becomes warped and stretched out due to it’s haunting and creepy nature. Similarly, the opening excitement with Abby and the Bakers quickly turns into melancholy when Swamp Thing’s lone vine tether to the surface world is cut, a veritable calm before the storm that starts this October.

Swamp Thing #12 is a lot more akin to a movie or TV show than most contemporary comicbooks. The change in pace and tone depending on what’s going on, the dissonance between Buddy and Alec’s descent and Abby’s attempts to stave off the Rot on the surface, and the fantastical elements that push this series beyond a simple horror story and into a more alternative sci-fi genre--this is a story that’s setting us up for a war between the three forces of all life on Earth. We’re well past simple decaying animals and dying forests.

This is intense!

Anton Arcane’s reappearance also adds to the screen-like feel of this particular issue. Bringing back old villains might not have originated in film and television, but it was these mediums that brought a certain flair and bravado to "coming back from the dead", and Lemire and Snyder use this flair with Arcane as he slowly reveals his sinister machinations and how he’s been three steps ahead of our heroes the entire time. Unless it’s Grant Morrison doing a concept piece, it’s not often that a narrative gamble like this pays off so brilliantly and so quickly.

Again, the only arguable flaw with this issue springs from the abrupt change in narrative style, from Snyder’s more intricate and symbolic style to a more action-oriented, plot-driven one that takes us directly into “Rotworld”. It’s becoming increasingly apparent how hard both Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder have worked at making the Red/Green/Rot was so essential and epic. This crossover is going to define both Animal Man and Swamp Thing for years to come. It was risky, starting off both series in ways that led to an inevitable, multi-arc crossover extravaganza, but it’s looking to be paying off.

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