Swamp Thing 9

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Swamp Thing 9, originally released May 2nd, 2012.

Shelby: I love non-traditional stories. While there is definitely comfort to be found in stories that go exactly as you imagine, it’s those twists that can turn a story on its ass that make things really interesting. And when those twists give the finger to time-honored and traditional story-telling tropes, that’s when I sit up and take notice. Swamp Thing is an awesome embodiment of the non-traditional. Our hero is a monster (unless you compare him to the villain), and in this issue after he rescues the damsel, she turns right around and rescues him back.

Issue 9 picks up exactly where issue 8 left off; Swamp thing is impaled on Abby’s … fingers, I guess, and she’s literally about to eat him. Sethe throws down some trash talk as Alec tries in vain to talk to Abby and remind her who she is. Finally, Alec tells her its time to wake up, and she suddenly falls to the ground, writhing and screaming in pain. Remember a few issues back when Alec and Abby were on the road, and he gave her a can of peaches he had “freshened up”? Well, he didn’t just use anonymous plant magic, he used tiny orchid seeds, which were now growing their way through Abby’s rot-shell. As Abby (the person) begins to emerge, Sethe gets pretty pissed. While he’s in the process of grinding Alec to dust, Abby decides she’s had enough. Using the power of the Rot, she completely destroys Sethe and his horrifying army, leaving only a tearful William. Abby and Alec head out, while William hears the voice of Sethe, foretelling the coming of none other than Anton Arcane himself.

I have a confession. I have no idea who Anton Arcane is. I recognize that it’s a moment to make all long-time Swamp Thing fans fall out of their chairs, but I’m too new to this universe. Some quick research reveals he’s Swamp Thing’s ulitmate nemisis, is both a scientist and a magician, and seeks primarily to raise the dead and do other unholy dead things. He spent some time in Hell and loves to torture Abby. If there’s anything I’m missing, someone fill me in.

Let’s talk for a second about the Avatars. Of the three (Red, Green, and Rot), Abby is the only one who didn’t want to play ball. It’s true, Maxine might not fully grasp the implications of being the Avatar of the Red, but to her the Red and her role is as natural as breathing. Alec resisted the Green initially, but eventually acquiesced; only then was he transformed into Swamp Thing. Abby is the only one who actively did not want to become an avatar and was the only one forced to do so.

It makes sense, considering the nature of the power at play. Maxine is already technically an animal, it’s no wonder the Red comes so naturally. Plants will grow wherever they can, but man can exert some control over them, accounting for the control Alec was able to exert over his destiny. But, if you’re going to die, then you’re going to die; it doesn’t matter how badly you may want to live. It even holds through Abby’s transformation back; the one thing that can break through, break apart death and rot is plants.

My goodness, that transformation. The design of Abby after she emerges from the wreckage of the rot queen is incredible. She’s nude, her body covered in orchids, with sharp black lines running all over her body.

Those lines are reminiscent of vines, but I see them more as a reminder of the source of her power: a physical reminder of her time as the rot queen. She somehow looks organic and sleekly inorganic at the same time, and I love it. I honestly never thought she could both be rescued and still access the power  of the Rot. I figured odds were pretty good that Alec would get her out somehow, but I assumed that would mean she’d be severed from the Rot completely. For her to be able to chose how she uses this power takes this fight to a whole new, spectacular level.

Now, I could go on and on about this book; how Alec “planted his seed” and the birth-like emergence of Abby, but instead I want to close my portion with beautiful panel of the two of them after the fight.

See how after they hug, roses bloomed on Alec? I am a total sucker for shit like that. Patrick, you’re thoughts on this climactic battle?

Patrick: Every month, we get together in this space and talk about the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenes depicted by Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy. This is maybe the 5th time that we’ve written an article that says “holy shit, this thing is gorgeous and thematically compelling and innovative.” I’m not convinced we’re doing enough to express just how engaging the artwork is in this series. It’s just that moving. Maybe we should start a church or something.

Shelby, you mention this new artistic element – the orchid. Stories of Green heroics are frame by vines and branches, whereas the Rot’s stories decay around the edges. But the orchids accompany Abby arcane, the woman trapped between The Green and The Black – and that’s so cool, I could puke. Orchids are mysterious, they’re sexual, they’re valuable, they’re fragile; it’s amazing how much cultural baggage one kind of flower can imply.

It’s also nice to see this character get her due, after a couple months out of the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong: I like Alec a lot, but I’d rather see how this pair gets caught up in the war between Plants and Dead-Shit. Abby’s never been a shrieking violet, and the promise of her having a handful of powers from either side is really really interesting. I go back and forth between wanting to know the extent of her powers and being happy with the nebulous abilities she displayed in this issue. As a lover of stories and storytelling, I want to encourage Snyder to keep that shit to himself. But as a nerd I DEMAND ANSWERS!

I’ll dial that back. Don’t listen to that nerd’s demands. The more ill-defined Alec and Abby’s power sets are, the better. Frankly, Scott (can I call you Scott?), “giving Yanick and Marco and opportunity to draw something cool” is plenty justification to make these characters do just about anything.

But that does mean that the action has been sorta slow the last three issues. They’ve also been some of the most beautiful pages I’ve ever seen, packed with lovely prose poems about life and death and destiny and love. But, right, check me if I’m wrong, in the last three issues, the only thing that has happened is Alec took up the mantle of Swamp Thing, freed Abby and defeated Sethe. I understand that the emotional and logistical ramifications of these events are huge, but there are very few story beats being hit here.

I’m like you Shelby: I’ve had basically no pre-New 52 exposure to Swamp Thing. So maybe, my expectation for adventure is unfairly set by the superhero comics that surround this title. Even Animal Man, with its stronger horror elements, engages in more questing than this series does. It’s more thoughtful, more cerebral, so the glacial pace can be absolutely forgiven. But I still wanted to mention it: story is coming kinda slow. AGAIN (and before I get yelled at), I love what’s happening here, but it is a bizarrely patient series.

So, where are we headed now? Abby tells Alec it’s time to go home. Come on man, the Bakers need your help. Hell, Buddy’s spirit is struck physically traversing the animal life-force – tell me you can’t lend a hand.

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?

18 comments on “Swamp Thing 9

  1. AS PATIENT AS THE PLANTS THEMSELVES, GROWING ON THE EARTH.

    No, but seriously, you’re right. It’s a testament to the story and art that I never realized how little has actually happened in these last few issues.

    I made that image of Alec and Abby hugging the background on my computer. It’s just so happy and nice!!!

    • I’m not totally sure this pace really is that slow. Sure, when you break it down to actions, it doesn’t sound like much, but “freeing Abby and defeating Sethe” was an epic fight scene. There are some comic books that are entirely epic fight scenes (cough AvX cough), so spreading that out over two issues isn’t really that much of a stretch. Even “taking up the mantle of Swamp Thing” required a lot of pieces to fall into place. My point is, we can always zoom out and make an issue (or even an entire arc) feel like nothing happened (the hero saved the day!…over 11 issues). It’s the details that make any title great, and Swamp Thing has so many great details.

  2. I think I have noticed the slow paced story telling in Animal Man much more than this title. Even though it took three issues, Alec flew straight to the desert and went head to head with Sethe, the big bad. I don’t know if it is because the family dynamic makes things more drawn out, but all Buddy has done lately is drive an RV away from some animals and taken another stroll through the Red. Don’t get me wrong, like you, I have loved the crap out of both books and can’t wait for the cross over, but sometimes I wish there was more plot advancement.

    • As I was reading, I likened him to Swamp Thing’s Joker. What else can we compare him to? Swamp Thing’s Sinestro (pre-relaunch)? Swamp Thing’s Alex Lord, perhaps?

    • Where do you think he fits into the hierarchy for the Rot? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the highest level of of the Green/Red/Rot is Parliment/Totems/Sethe. Then the Avatars are Alec/Maxine/Abby. Is Anton just a ‘champion’ for the Rot the way Buddy is for the Red? What about the Hunters?

      Maybe labels aren’t appropriate for all their relative positions, but where all these characters fit together has had me curious for a while.

      • It’s tough to say; the way William was reacting, it would seem Anton Arcane is stronger than Abby. If that’s the case, why did Sethe keep him in his backpocket as a “just in case” option?

        • This is the kind of conversation I’m totally conflicted about having. On the one hand, I want to understand, but on the other hand, I don’t want to have all the information: mystery is nice.

        • I understand your aversion to it, but as a former LOSTaholic it is almost impossible for me to do anything but piece together the bigger picture and ‘figure it out’. Accordingly, I have also been burned by things I have held to be fact which are dismissed or ignored in later episodes, but I have faith in Snyder & Company. Especially since the annual is going to be history/mythology heavy, I think it is all going to come together nicely.

        • Always good to meet another recovering LOSTaholic. I worked really hard to figure that show out – usually had more fun thinking about it and talking about it than actually watching the show.

          But I think my objection to discussing the hierarchy of The Red and The Green is that I like to image those rules DON’T exist. They’re magical, and not governed by logic. By contrast, I do want there to be hard and fast rules for the Lantern Corps, because they’re based on totally impossible science (but “science” nonetheless).

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