Archive for Swamp Thing

Friday Night Fights: Don’t Feed the Plants!

If it’s Friday, and if it’s approximately evening, that’s enough for me to declare it to be time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS! And if it’s October, that means I’ve got some nice monster-themed fights to share with you, too.

Tonight’s battle comes to us from February 1984’s Swamp Thing #21 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben. The classic tale “The Anatomy Lesson” revamped the Swamp Thing’s backstory and served up a frightful buffet of creepiness and terror, as the venal General Sunderland suffers an unpleasant encounter with an angry plant monster.




Yeah, General, that is probably not the best choice of words to offer to an infuriated monster that’s just had his worldview flipped over on him.



Important lesson: Don’t shoot plant monsters in the head and expect that to kill them. Also, don’t leave important research papers around for swamp monsters to read. Come to think of it, if you have a swamp monster in the building, don’t hang around and wait for him to get angry about something.

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Swamped Out

Swamp Thing #6

Things have gone worse than normal for Alec Holland. Abby Arkane has been captured and coccooned by the Rot, her corrupted brother William is in full control of millions of twisted zombies, and the Parliament of Trees has been destroyed. Is there any chance for the Swamp Thing to save the day before Alec gets a chainsaw through the chest?

Verdict: Thumbs down. And I’m done with this one. I don’t care if the art is nice. I don’t care if the writing is nice. It’s six months in on this title, and Alec Holland still isn’t the Swamp Thing. Oh, of course we know that on the last page of the next issue, he’ll finally become Swamp Thing, and in the issue after that, he’ll finally get to the conclusion of this story. But honestly, I’m tired of being jerked around by this ultimately dull and dishonest comic.

Avengers Academy #25

It’s now an all-out battle, with half the students and teachers at Avengers Academy vs. Hybrid, half-human, half-Dire Wraith, and his mentally enslaved student minions. Reptil is the only student who manages to throw off the mental domination, and that’s just because he’s been mindswitched with his future self. Meanwhile, in the future, the present version of Reptil, in his own future body, escapes from captivity just in time to learn that he had a child with Finesse and may have a chance to help his teammates in the past. Hybrid shuts down Hank Pym’s powers — but that leaves his scientific mind intact, which means he can figure out a way to stop the monster. But can he do it before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. We go from present to future to present, we go from huge fight scenes to intimate family moments and back to fight scenes. All that plus a big plot twist. And it all works just fine. Impressive work from Christos Gage and Tom Grummett.

Static Shock #6

There’s a lot of stuff happening, and I couldn’t really keep track of it all. Hardware and Technique from the classic Milestone Media comics get to make an appearance, there’s a interdimensional portal, or maybe a time-travel portal, I couldn’t really tell. There’s some guy who cloned Static’s sister for some reason and now wants to throw her through the portal for some reason. There’s a second version of Static who shows up to save the day, then disappears between pages. And Static’s cloned sisters, who previously hated each other with absolute burning fury, decide they really love each other because they’re siiiiiisters.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Trying to make sense of the plot here was like sustaining brain damage. I don’t know whether to drop this one because it’s awful, or stick with it because it’s about to get cancelled and I may as well have the complete run.

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Lost in the ’50s Tonight

First, a short announcement.

The blog is going on a hiatus. Hopefully a short one, but it may be longer. My grandmother has died, and I may not feel like writing about comic books for a while.

However, I still had these two reviews finished and ready to go, so let’s go ahead and get them out of the way.

I’ll see y’all when I see y’all…

American Vampire #22

A new storyarc and a new setting, as we move into the 1950s. Our new lead character is Travis Kidd, a 19-year-old with cool sunglasses, a leather jacket, greased-up hair, a fast car, and a bad attitude. He’s dating Piper Francis, a pretty blonde, and Piper’s parents really don’t like Travis at all. Bad news for Travis that Piper’s folks are actually vampires… and even worse news for the vampires that Travis is a skilled vampire hunter. After a run-in with Agent Hobbes from the Vassals of the Morning Star reveals the identity of the vampire who killed Travis’ family, is Travis going to get in over his head?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, great story, and all of it mixed in with all your favorite ’50s archetypes. This one is just grand fun, people.

Swamp Thing #5

Alec Holland and Abby Arkane are trying to catch up to Abby’s deranged brother William before he gives himself over too completely to the Rot, the spiritual manifestation of death and decay. Unfortunately, William gets the drop on them with a bunch of recently slaughtered livestock. But Alec is able to tap into his plant-controlling powers to tear their undead attackers apart and strand William in a tree. But the war between the Green and the Rot is fought on more than one front, and the good guys may have already lost.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, I actually enjoyed an issue of this comic. Sure, we still haven’t seen the Swamp Thing yet, but at least we’ve got Alec Holland using plant powers and doing something active, instead of just being dragged along and getting stuff explained to him. Maybe if we finally see Swamp Thing next issue, this comic will be something worth keeping up with.

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Vulture Culture

The Amazing Spider-Man #675

Peter Parker teams up with his ex-girlfriend, CSI tech Carlie Cooper, who’s still bitter that Peter never told her he was Spider-Man. They’re trying to track down the Vulture’s new crew of flying burglars, and they eventually figure out that they’re based out of a new dance club. Unfortunately, by the time Spidey gets there, it’s still a case of one Spider-Man vs. a whole flock of Vultures. Is there any way he can survive?

Verdict: Thumbs up. And I must admit, what I’m most impressed by is the fact that we just had a complete story wrap up in just two issues. Not six, not eight, not a whole year’s worth of comics, but just two issues. I do wish comics publishers would do that a bit more often…

Swamp Thing #4

Alec Holland and Abby Arcane are on the trail of Abby’s brother, William Arcane, a kid on the way to becoming an avatar of death, rot, and decay, the way Swamp Things are avatars of the plant world. Unfortunately, they miss William after he slaughters a diner full of people. Abby insists that they bunk down for the night, choosing an open grassy field because it’ll be less likely that the Rot will have dead matter to use against them. While sleeping, Alec communes with the Parliament of Trees, who are still unhappy that he’s resisting becoming the Swamp Thing. They tell him that the war between the Green (plant life), the Red (animal life), and the Rot has been going on since prehistoric times, and they tell him that he shold kill Abby, as she has as strong a connection to the Rot as William does. Do Alec and Abby dare travel together any longer?

Verdict: I don’t know. The artwork is gorgeous, even without Yanick Paquette on the pencils. The horror is pretty good. But I’m still irritated that this book is drawing out turning Alec Holland into the Swamp Thing for so blasted long.

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Walkin’ Away Blues

The Amazing Spider-Man #673

Spider-Island is over, the Queen has been destroyed, and everyone in New York City has been de-spiderfied. That means a lot of people hanging around NYC without any clothes on, which brings us plenty of very funny episodes. Most of this issue is dedicated to wrapping up the previous storyarc — Aunt May finally gets to leave the city for Massachusetts, Kaine leaves town, Carlie has figured out that Peter is Spider-Man and breaks up with him, and Peter finds out from Dr. Strange that the spell that kept anyone from learning his secret identity is no longer in effect.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I think after that lengthy storyarc, it’s nice to get a little breather issue in. Love that cover, too, by the way…

American Vampire #20

We get a flashback within our flashback as the Indian woman in the cave tells Hole in the Sky, the renegade Apache leader, her story. She was formerly the wife — or maybe the slave — of a frontier trapper. She agreed to travel with a party exploring the country as a native guide. She enjoyed the journey, but became suspicious of the party’s captains, and soon discovered that they were vampires. When they caught her, she was turned into a new kind of American vampire — and her bloodlust was almost entirely uncontrollable. Desperate to find a way to keep herself from killing more and more people, she blocked herself inside a cave — until Hole in the Sky set her free. Even then, she doesn’t want to cause any more harm, and Hole in the Sky, disgusted with what he sees as her cowardice, kills her. But is that the end of the nightmare, or just the beginning?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice story, nice characterization, nice art, and a fun twist on vampires from a Native American perspective.

Swamp Thing #3

Much of our story focuses on a kid named William, who has to spend his life inside a plastic bubble because he has an extreme allergy to chlorophyll, and he’ll die if he ever leaves a sterile environment. His doctors want him to socialize as much as possible with other kids, but some of the other kids, even terminal cancer patients, are a bit psycho and are looking forward to ways to pierce his sterile bubble and expose him to the air that would kill him. Meanwhile, we get to know Alec Holland’s new benefactor — Abigail Arcane, who used to be the Swamp Thing’s lover, but who Alec can just barely remember. It turns out that, like Alec and his intrinsic connection to the Green that makes him a natural candidate to become a Swamp Thing, Abigail and all of the Arcane family have an intrinsic connection to the Black, the underworld of dead matter. Oh, and you know William, the kid in the plastic bubble? His last name is Arcane, too.

Verdict: Man, I do not know. The horror here is very good. The art is top-notch. And I think it was clever to name the doctor in this issue for Dick Durock, the actor who played Swamp Thing in the movies and TV series. But I think I’m starting to get really tired of Alec Holland not being Swamp Thing. I’m not going to be able to stomach more than one or two more issues where Holland isn’t mossy, noseless, and slow-speaking…

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Plants vs. Zombies

Swamp Thing #2

Alec Holland finds himself face-to-face with the Swamp Thing. But wait, didn’t Alec Holland used to be the Swamp Thing? Well, this Swamp Thing is a 1940s-era Swamp Thing, who used to be a pilot named Cal Rodgers. He’d already been marked from birth as a potential Swamp Thing, and when he died in a plane crash, nature transformed him into the Protector of the Green. Now he wants Holland to return to his place as DC’s plant-based swamp monster. Holland doesn’t want any part of this, but he agrees to let the Swamp Thing explain why he’s needed — there’s something called Sethe — neither a creature of the Green, or plant life, nor of the Red, or animal life — it’s a monster of death and decay.

And Holland is actually genetically predisposed to being a perfect candidate for SwampThinghood. Holland nevertheless refuses to become a Swamp Thing again, and the ’40s Swamp Thing reveals that he’s already preparing to die and become part of the Parliament of Trees. But the Sethe is already gunning for Holland, with its ever-growing army of heads-turned-backwards zombies. Holland gets rescued by a mysterious motorcyclist — but did his life just go from bad to worse?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed this issue a lot more than I did the first. The art by Yanick Paquette is, probably, even more gorgeous than the first. And it helps the story a lot to have an actual Swamp Thing in the story, even if it isn’t Alec Holland. My primary complaint here is that a lot of the story is extremely text-heavy — can’t be helped, because the Swamp Thing’s mythology is pretty complex, especially with the added twists Scott Snyder is plugging in here. Still, it’s a lot of words, and you gotta be really dedicated to reading a heck of a lot of words in only a small number of pages.

Severed #3

Jack Garron is on his own in Chicago, having missed his chance to meet his real father. He’s now hanging out and playing his violin for tips, while his friend Sam, a homeless girl who cross-dresses to avoid the kinds of creeps who would prey on homeless girls, serves as his manager and promoter. They hope to have enough money in a few weeks to book train passage to Mississippi to find Jack’s father. Unfortunately, they’re being stalked by a child-eating maniac masquerading as a phonograph salesman. The salesman invites them to his place for dinner after hearing Jack play, and despite Sam’s misgivings, they go along. They get a duck dinner, a few laughs at the salesman’s dirty jokes, and a demonstration of his seriously scary bear trap.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I gotta say, for a comic where nothing much happens other than dinner, this was a very tense and suspenseful story. The salesman is entirely nasty enough to take out Jack and Sam by himself, especially with his monster-sized bear trap, so his entire ruse with dinner is strictly about playing with his food. Thoroughly nerve-wracking.

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Drain the Swamp

Swamp Thing #1

Alec Holland used to be a scientist, and he used to be Swamp Thing, and he used to be dead. And he’s not any of those things anymore. He’s lying low working as a construction worker, unwilling to return to his scientific work with plants and definitely unwilling to become a swamp monster, even though he never actually was the Swamp Thing, even though he’s got the Swamp Thing’s memories cluttering up his skull. And even more bizarre, plants still love him. They grow fast around him, they like to coil themselves around him.

He soon gets a visit from Superman, who asks him if he’s aware of the various species die-offs taking place across the country — Holland is, but notes that isn’t all that uncommon — large numbers of animals die all the time, sometimes for reasons of sickness, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Superman wants to check to see if Holland is adjusting alright to his return from the grave. And Holland can’t really tell him everything’s all that great. He’s worked on his old bio-restorative formula, but abandoned it. And he’s having weird dreams about plants. And where no one’s aware it’s happening, some sort of monstrous abomination, part alive, part dead, is beginning a rampage.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I know everyone else seemed to love this one, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. It was creepy in places, but tried a little too hard to look like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing stories. I was bugged by the lack of anything explaining Alec Holland’s current backstory — not all of us paid any attention to how Swamp Thing changed during the “Brightest Day” storyline. And I was really a bit irritated that Swamp Thing himself never appeared in the story ’til the last page. Sorry, but I just didn’t buy all the buzz.

The other interesting thing about this issue is that it’s just about the first place outside of promotional artwork where you can see what Superman’s new costume looks like.

And it’s not good.

Yanick Paquette is one of the best artists DC or anyone else has. You don’t see him drawing stuff that looks bad — pretty much everything he draws looks awesome. And if he can’t make the Man of Steel’s costume look like something other than a bucket of boiling crap, no one else is going to be able to do it either.

Morning Glories #12

We get introduced to a brand new character in this issue — Lara Hodge, the guidance counselor at the Morning Glory Academy. And she’s not happy with the way things are being run. Students are being killed, the head nurse is a sadist, the headmistress is only effective at terrorizing students. Hodge arranges meetings with most of the main cast of students, giving Zoe a gun, giving Jade some pills to help her sleep through her nightmares, and she tries to comfort Casey, who’s still grieving over her dead parents. But is Hodge just another sticky strand in the Academy’s web, or can she really do something to help the students?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lara Hodge is an interesting character, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role she’s going to have in the story. Other than that, plenty more intrigue and mystery, and all the things this series does so well.

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Alan Moore knows the score

A friend of mine suggested recently that I should spend more time here recommending writers and artists worth reading. Fair ’nuff — there are a lot of wonderful creators out there, and it’s always a good idea to steer people toward the Good Stuff.

So let’s start with the Best of the Best: Alan Moore.

Moore is a shaggy, shaggy Englishman, a practicing magician, a worshiper of a Roman snake-god called Glycon, and the second-best-known comics creator in the world, after Stan Lee. He’s known for intricate plotlines, razor-sharp characterizations, and scripts so detailed, a single panel description can go on for a page or more.

Moore has always worked to create comics for adults. That means there’s violence, nudity, swearing, and other stuff that parents may not want their kids getting their hands on. Moore sees the comics medium as something that shouldn’t be mired in juvenilia, though he also recognizes that superhero comics can be a great deal of fun for grown-ups as well as kids.

Here’s some of his best stuff, with short descriptions.


We’ve discussed this a bit already. This is widely considered to be the very best comic book ever created. They teach this one in many universities as literature. If you’ve never read this, you should.

V for Vendetta

A masked, swashbuckling anarchist battles a fascist dictatorship in Great Britain. Not a perfect work — there are way too many characters to keep track of — but the story absolutely blisters the brain with excitement, derring-do, and mad, dangerous ideas. An extremely political comic — Moore wrote it in response to Maggie Thatcher’s hard-right British government.

From Hell

This is a story about Jack the Ripper. Moore comes up with his own solutions for the Ripper slayings, ties it all together with head-trippy stuff about sacred geometry and time travel. Moore did a lot of research into “Ripperology” and includes an excellent bibliography and panel-by-panel endnotes. This comic is violent and absolutely blood-drenched, but if you have any interest at all in the Ripper slayings or in the seamier side of Victorian England, it’s highly recommended.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s a superteam composed of characters from Victorian-era adventure fiction! The British government assembles a covert team of Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll, and the Invisible Man to battle Dr. Fu Manchu. A second series of the comic has the team taking on invaders from Mars. Guest stars include everyone from Auguste Dupin, Mycroft Holmes, Dr. Moreau, the Artful Dodger, Mr. Toad, John Carter, and many, many more.

Tom Strong

A modern-day superhero book that takes most of its inspiration from old pulp adventure novels, particularly Tarzan and Doc Savage. The quality is a bit here-and-there, but in general, it’s grand, frothy fun.

Top 10

One of my favorite Moore comics, it’s a hard-boiled police procedural set in a city where everyone — citizens, cops, crooks — has superpowers and wears a brightly-colored spandex costume. It’s a fun commentary on comics in general, plus it has a lot of really wonderful mysteries for the cops to solve. If you like TV shows like “Law and Order” or “Homicide: Life on the Street,” you’ll like this one.


A psychedelic/metaphysical comic about a superhero who is destined to bring about the end of the world. If you’re into new age stuff, magick, Qabalah, or the Tarot, you’ll love this. This comic is also the one where Moore does the most experimentation with visual styles and symbolism. It’s not light reading — it’s a very challenging book that requires fairly deep reading to understand.


A British superhero, similar to Captain Marvel. The original version got its start in the ’50s, and Moore started working on it in the ’80s. In his version, Marvelman ends up taking over the world and ruling as a god. It’s awfully hard to find this series anywhere in the U.S. — the rights to the character and the series are in dispute. (They even had to change the name from “Marvelman” to “Miracleman” when Marvel Comics threatened to sue.)

The Killing Joke

This Batman story presents the definitive origin of the Joker. And it’s the story that started Barbara Gordon on the path from being Batgirl to becoming Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker. It’s a wonderful comic, one of the best Joker stories ever.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

DC was preparing to reboot the Superman from the beginning back in the mid-’80s, and Moore wrote this story to bring an end to everything in the old Superman mythos. Supes is forced to deal with powerful enemies who destroy his secret identity, turn his old rogues gallery into psychotic murderers, and threaten to destroy him and everyone he loves. It’s a sad and scary story that’s soaked in nostalgia for the lost innocence of DC’s fabled Silver Age.

Saga of the Swamp Thing (especially “The Anatomy Lesson”)

When Moore took over this comic, the Swamp Thing was a low-selling comic on the fast track to cancellation. In the space of just a few issues, he turned it into one of DC’s best-selling and scariest comics. “The Anatomy Lesson” revamps Swamp Thing’s origin and re-introduces the character as a terrifying monster. Highly recommended — go hunt it down.

Terra Obscura

This one was just plotted by Moore, but it’s still great fun. A simultaneous spin-off from “Tom Strong” and a series of superhero comics from the ’40s, this series featured a bunch of characters with a strong Golden Age flavor but modern personalities and characterizations.

Most of these stories are still in-print in various anthologies and trade paperbacks. You can go out and buy them today. In fact, you should, because they’re all wonderful reads. Git after it, kids.

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