Swamp Thing 17

swamp thing 17 ROT

Today, Drew and Mikyzptlk are discussing Swamp Thing 17, originally released February 6th, 2013. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

“It’s horrible when you sense the “to be continued” coming. You know, you’re watching the show, you’re into the story. You know, there’s like 5 minutes left and you realize “Hey! They can’t make it! Timmy’s still stuck in the cave. There’s no way they wrap this up in 5 minutes!” I mean, the whole reason you watch a TV show is because it ends. If I want a long, boring story with no point to it, I have my life.”

– Jerry Seinfeld

Drew: Comics are a serialized medium. Spirited debates can be had about the relative virtues of straight serialization or a more episodic approach, but most readers understand that a given story may not wrap up in a single issue. The surprise “to be continued” described in the epigraph doesn’t happen as often in comics, where issues are clearly billed as the conclusion, but I found myself reminded of that experience as I neared the end of Swamp Thing 17, realizing that the “Finale” billed on the cover might not be so final, after all.

The action picks up right after the startling reveal of Animal Man 17 (but also kind of Animal Man and Swamp Thing 16: that neither Maxine nor Abby are alive. Maxine, rotified as one of the Hunters Three, grapples with Buddy, while Alec fends off an army of lobotomized Abby clones. With any hope of saving their loved ones gone, they focus their attention on Batman’s green bomb. Anton does his best to slow them down, but Alec and Buddy manage to detonate the bomb in the sky, raining down bio-restorative formula, effectively ending the Rot’s reign of terror. Alec and Buddy pursue Anton into the castle, where he escapes into the realm of death — that’s not a euphemism for suicide, but an actual physical (or metaphysical) place. Fortunately, the Rot is unhappy with their avatar’s behavior, and allow Buddy and Alec to follow him into “the timeless void of death.”

And that’s it.

Don’t get me wrong — this was a jam-packed issue — but with this issue billed as the finale, and the next issues billed as “epilogue,” I expected some falling action, or at least for the villain to be vanquished. The battle may be over, but Anton is still on the loose, and is apparently capable of retrying his whole mad grab for planetary dominance. The specific wording of “the timeless void of death” makes the mechanics of the Rotworld reset pretty clear, but I thought the epilogue would detail the return to normal, not the final battle before that return. Maybe this is just my expectations being out of whack, but that familiar sense of “they’re never going to make it” crept in as I approached the end of this issue.

What’s always interested me about that Seinfeld quote is the way he starts with the assumption that you’re wrapped up in the episode and kind of chronicles how your familiarity with the medium pulls you out of the experience as the clock ticks down. It’s not the episode’s fault that you looked over at the clock, but once you know the episode isn’t going to resolve, you can’t forget it, the act of watching has overtaken the experience of watching. All this is to say, I can’t really blame Snyder and Lemire for not concluding the arc here and now, but I also can’t not let it color my experience of it, which is a shame, because there were a lot of great moments here.

Buddy tearfully killing the monster that was his daughter is a standout, but I was also enthralled by the way Lemire and Snyder masterfully build the tension in that battle. Steel manages to get the Bat-bot in the air, but each roadblock Anton throws up had me biting my nails. And let’s be honest, that final explosion was pretty awesome.

BOOOOOM

On a side note, you notice that figure cowering behind Frankenstein? Computer: rotate and enhance.

"…Steph?!"

She’s wearing a weird combination of Batgirl and Batwoman’s costumes, but has long blonde hair. I…I think this might be the first appearance of Stephanie Brown in the New 52. I hope the fact that she’s an undead monster doesn’t reflect DC’s plans for her in the future.

At any rate, Mik, I’m still so surprised by the lack of closure here, I’m not sure I can objectively evaluate this issue. Still, I’m excited to hear your reactions to all of these developments. How do you feel about the apparent deus ex machina of a Rot-powered time-machine as the reset button? Were you as surprised as I was that this issue didn’t see the end of the conflict with Anton Arcane (at least for now)? Do I just need to take a chill pill? And seriously, is that Steph?

Mikyzptlk: I hope it isn’t, otherwise Didio may just try to put this comic on hiatus or cancel it all together! Seriously though, this conclusion was…well, unexpected seems like an appropriate word to use here. I understand why you feel unsure about how to evaluate this issue. The build up of this story has been so incredible that its satisfying conclusion felt almost inevitable. Instead, our expectations were subverted with no conclusion at all. It almost feels like those times on the 4th of July when you light up a firework and then it fails to go off. What is that called again? Oh yeah, a dud. I’ve tried to feel otherwise, but after some reflection that’s what this issue (and Animal Man) was for me.

I imagine that Snyder and Lemire are going to give us some incredible epilogues in the upcoming issues, and you’d better believe that I’m going to stick around to read them, but that doesn’t change the fact that the “conclusion” to Rotworld feels like anything but. I mean, seriously, that’s it? This is the “epic” conclusion that was promised me? But, they didn’t even beat the bad guy! Arcane has been slipping through our heroes fingers since the start of this whole mess. While I’m sure that’s been frustrating for our heroes, it hasn’t been for us because the journey has been so incredibly fun to follow. However, a part of that has been the assumption that, by the stories end, our heroes would’ve kicked Arcane’s butt straight our of orbit. To see him get away again just feels like a kick to the head. Which, by the way, is NOT as fun as you might think.

Drew, you are right about that explosion though, it was pretty cool. I enjoyed how our heroes stopped the Rot from continuing its reign of terror. It was fun seeing our time-tossed heroes succeed in their plans to save the future from the Rot. Even if they hadn’t found a way back to the present, they could have stayed in that era to help rebuild. We always knew our heroes would end up back in the present somehow, but I would have been more disappointed had I not seen their victory against the Rot. Having them actually succeed in stopping the Rot in the future validated all of the struggle we saw them endure in Rotworld. Speaking of time travel, Drew, I didn’t have a problem with the mechanics of it, but I was pretty underwhelmed by how it all went down. Arcane jumped into the timestream and then the Parliament of Decay helped Alec and Buddy jump in after him because they realized what a dick he was being. It was just kind of boring. Sure, I liked that the Rot folks saw the error of their ways in trusting Arcane, but the whole scene could have used more action.

The final nail in the coffin for this issue was the art. I wouldn’t say that Andrew Belanger is a bad artist necessarily, but I think the problem for me lies once again in subverted expectations. I was expecting Yanick Paquette and I got someone other than Yanick Paquette. The point I’m trying to make is that I probably would have been disappointed with anyone other than him. However, it doesn’t help that Belanger’s style is much more cartoony than Paquette’s. I understand that sometimes an artist just isn’t available, but I really wish that they had decided to go with someone closer to Paquette’s wheelhouse. I could hardly even recognize Belanger’s Animal Man here. I know that he’s been sporting a leather jacket for quite some time, but under Belanger’s pencils, I couldn’t help but feel that Buddy was missing his motorcycle throughout the entire issue.

Is that motorcycle smoke? Nahhhhh.

In the end, I feel that Rotworld absolutely succeeded in pushing our heroes to their limits. Not only did they find themselves in an absolutely horrible version of the future, but they had to destroy the final remains of everything that was important to them in order to succeed. However, while the story of Rotworld may be finished, the escape of Arcane leaves the overall arc feeling wide open and unfinished.

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?

28 comments on “Swamp Thing 17

  1. As much as I’ve enjoyed Andy B’s art in other contexts, including his contribution in the Swamp Thing Annual, I kinda hate it here. Marco Rudy was solicited as the artist and his style has proven to work extremely well on the title, if not as perfect as Yanick Paquette, an extremely close second. For this drastically different art style to appear at such a key point in the story – it’s the bloody climax fer cryin’ out loud! – is jarring. The cartoony-ness undercuts the horror and drama of the story.

    I was, however, very pleased with the story – I certainly didn’t react as strongly to the unfinished nature as you did. I expected things to get wrapped up in issue 18, although, you are right, for this issue to be billed as the “finale” it was lacking finality. Knowing there would be “Rotworld” stamped on the cover of the next issue made me pretty sure that this story wasn’t quite over.

    I was very worried about how things would be resolved with Rotworld and how it would be undone. For me, the Parliament of Decay sending them back to fix things is quite satisfying, although we will see how it actually plays out exactly in the epilogue issues. While they didn’t defeat Arcane, they did have to earn their victory. The physical and emotional battles were huge and they prevailed. It wasn’t easy for them to get to the point where the Parliament stepped in so there was enough payoff for me.

    The interview the authors gave in Newsarama was quite heartening – they indicate that they were very keen on making the impact of the events of Rotworld resonate, even if it is only for Buddy & Alec. So, while things will go back to the status quo for most of the world, the protagonists will be affected going forward. So, while I reserve my final judgement until the entire arc is well and truly done, my fears have been allayed.

    Well done on spotting Steph! I missed that entirely. I think I need to go back and scour the backgrounds of all the Rotworld issues to really appreciate all the detail the artists put into it.

    • Yeah, I’m less concerned with this issue being marked at “the finale” as well, but I sure do feel crummy about the time-travel reset at the end. Mik notes that our heroes’ struggle in Rotworld are vindicated by their success in detonating the bio=restorative bomb, but it’s all sorta counter-validated by time-travel. I wish there was some way to make this RotFuture “real” – or at the very least, “also real.”

      This was an insane hope, but I was thinking it’d be neat if their consciousnesses could have split, and part of the infernal bargain of fixing the world would have been that there’s always a version of Alec and Buddy stuck in this horrible future. But, nope, hard reset it is.

      • We all knew it was going to happen somehow. For me, the time-travel works well enough and doesn’t invalidate the struggle in a) getting to Arcane’s castle; b) overcoming the Rot army and, c) having to acknowledge their loved ones were dead and then kill them in their Rot-form. Their victories to this point were hard won (even if they did get a huge assist from Batman) and it is only because if their success that they were in a position to follow Arcane and, through the intervention of the Parliament of Decay go about restoring the balance.

        It is a reset for the world but if there are ramifications for the title characters then the arc is made meaningful.

        I definitely agree with you about longing for an “also real” conclusion. The split consciousness would have been very interesting as it would have allowed the possibility for periodic checking in on the post-Rotworld world. My ideal scenario (which I posted in the comments to last issue) would be for 18 being the effective end to both series, with issues 19 on exploring the characters pre-New52 issue 1. There is a lot of territory they could cover prior to the story that led into Rotworld and they could also look forward post-Rotworld from time to time to see how the remaining heroes help rebuild civilization.

        While I understand where you are coming from, as I said, I am happy with the conclusion as presented so far. We’ll see how the impact actually manifests itself in issues 18 and beyond.

        • Yeah, and I guess both of us are making some assumptions / wishes about what the series will look like after this issue. Basically, we need to wait and see what the lasting effect of Rotworld will be. At this specific point in time, I feel like it’s dangerously close to being a compelling “what if?” scenario. Which I could also be okay with because I loved the story. Academically, I have no problem with the Rotworld stuff being reset out via time travel, but I do have an emotional reaction to it.

      • I mean, it could also be anyone. There’s a dude in a domino mask and a robin T-shirt somewhere in the crowd too – I think a lot of the Gotham citizens just sort of cobbled together their weapons and armor from the Batvault.

        • True, but wouldn’t DC have insisted that the hair color be changed to brown or something (as per RGSC’s comment below). If DC is going to be so protective of hair color, I’m going to jump on every opportunity I can to misinterpret things as the return of some cold storaged character.

      • Has to be. We’ll know for sure when DC upgrades the digital edition and retroactively recolours her hair like they did on Li’l Gotham.

        I can’t recall – did we see Batwoman in Rot form in an earlier issue? Seems like pretty much every DC character is present and accounted for – even some who have not appeared elsewhere in the DCnU – but I can’t remember for sure. I definitely need to go back and savour all the wonderfully gross transformations.

        • Ah, yup. right you are. Bottom right panel of pg 3 of ST we get a glimpse of her from the back (I suppose I should have just looked at the issues before posing the question).

          An entire tumblr blog could (nay, should!) be devoted to shining a light on all the cameos in the Rotworld arc.

  2. But, does it really matter if it doesn’t completely conclude here? Alec and Buddy are going after Anton, so there should be some sort of closure there; is it that big of a deal that that closure comes in the “epilogue” instead of the “finale?” It’s still a part of the Rotworld story, right?

    I’m really intrigued by the implications of the Parliament of Decay helping Alec and Buddy. Does it mean that every time in history the Red, Green, or Rot overstepped it’s bounds, it was the avatar that did it? It begs the question: what do the Parliaments actually DO? If their avatars are the ones who either get up to shenanigans or do the fighting when things get out of control, what purpose do the Parliaments actually serve?

    • I guess it’s just a matter of opinion, but I do feel that something billed as a finale should feel like one. I’m used to epilogues being the kind of thing where the action has concluded (stopping the bad guy) and now the characters are given the chance to catch their breath and look back on what their recent experiences mean for them now and in the future. I’m not saying I don’t think we are going to get something like that (and that the repercussions of Rotworld will continue through the series), but I do find it odd that they are still going to have to deal with Arcane. I just think they should have already taken care of him by now.

      • Yeah, I’m going to agree with Mik here, Shelby. To me, the conflict should be resolved before an epilogue begins. I tend to think of epilogues as entirely optional, post-credits info about our heroes after the action of the story has ended. Yanick Paquette points out the “finale” and “epilogue” billings may have been more of a marketing decision, which makes a lot of sense. It’s unfortunate that such a decision affected my reading so strongly — I really think I would have loved this issue if it weren’t for that expectation.

        • I’m with you here, what Mr. Paquette revealed to us really does change how I view this issue now. Had I known that going in, my write-up would have read a tad differently.

  3. Yeah. At some point i had to choose between the final of Rot-world or the last , truly concluding, issue 18. Couldn’t do both schedule wise! That has been my main problem with Swamp Thing. As we produce it, these story gradually deflate and extend on more and more issues, and eventually beyond my ability to do them all, or even cover all key issue!!
    First Arc was planned to be 7 issue. But then the story pace slowed down so much the arc got extended to 9! I ended up to choose 2 issue to draw between #7 (Alec sacrifice) #8 (Warrior Swamp Thing revealed) and #9 (the epic final of this first arc). I went for #7 and a bit a half of 8&9. boooo.

    I guess playing with these rhythm make no difference for guys Like Greg Cappulo, but for slow little me, it sure does, and the comics, as a serial, suffer for it. 😦

    • We love Capullo around here, but there are few artists we read regularly that have the insanely baroque attention to detail that you do. So I TOTALLY understand where stretching out a story makes it impossible for you to do it all. Guys like you and H.J. Williams III just put in more miles per issue, if that mean you need to take a breather from time to time, then you deserve it.

    • It’s understandable when artists need to take breaks on any title, but especially here with your style of panel layouts. I agree with Drew, I definitely am looking forward to your next project.

    • Ever since seeing your cover in the solicits have been really excited to see what you have in store for #18. It is achingly beautiful and, given the amazing work you have done on ST so far, I have no doubt that we will continue to be awed.

      I definitely get the pressures of time and the need for you to have stepped back here, especially given the intricacy and detail of your work. It is the choice of Belanger – who, don’t get me wrong, is a great artist in his own right – that felt like an odd choice for the story. I think it will stand out even more in trade form.

      Looking forward to seeing what you are working on next.

  4. BTW, DC promoting these issue with tag line like ” Spectacular, showdown finale you won’t believe your eye sockets” is BS. false advertising that create just frustration from you guys.

    BUT, rest assured #18 will offer you all the just satisfying conclusion spectacular to our arc you deserve!

    hoppefully…:)

    • Oh, yeah, I have every bit of faith 18 is going to be awesome. You’re right, my frustration is more with how this issue was billed than the actual content — I have no problem waiting a month for the conclusion, but when I’m led to believe this is it, my ire gets up a bit.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment here! I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time, and we’ve all loved your work on this title. We look forward to picking up your next project!

    • I absolutely agree, I hadn’t even considered that the marketing was an editorial ploy from DC. It was my main problem with this issue too. No wonder it didn’t feel like a finale. IT WASN’T INTENDED TO BE. It’s extremely frustrating to love the writers, artists and characters SO MUCH (like a really unhealthy amount), only to be let down by the people in charge of how it’s presented.

  5. I feel weird criticizing the art when the guy who should/could have done the art is right here and reading. . . That said, it was noticeably jarring. I’m not one that needs continuity in imagery, but a large part of the feel of this book has been the artist. When others have stepped in, the art changed but still succeeded (I’m talking Francavilla specifically, who I know is going to be on a book I like for a couple of issues but damn if I can remember which one). This one took such a cartoony turn that many times the pictures felt out of place with the story.

    I want a Green Frankenlantern action figure, bobble head, and plush toy/pillow. Now.

  6. Have to agree with the general sentiment about the art here. I actually really enjoyed the cartoony style in the annual because although it had to do with this arc, it was a different place and context and the drastic difference in the art served to illustrate that, but here, in the epic non-conclusion of Rotworld where things are grim and sick, cartoony doesn’t cut it. Can’t wait for issue 18, and major props to you Mr. Paquette both for your work and for being kool enough to post here with us fans!

  7. Pingback: Swamp Thing 18 | Retcon Punch

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