Today, Michael and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 14, originally released November 7th, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage.
Michael: Poor Alec. First he and Buddy lose an entire year of fighting — and hence, the fight itself — but Alec must forge ahead, beset by mistrust from allies, misinformation, and an intuition that fails him more often than not. He doesn’t quite grasp his powers, he can’t be sure what the Parliament of Trees really knows, and a justifiably cocky Arcane has fortified himself. The only consistent truth for Alec is Abigail’s essential good and his powerful sense that she’s still alive — and even that is in jeopardy.
The issue begins with Alec’s recollection of his recurring nightmare as the Boy of Leaves at the doors of the Castle — the dream/prognostication he shares with Abigail. He admits that as scary and horrible as that nightmare was, he could never stop himself from pushing through the castle door even though a more horrifying nightmare awaited inside.
From there, we join Alec, who’s presently losing his fight with the necrotic Teen Titans, until the Parliament reminds him that he has never fought with the full force of the Green so close at hand. This might be the only helpful piece of advice that damned Parliament ever gives Alec; he seizes on that potential energy and turns into this lovely giant, courtesy of Yanick Paquette.
Shortly after Alec successfully steps on all the Un-Men, Poison Ivy wants to count Titan bodies and get things rolling. Alec insists on hearing about Abigail first. The says she went to Europe to fight Anton Arcane and the Rot as its source, the castle in Blestemat, the backdrop to the shared nightmare of the Boy of Leaves and Bone Girl. This revelation forces the Parliament to admit that they’ve been a superorganism of jerks. Poison Ivy and the Parliament try to convince Alec to stay in the Grove, where they can all eek out a verdant, but very limited existence. Alec, galvanized by Abigail’s sacrifice and the fact that his elders are wrong all the time, leaves anyway to fight the Rot. No sooner does he make this decision than the Parliament changes their mind yet again, suggesting that maybe Alec is their savior after all. Democracy is just as annoying the ancient plant world as it is in real life.
Deadman accompanies Alec on a quest to Gotham in search of a rumored weapon, presumably a Bruce Wayne invention. On the way, we realize that Deadman is no help at getting Swamp Thing across a river, so Alec has to use his dwindling powers to make a boat. Deadman then hovers around uselessly while Alec fights off the first wave of Rot.
I really enjoy how unhelpful and wrong everyone is in this issue. It highlights how alone Alec and Abigail are in their shared nightmare and seemingly preordained responsibility to fight it. While Alec is sailing and fighting, Abigail is sneaking past a crowd of creepy living worshippers of the Rot in her hometown, traversing the ledge of a dangerous bridge to get to the castle door – all alone and behoodied, giving herself a quick pep-talk.
As they sail on, Deadman offers his condolences to Alec about Abigail’s death. Alec refuses them, claiming he can feel still feel her, to which Deadman replies, “It must be a trick. Don’t do this to yourself.” Once again, deceit and mistrust are a huge motif in this issue, but smartly, there is no strong position taken on who is to be trusted. As Abigail gets to the castle door, we see a really nicely done fractured scene tying both Abigail and Alec’s nightmare, with the fresh nightmares they both presently encounter.
Shelby, I’d be interested to know what you think about all this duplicity and second-guessing. At times it almost made me laugh, but in general I got a great sense of Rotworld’s chaos and confusion. I found it especially interesting, because on some level, Alec may not be that trustworthy considering he lost an entire year of his life and a lot of ground in the Rot War.
Shelby: I think the second-guessing and confusion in this issue are perfect for what Alec is going through. Not only did he lose a year of his life, he lost the year when everyone lost everything. To him, he and Buddy jumped into the Rot, what, 25 minutes ago? In that time, the world has rotted away, his greatest enemy has defeated him, and everyone he loves is apparently dead. If we were to forget the fact that we know Abby is actually alive somewhere, his insistence that he can still feel her presence makes total sense. Were she actually dead, he would still be stuck in the denial stage; everyone else has had a year to grieve and move on, for Alec this is all very new.
I’m really happy Snyder and Paquette are revisiting the dream of the Skeleton Girl. I always loved that Alec had dreamed of Abby when they were children and that he dreamed of her as a little girl in a sundress who just happened to be a skeleton. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love: a little bit sweet, a little bit scary.
Just as I love learning that Arcane has secretly been fucking up Alec’s life for years, I also love learning more about the connection he and Abby have always had. I’m a total sucker for that “destined to be together” nonsense, and the fact that it comes wrapped in this horrorshow makes it all the more perfect.
I want to talk a little bit about where Snyder and Animal Man‘s Jeff Lemire are taking us. Both of our heroes have reason to believe their loved ones are alive. Abby appears to have been taken by Arcane at his stronghold in the Alps, and since William was last seen in possession of Maxine in Animal Man 14, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume she is with Arcane as well. Will our two heroes join forces en route to rescue the only things that matter to them anymore? Probably, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Snyder and Lemire teased us with the idea of an epic showdown between Alec and Buddy against Arcane back when they so foolishly dived into the Rot. Instead, they pulled the rug out from under us by giving us a battle already lost. I’m excited for the adventures and trials our boys will face on the way to Arcane, but what I really can’t wait for is the showdown I was promised. 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?