Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Swamp Thing 13, originally released October 3rd, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage.
Shelby: Zero month gave us a little reprise from the events of Rotworld. Sure, we learned more about Anton Arcane’s horrifying history, making him that much more of a serious threat. But it was easy to forget that the last time we saw Alec, he was in a completely dead world, one which he assumed was an alternate version of the reality he knew. I’ll be honest, I assumed it was an alternate reality as well; the single panel reveal at the end of 12 didn’t really sink in. But now, we are fully immersed in Rotworld, and let me tell you: things are way worse than we thought.
The issue opens with Swamp Thing being confronted by Poison Ivy and Deadman, who don’t believe he’s who he says he is. Deadman takes a look to confirm Alec’s in there, and Ivy almost gets angrier. You see, when Alec and Buddy jumped into the Rot, they were gone a year. In that time, the Rot destroyed everything. There’s a city of Red and a city of Green, where the few heroes with ties to each try to survive. Alec communes with the Parliament, who tells him he really screwed the pooch; most of the superheroes we all know and love are now horrible Rot monsters. With that, the zombie Teen Titans show up looking to grossify the place. As Alec, Ivy, and Deadman join the battle, the Parliament debates whether or not they should tell Alec what happened to Abby. A year ago, after he disappeared, she was flying to her childhood home in the Alps to battle the Rot. The plane was soon filled with horrible monsters who don’t know how to fly, and she died in the crash.
I didn’t really think through the implications of Rotworld back in August. Everyone. Is. Dead.
We joked about Snyder and Lemire destroying the DC universe, but it looks like they’ve gone and done it. I was as stunned as Alec to learn the fate of the world. Alec isn’t fighting to save the world, the world is gone. He’s fighting…I guess, just for the sake of fighting. He’s got to be asking himself the classic question: even if we win, what’s the point? If he isn’t asking now, he definitely will once he finds out about Abby. It’s easy enough when you’re the good guy to fight on principle alone, to have the “going out swinging” sort of attitude, but Alec is about to face the end of everything virtually on his own.
He’s got a weird little team to help him out, though. Poison Ivy makes sense, although she looks to be injured, more on how awesome that’s handled in a minute. Deadman is such a unusual and perfect choice for the team. On the one hand, he’s dead, shouldn’t he be loving Rotworld? Nope, because he’s a ghost! If he was already a horrifying zombie, then Rotworld would be heaven to him, but his power is being a ghost. This is just like the issues he had during Blackest Night; he had to fight his own reanimated corpse. The fact that he’s dead makes him an incredibly strong ally because he can’t be corrupted by the Rot. There’s nothing to corrupt but ectoplasm, or whatever comic book ghosts are made of.
The thing about Poison Ivy’s arm is more a reflection on how fantastically the creative teams on Swamp Thing and Animal Man are working together on this event. When we see Ivy’s blackened, dead arm, we know immediately what happened; Snyder doesn’t tell us, but he doesn’t have to. She obviously got in a fight with some Rotling, and because of her connection to the Green, that’s what her injury looks like. But, if you read Animal Man 13, you’ll see, almost in passing, the scene a year ago of Ivy getting injured in battle. It’s a small detail, but it shows the care Snyder, Paquette, Lemire, and Pugh have put into this crossover.
I obviously can’t review this title without paying special attention to Paquette’s work. I could include any/all of his panels here, but this one caught my eye.
Paquette’s beautiful panel work is on display this whole issue, there are barren branch dividers for Alec’s pages, diseased red for Abby, and trippy psychedelic green for the Parliament. But this panel is special. The characters we care about are in the background, the foreground is occupied by anonymous soldiers of the Green and the Rot. The soldiers occupy the same plane as the panel dividers, and seem to actually be part of the panel division on the page. Paquette has relegated the main characters of the issue to a mere backdrop for this battle playing out between two unknowns. I think it serves as a reminder that this battle has been going on for a year without our heroes, that the universe we know is now almost wholly composed of this mindless, anonymous creatures. It’s clever, beautiful, and very sobering in regards to the fates of these characters we love.
Patrick: Man, when Lemire and Snyder were picking teams for the crossover, Lemire must have been in the can or something. While Buddy’s tromping around with Steel (yawn), Black Orchid (okay, if untested) and Beast Boy (Ravager, no more need be said), Swampy gets Poison Ivy and Dead Man. Dead Man’s interesting for all the reasons Shelby mentioned, but Ivy’s cool because she represents a stickier morality than any of the heroes that survived. Like, even if Team Swamp Thing comes out of this triumphant, she may be tempted to turn on the Red: kick ’em while they’re down. She has threatened to kill all animal life before. But she also appears to have reinvented herself a little bit since the War on the Green went mainstream, so to speak. Not only as she shed the more conservative black body suit for a leafy one-piece bathing suit, she’s also sporting some serious thigh-high boots and elbow length gloves and wielding a sword that’s like a living tree or something. Poison Ivy Nouveau is super-cool, and I won’t apologize for saying so.
Shelby, you bring up an interesting question: with the world already conquered, what is Swamp Thing fighting for? This has been a problem for for Alec since the very first issue of the series — remember he starts by refusing to help Superman. Poor Alec, as soon as he decides the cause is worth fighting for, he discovers he’s already lost. Alec plays the reluctant hero for so long, and subjecting him to a series of crushing defeats is a great way to perpetuate that dynamic in this series. (Seriously, considering he’s the The Chosen Swamp Thing, he keeps getting his ass handed to him.)
The only other thing that’s properly motivated him to action is Abby, but she’s dead. NO: JUST PLAYING. We can argue about how seriously to take Snyder’s murdering the entire superhero population, but I think it’s safe to say that we didn’t see Abby die. We saw her plane go down in the Carpathian Mountains — nothing but a minor set-back for a comic book character. And considering Abby — princess of the rot — crashes on a mountain notorious for its lifelessness, I’d say chances are pretty good Alec will find himself marching toward those mountains sooner or later.
I tend to think of Swamp Thing as Animal Man‘s little sister — it’s similar in a lot of ways, but usually not quite as intense. So I forget just how terrifying Paquette’s art can be. Some of his Rot inventions this month are spectacularly unsettling. And while the zombied superhero redesigns are a lot of fun, I find the Rot agents on the plane to be exceptionally horrific.
Hey, let’s speculate a little about the Annual (due out on Halloween). This issue teases “secrets revealed,” but is playfully non-specific as to the nature of those secrets. What are you hoping for, Shelby? I think I wanna see some more of the downfall of all life on Earth, but I could also see where a super-sized Abby Arcane story would be awesome. It’s sort of amazing how limited the cast of regular characters are in this series: Abby, Anton and Alec (A, A, A). Most of the series has been about Alec, he just had that kickin’ Anton zero issue — yeah, we’re due for some Abby-time.
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?