Swamp Thing 16

swamp thing 16 ROT

Today, Shelby and Michael are discussing Swamp Thing 16, originally released January 9th, 2013. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Shelby: Enough “Poor Alec.” Last month, we talked about Alec’s lonely road and his single shining star, Abby. Well, that’s all over! He’s got the resources of Batman in the hands of Barbara Gordon, one of the smartest people in the DCU. He can feel his lady love leading him on, and now that he’s got the backup he needs, he’s going to put an end to this Rot shit once and for all! It’s Swamp Thing’s rallying call! He’s gonna kick some ass in the greenest way imagined! No more pity, it’s time for action! Just as we start to get really pumped, though, Scott Snyder reminds us that it might actually be too late after all.

With the Man-Bat serum giving her enough of a connection to the Red to keep the Rot at bay, Babs leads Alec through the sewers to Gotham’s strong-hold: Arkham Asylum, fortified with a laser shield. Bats planned ahead, he also left Alec a partially complete version of his bio-restorative formula, which Alec immediately completes. Just in time, too, because an army of Rotlings led by Giganta is tearing the place down. Alec leads his own army of Gothamites, armed with bio-restorative Super Soakers and a giant Bat-Bot, to Anton Arcane’s doorstep. With Bane’s Venom rig modified to pump Alec full of bio-restorative, he’s ready to storm Arcane’s castle and rescue Abby. One problem with that plan, however. After trying to fake that she was on the Parliament of Rot’s side, Anton tells her it’s too late. Since she’s not an avatar and doesn’t have the power of the Parliament, there’s basically nothing she can do. He tells her to say her good-byes, and then…well…

abby arcane is dead

Scott Snyder, man. Way to totally pull a Whedon on us with that one. More on that in a second. Snyder constructed this issue beautifully. We talked about Swamp Thing’s lonely road last month, and that is exactly what this issue opens with: Alec alone on a desolate road, arriving at a teaming sea of mostly Gothamite Rotlings. When faced with an undead Superman, Alec simply utters, “No…” and we cut to his meeting with Babs six days earlier. With that one simple flashback, Snyder sets us up for a story we think we know. It’s confirmed by the end of the flashback to Gotham; we’re left with Giganta smashing her way into the only human stronghold left before cutting back to present time. It certainly looks like Gotham is lost and Alec is carrying on because that’s all he knows to do. But then the tables are turned! The cavalry arrives, and it’s totally badass!

bat-bot

It’s a very straight-forward story structure, but Snyder uses it elegantly and with great effect. I never once considered this was anything more than another Swamp Thing pity party, as he mopes his way across the country. The arrival of the backup was both a satisfying bit of story-telling as well as visually exciting; Yanick Paquette is in fine form with this issue. Look at that thing, it’s huge! We’ve got Swamp Thing switching over to Battle Mode, with wings and huge sword, and a GIANT FUCKING ROBOT. This is thrilling! The battle is joined! And then, the cherry on top of that exciting sundae is Abby’s severed head and dangling spinal chord. Again, Snyder and Paquette show us what a great team they make; this seeming confirmation of Abby’s death is shocking enough, but the visceral, disgusting truth of it in Paquette’s art is a punch to the gut. That final panel made me exclaim out-loud by myself in my apartment, it’s that awesome.

I can’t talk enough about how much I love Paquette’s work on this title. It’s so gross and so beautiful, but what really gets me is his attention to details. I love noticing that Barbara Gordon’s ears are pointed now, or that Rotling Black Canary has bird claws and feathers. There was one detail I noticed, though, that I almost wished I hadn’t: a familiar face in the crowd of Rotlings attacking Arkham.

giganta attacks

That could have been just another anonymous Rotling. It could have been any other recognizable Gothamite. But Paquette gave us Rotling Jim Gordon, and the effect is kind of devastating. Jim is like Alfred; he’s this ancillary character who has come to represent the heart of Gotham and the Batman universe. Despite all that we’ve seen, somehow this image is the one that drives home the terrible thing that has happened in this universe. As excited as this event makes me, and as awesome as this issue was, I can’t help but wonder yet again how we’re going to get out of this. I mean, if Commissioner Gordon is a horrifying undead monster, how can we ever go back?Michael: Well, I certainly welcomed this Batman-ex-machina in this series. As you mentioned, Shelby, we’ve all had enough of Poor Alec. I admire how far Snyder has let the Rot progress, killing our heroes and letting things get hopeless beyond my expectations. I thought this issue reached a nice balance: a healthy dose of hope mingled with pages of Abby’s failed attempt to sacrifice herself. Even before we know she’s been decapitated (with spine bonus), I cringed a bit as they teased us with the inevitable.

Abby1

Abby and Anton

But for Alec, this is the first time he gets any real comfort and support after being constantly lied to, betrayed, let down, and demoralized by how much the Rot has taken. I feel like Snyder really pushed the boundary of how much I was willing to wallow in this world. I really like this verdant page from the asylum. I needed it.

Abby2

However, Shelby, I’m worried. I feel like they’ve dug themselves too deeply into this all-consuming evil and I share your worry that they won’t be able to bring everyone back in any satisfying way. If people simply line up so the Bat-Bot (seated in a giant chair) can shoot serum into their eyes, I might be disappointed. I suppose I don’t want to conclude that the Rot just wasn’t really a big deal as long as Alec has time to dip his flower fingers into unfinished serum. And if Abby returns in a similar manner, I might be angry.

One more thought. Why do you think Superman is more susceptible to rot than Mr. Freeze?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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27 comments on “Swamp Thing 16

  1. Aw man, that last page really made me sad. I really was hoping Abby was alive and would make it out okay. I have a slight fear that she has been fridged but I think Snyder has built a more complex plot than the term allows. She has been a really rad character in the series and I hope to see more of her in the future (just no more of her skeletal system, though…)

    Re: why Mr. Freeze isn’t a rotling – don’t people have to be infected by the Rot? If Freeze was safely enclosed in Arkham them he wouldn’t have been tainted. Supes, on the otherhand, was out battling the Rot and therefore could be injured and infected (the argument for his Krytponian defenses against injury, however, could be made, suggesting it would be really unlikely that he could have succumbed to a bite or scratch or whatever it takes).

    I have no idea how Snyder & Lemire are going to be able to end this. The devastation to the DCU is so immense that essentially whatever happens in the resolution to the Rotworld arc has to stand. This happened in this story line and we need to move on from there – world remains destroyed and the rotling heros that were killed by AM&ST et al have to remain dead, even if those that were affected by the rot and survived can be cured. Otherwise, it is going to take some pretty lively writing to undo the damage. Beyond “…and they woke up realizing it was all just a horrible nightmare” or some timetravel trope I cannot see how they can “fix” the situtation. I have faith in them to not take the easy way out, though, and am really looking forward to the conclusion they have in store for us. I have to think that the post-Rotworld AM&ST will have to take place some time earlier in the character’s histories — essentially prior to their new52 issue 1s.

    • Yeah, I think I read somewhere that Snyder has said it’s not going to just be a dream or something like that. I have faith in these guys for sure, but I cannot imagine a meaningful way to get out of this.

      Maybe with Mr. Freeze it’s a combo of his suit protecting his skin and just the nature of keeping things cold; if you want to prevent meat from spoiling, you put it in the fridge, right? Keeps the decay at bay.

      • The cover of Swamp Thing # 18 shows Abby and Swampy kissing each other, and this, coupled with the fact that the 99 % of deaths in comics are temporary, makes me feel pretty sure Abby will live again. At least I hope so: I think she has too much potential to get discarded.

      • Doesn’t Babs say that Freeze is able to fend off the Rot because he’s basically cheating death as it is? That gets into a sorta goofy Death = Death assumption, but it’s cute and I like having freeze around.

        • Me too. As I particularly like when a character related to a specific superhero peeps out in the comic book of another one. This is something Lemire loves to do: Poison Ivy is related to Batman, and Lemire used her for Superboy; Steel is related to Superman, and Lemire used him for Animal Man. Lovely! At least imho. : )

        • Yeah that sounded a bit half-baked to me. Sure he’s cheating death, but Superman seems like he would be more sturdy when it comes to death. However, I totally get the need to downplay that guy since he screws up a lot of drama and narrative when crossed over to other stories.

          • Plus, he (and the rest of the Justice League) gets to be the Rot ultimate weapon. What’s scarier than an undead version of the most professional team of superheroes? That same team lead by undead Superman. (ALTHOUGH – I suspect that Batman left Alec some Kryptonite. It’s not totally clear what all Alec is discovering in Bruce’s lab, but I think there’s a mention of an “extra” thing by the bio-resorative formula.)

    • Given DC’s commitment to putting all of their heroes in the same universe, I really don’t see any way this story won’t be magically undone. The thought that these series could continue post-rotworld in their own separate universe (Earth-Rotworld, if you like) is an intriguing idea I hadn’t considered, but I doubt that will be the way this goes. DC seems to be on a mission to bring everyone into the New 52 universe, and I just can’t see them splintering things so quickly (if ever). Perhaps more importantly, I’m not sure continuing this story beyond the events here would be the best for these series. One of the things that makes Buddy such an interesting character is that he has a family he’s devoted to. Take that away, and he’s not really that different from Beast Boy.

      • I have no doubt that the magicking that gets us out of Rotworld will be at least a little unsatisfying. That’s the price you pay for playing a game as cool as EVERYONE DIES. As long as the personal cost of undoing Rotworld is big, permanent and personal for Swampy and Buddy, I’m going to be mostly okay with this.

        • From i09′s interview with new writer Soule (http://io9.com/5975335/meet-the-new-writer-of-swamp-thing-27strange-attractors-creator-charles-soule) :

          “Q: Does your storyline pick up right after Rotworld, and can you tell us anything about how the new status quo will be established in your comic?

          A: I have had the privilege of reading the scripts for the last several issues of the big Rotwold arc, and I can tell you that Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette are going to leave Swamp Thing in a very cool place. No spoilers, of course, but Alec goes through the wringer at the end of Rotworld, and we see some significant changes that will absolutely carry over into my run. It’ll be awesome.

          My first issue, #19, picks up just a little while after the end of Rotworld, with Alec still reeling from the events of #18. <>, and the pace of 1-18 was pretty much (awesomely) go go go, it means our hero hasn’t had much chance to actually be in the “real world” as Swamp Thing, or to reflect on everything that’s happened to him and what it means to have assumed the mantle of the Avatar of the Green.”[...]

          Hrrm. That alternate future line worries me a bit. It leaves no doubt that everything will be undone but there is some positives that can be inferred – he mentions Abby, so, yay for that, and that there will be ongoing ramifications for Holland, so the arc has meaning going forward.

          My best guess will be that Alec & Buddy will be taken back and will not go into the Rot and will stop Arcane before the rottlings take hold of the world. How this all goes down will be very interesting to see. Gotta keep telling myself “I have faith in Snyder & Lemire. I have faith in Snyder & Lemire…”

          • Interesting. I actually took that “real world” line to be about just doing regular Swamp Thing stuff. Alec has been so caught up in this battle for the rot, he hasn’t had much time to, you know, just interact with the swamp and battle polluters or whatever. At least, that’s what I want that line to be about. I think fans of this character probably expect some kind of return to those roots, which haven’t really been present in this run.

            • He explicitly says earlier in the interview that Rotworld is an “alternate future.” But, like, of course it is. As much as I like thinking that DC would nuke it’s whole cast in non-triple-A titles, any time the death of Batman is a footnote – you know that shit’s not going to stick.

              • A line from the interview got clipped from my cut and paste – in 2nd para where the “” is it should say ‘As Rotworld takes place largely in an alternate future,..’

                Something about that turn of phrase gets me. It is not something that happens that gets undone, its something that COULD happen. Alternate future suggests non-canon/didn’t happen so it doesn’t really matter. Of course I don’t expect them to continue on in the post-Rotworld world – although, in the right hands, the story of rebuilding the world with the Red & Green survivors could be very interesting – but I want the outcome of this to have real meaning and implications going forward.

                I would like to see them leave Rotworld as it stands, as I said above, resolving it with the forces of Red & Green triumphing (as I assume they will) and balance being restored but that the world DID suffer through Rotworld. The series then goes back to look at Alec & Buddy during their time pre-new52 issue 1. There is a lot of ground they could cover as both were established heroes in their respective issue 1s and the timeline is flexible enough to allow this. The start of the events that lead up to Rotword, as shown in issues 1 on, would happen, but just not contemporaneously with other events in the DCU #1s (it is not like it is possible to map all the events in all the books onto each other anyway, particularly given the asinine 5 year time period DC established). Rotword, then, does happen in the future, that future just occurs in an unspecified date beyond other events in the DCU and the ongoing ST/AM series. This, however, is not possible in the cohesive universe they are trying (ha!) to create for themselves. If they were able to stand alone then the books could just end at the conclusion of the arc (like Sweet Tooth, for example) and that would be that but, as titles integrated into the DCU it ain’t happening.

                There will be 40 or so issues of leadup to and dealing with Rotword between Animal Man, Swamp Thing, & Frankenstein and that is a lot of investment for it to be just swept away.

                Of course, until we actually see the end of issue 18, all we can do is speculate on how they might resolve it. I guess I am just bracing myself for disappointment if things don’t conclude satisfactorily even thought the story Snyder & Lemire have created is so sweeping and ambitious that if they don’t quite stick the landing it will be hard to fault them for it. Maybe I’ll be blown away by the ending and I will kick myself for doubting them in the first place. Here’s hoping.

                Sorry for continuing to ramble on about this at such length. I’ll just leave it there and hold my breath to see how it all unfolds (at which time you can expect several more long comments on your posts, I am sure:) ).

                Drew – that is how I read that part, too.

  2. This issue also raises the question that, if Abby’s head was torn from her body a year ago, what exactly is it drawing Alec to Arcane?

    • I assumed that dying would be the final step in Abby going over to the Rot. She’s resisted it for so long, but now that she’s actually DEAD, her connection to the elemental force OF DEATH can only be stronger, right?

      • This is definitely the deadest we’ve ever seen her. Oh shit, what if she’s turned into some sort of The Thing-esque crawly head monster!?!

        • I was thinking that if she was to become a monster it would be along the lines of the Queen of Rot form from issue 9. Head monster would be MUCH more horrifying… so it will probably turn out to be something along those lines given the creative team involved.

    • Like at the beginning of this issue in 15 he says he feels her more strongly as he gets closer to Arcane’s stronghold, but I think really Alec is only holding out hope that Abby made it, despite what the Parliament of Trees tells him in #14, news that William Arcane reinforces in 15. I don’t think she will be transformed into a rotling, although it would be dramatic for him to see her in that state (although, not as dramatic as Buddy seeing Maxine as one of the Hunters Three is going to be) but if she does “survive” in some rotted state, then perhaps he can still sense something left in her – perhaps some humanity remains given her connection to the Rot – or Arcane is using whatever is left of her as a trap to draw him in.

      Even if she did die, he is going to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar of the Green. In issue 14 he says “So it was Arcane, he took her…Then I’ll finish what I came here to do. I’ll take him down once and for all.” Abby isn’t his ONLY motivation, just the most personal one.

  3. Pingback: Swamp Thing 17 | Retcon Punch

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