Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Swamp Thing 12, originally released August 1st, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. Not caught up on Swamp Thing ? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram Session. Also, we’ve got Animal Man 12 coverage, supplying commentary on the first half of this story.
Shelby: I love seeing heroes working together. I don’t mean like in Justice League, on an established team (also, they aren’t really working together anyway); I’m talking about the almighty Crossover Event. Swamp Thing and Animal Man’s Rotworld isn’t a traditional comic crossover, with multiple books dealing with the same issue and borrowing characters. Snyder and Lemire have instead told the opposite sides of the same story, and now those two halves have finally come together so seamlessly I had to check the cover multiple times to remember which title I was reading.
Swamp Thing is part 2 of the prologue to Rotworld, it continues on right where Animal Man left off. Alec and Buddy have leapt into the Rot, tethered to the world above by a vine. As they fight Un-Men below, Abby, Ellen, and Maxine (and Socks) battle Rotlings above. At Socks’ advice, Abby seals up the portal around the vine tether to keep the Rotlings at bay. Alec and Buddy climb deeper into the Rot, where they encounter Anton. He severs their tether to the world above, and tells them this has been part of the plan all along. Once the folks above ground see the withered and dead vine, Abby begins to grow pale and thorny as she feels the Rot growing stronger. She knows the only way to stop the Rot is to find their Parliament and destroy it; happily she knows how to get there. Despite Alec and Buddy’s (faltering) heroic confidence in the face of the villain’s monologue, Anton says the Rot has already won. You see, time moves a little differently down there; Alec and Buddy were not gone for mere minutes, they were gone for a year. The two are returned to a desolate and mostly dead earth: Buddy faces a zoo of decaying animals, and Alec is confronted by a severely pissed-off Poison Ivy.
Wow. I’m a little bit speechless with this. I did not see this ending coming, I was definitely expecting a raucous, three-way showdown between Alec, Buddy, and Anton. Abby, Maxine, and Cliff were the wild cards, it was going to be epic. Instead, we get a sneaky trick on the part of the Rot, which totally pays off. If you think about it, it makes a ton of sense: isn’t that the way of rot and decay? It gradually creeps in, little by little, until one day you realize that shredded cheese in the back of the fridge definitely needs to GO.
Instead of fighting against the Rot, our heroes have to reclaim the world from it. They’ve LOST, and have to start over from less than nothing. How much of Maxine’s and Abby’s visions have come true? Did Snyder and Lemire just kill everyone else in the DCU? That is awesome!
I know we talk about it every issue, but I would be remiss to not mention Marco Rudy’s pencils. In the panel above, you see his clever way of depicting the Rot. Alec and Buddy just sort of tumble their way down a bone ladder which wends its way through an empty void. Really, isn’t that what you’re left with after something has rotted away? Bones and nothing. My absolute favorite panel is actually a full page of Abby planning to find the Parliament of the Rot. The page has been divided into narrow, horizontal panels, with the dialogue and Socks “in front of” the panel dividers.
It adds a strange sort of depth to the scene, with Socks somehow existing closer to us than to the story he’s a part of. Having part of the image outside the panels also reminds us that we are reading a comic book; it forces the image back onto the page and into it’s dividers while breaking the fourth wall with part of the image outside. Visually, the effect is gorgeous, it breaks apart what would be a fine, but unremarkable, shot of Abby and transforms it into something much grander.
I could go on and on about this title, I’m going to turn things over to Patrick before I realize I didn’t talk about Maxine’s vision, or the Ellen/Abby team-up, or the Poison Ivy implication, or…
Patrick: Rotworld. The name is so deceptive. It sounds an awful lot like a place, but it’s not. It’s a goddamn time – an era of imbalance in the the world. It breaks my heart to see Buddy Baker separated from his family (just as it breaks my heart to see the Bakers separated from Buddy). But what about Alec and Abby? While each one of them is alarmingly capable on their own, there’s a sense of fatalism about both them and the destiny of their relationship. It’s interesting that both of these titles have managed to keep the stories personal while delving into ancient wars between elemental forces: Buddy wants to protect his family, Alec wants to help Abby. There’s a simplicity to this connection that’s thrown into IMMEDIATE JEOPARDY with a leap forward in time by a year.Yeah, the fate of ALL LIFE ON EARTH may be at stake, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I feel silly evaluating this issue as an issue of Swamp Thing. Obviously both of these issues are written by the dream team of Snyder and Lemire, and neither one of them focuses more on either hero. Way back in the day, Drew and I had a conversation wherein he referred to Swamp Thing as “Animal Man’s little sister,” but with this honest crossover, they’re starting to feel like genuine peers.
You hit on most of the stuff that really got me excited, so I’m just going to mention a few more. First off, I love every second of Abby and Sock’s interaction. Both characters have a ton of information that the main heroes don’t have, and both seem to be locked in this conflict forever, while the others are relative newcomers. I’m not going to suggest that there’s a history between the two, but you will notice that Abby doesn’t bat a fucking eye-lash when Socks the talking cat starts espousing ancient Red-wisdom. ALSO, I hope we never have to see Socks sad again (read: I will laugh/cry every time you show me this image).
The Poison Ivy bit is interesting, but plays against what we’ve been reading about her in Birds of Prey. I too had been really excited to see her take a more central (and hopefully, more Green) role in that series, but issue 11 threw a weird kind of curve ball, suggesting that her increased powers had less to do with her being in touch with the Green and more to do with some kind of weaponized suit. I can juggle multiple versions of the same character in my head with relative ease, but I would have liked to see a little more coordination here – it’s not every day you give heroic qualities to a know super villainess.
Anyway, I absolutely love that all of this has just been in the service of bouncing our characters to an apocalypitic “one year later” scenario. Even with all the prophecies, it’s totally unexpected. It also traumatically severs each of these heroes from their oh-so-important support structures. We may not have the clearest view of what Rotworld does from here, but the potential stretches on endlessly in all directions.
Oh and I felt my heart in my throat when Alec sent a message back to Abby.
The message is short and withers quickly – a stark reminder of what our heroes love and how easily they’re going to lose it.
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?