Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: Swamp Thing #1--The DC Reboot Begins with its Roots

"It's raining in Washington tonight. Plump, warm summer rain that covers the sidewalks with leopard spots. Downtown, elderly ladies carry houseplants to set them on the fire-escapes, as if they were infirm relatives or boy kings. I like that."--Alan MooreThe Saga of Swamp Thing issue #21.

I like that too.

Before reading DC's reboot of Swamp Thing issue 1, I went back to good ol' Saga of Swamp Thing issue #21, Alan Moore's masterpiece origin story, to remind me why old Swampy remains a classic DC character. I can ramble on about the artwork... the writing... the presentation... but in all due respect, we only live once, and that issue is better experienced than discussed. So on to newer and hopefully better things.

Scott Snyder managed to make quite the name of himself recently; in the past few years he’s penned Detective Comics, co-authored American Vampire with Stephen King, currently writes Swamp Thing AND Batman, and introduced another creator owned titled from Image, called Severed. It’s probably safe to presume Snyder’s name will remain ever-present in comics for the years to come. Obviously someone in the industry is happy with his work. But I’m not.

There’s nothing redeeming about Snyder’s writing. There. I said it.

The writing is not touching, moving, or gripping. It does not attribute voice to the characters, but painfully leaves them hollow like the stale, abandoned husk of an insect or like a ventriloquist carrying dead air through a dummy’s head. Snyder lacks poetics. He lacks life. He lacks the many talents of melodrama.

Of course I am biased by the works of Alan Moore and realize no one can fight the great contender. Yet I still await the day someone dares enter the ring and give him a good fight or at least dances around a bit. But even the most technical writing or the most juvenile can make-up in ease or difficulty with a good story. And unfortunately issue 1 offers a humming-bird’s egg of story—little and delicate, just enough to say it’s there but not enough to feed a grown man.

For most of Swamp Thing issue 1, I hoped to see the most pivotal character in the series—The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Okay, that wasn’t a very funny joke. But neither was seeing the Swamp Thing on only TWO pages (including the cover) of this 32-page comic (filled with 8-pages of ads). Of course, we have to keep in mind this is a reboot issue which hopes to offer a starting point for new readers. But still, I guarantee fans of the Dark Knight would crap their pants to find out Batman only shows his hood on two pages of Batman issue 1. New reader or not, give us the goods. goddamnit.

The only redeeming factor about this comic is Yanick Paquette’s artwork. His cover is quite astounding and remarkably beautiful. His choice of combing Art Nouveau with the abysmal and overdone style of superhero pop-art is refreshingly unique. However, it is not done enough. Only a few pages are well stylized to report on but even those are nothing as gorgeous as the cover. I was half expecting Paquette to go the path of J.H. Williams III and abandon conventional panels all together but sadly this did not happen.

I think this will remain my final run with Swamp Thing for a while. I am curious where Snyder decides to take the green “machine” for a ride, but not for Snyder’s sake but for ol’ Swampy. Perhaps we’ll meet again one day in the Green. Until then, farewell friend.

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