Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 22, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Scott: There are certain people you just can’t rely on, and you know it. In a sense, it’s better to be aware that someone is a liar, or a flake, or a selfish prick, because then you can’t be caught off guard by it. At the same time, it’s tough, because if you give that person the benefit of the doubt too many times, you make yourself into a fool. This is Alec’s Holland’s relationship with John Constantine- he knows Constantine’s a liar, but still convinces himself that Constantine might be able to help him. It’s also quickly becoming my relationship with Charles Soule, the writer of Swamp Thing. I can’t count on him. Just when I think he’s going to give me some answers, just when I think he’s going to reveal something about this so called “Seeder”, he goes and writes an issue about…John Constantine? It’s so crazy, it actually works really well.
Seeder arrives in the tiny Scottish village of Fetters Hill, which has fallen on hard times since the town’s whisky distillery shut down. Seeder plants a whimsical whisky-bearing tree, which raises the spirits of the townspeople, but angers Swamp Thing, who doesn’t like seeing The Green’s resources misappropriated. Swampy’s prepares to destroy the tree, but he gets a surprise visit from John Constantine, who tells him to have a heart. As the villagers continue to guzzle the delicious whisky they become possessed, and their celebration becomes a murderous melee. It turns out Constantine drank a little whisky too, and after stripping Swamp Thing of his powers, he declares himself “The Whisky King” and commands the ravenous villagers to attack Swampy.
Soule likes to keep us on our toes. After Swamp Thing 21, which was largely devoted to setting up various story-lines, I expected this issue to provide some answers. That’s not the case. We get to see a little bit more of Seeder and his handiwork, but the story quickly veers off-course into essentially a one-on-one between Alec and Constantine. Did anyone see that coming? I was a little disappointed that this issue didn’t follow up on the Capucine story, but Soule made up for it by utilizing Constantine so awesomely. Throughout the issue, Soule is constantly casting doubt on Constantine’s trustworthiness. He makes it abundantly clear that Constantine is a reputed liar. At one point, Alec accuses Constantine of being Seeder, that’s how little he trusts him. Heck, even the cover of the issue warns us not to trust Constantine. And yet, Soule manages to make Constantine’s betrayal into a shocking twist. I’m still not sure how he did it.
As for Seeder, if anything, he actually seems more mysterious now than he did before this issue. My favorite aspect of his storyline so far is that Alec has absolutely no idea how, or why, he’s doing any of this stuff. Given that Seeder seems to have good intentions, Alec concludes that he must just be incompetent when it comes to using Green powers.
I’m not convinced the answer is that simple. Seeder’s ability to manipulate the Green is impressive, and Alec should probably focus on figuring out how he got his considerable powers. I wouldn’t be so quick to believe that someone with that much power means well when there are horrific consequences every time he uses that power. It’d be one thing if his tree made crappy whisky, but for him to make great whisky that just happens to turn everyone into insane murderers? I wouldn’t immediately write that off as an accident. Seeder has some real skill, which leads me to believe he has some malicious intent.
That’s where a connection between Constantine and Seeder starts to make sense. Seeder doesn’t work in consort with The Green in the way that Alec does- he’s more of a contortionist. In fact, there’s something magical about the way he works.
Maybe being a magician isn’t enough to link Constantine to Seeder, but Constantine’s appearance in Fetters Hill seems like more than a coincidence. Saying he was “nearby” is a pretty flimsy explanation. I suspect there’s more to the Constantine-Seeder relationship.
This issue also saw Kano returning to artistic duties. Kano created beautiful pages full of rural Scottish scenery, interrupted by a completely bonkers episode of utter horror right in the middle. If you, for some reason, have not read this issue yet, go flip to the middle of it right now. I’m telling you, it’s INSANE. There’s no way I thought that was happening in this issue, based on the first ten pages. The art really puts that sequence over the top for me. It’s jarring to see someone’s head literally getting stomped-in, though it’s those evil eyes that will give me nightmares.
So Shelby, how do you feel about the trajectory of Soule’s Swamp Thing run so far? Any ideas about where the next issue will take us, or is guessing completely futile at this point? And while we’re at it, what would your town wish for? I live in LA, so I’d say…
a football team a Jimmy John’s.
Shelby: I think Chicago would probably wish for a decent season for the Cubs, which would promptly turn murderous when the fans would riot; I should probably hope Seeder doesn’t show up, that actually sounds right up his alley.
I am very impressed with the work Soule has done with this title. As I’m sure you all know, I have been a die-hard Swamp Thing fan since Patrick and Drew told me Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette could not be ignored. Hell, I got a tattoo from issue 9 of their run: that’s how much I loved their work on this book. So when I say that Soule has done a great job of respecting the groundwork they laid with their epic Rotworld arc while still establishing his own unique voice and take on the character, you know that’s high praise.
This story-line is a perfect example. Patrick and I saw Soule at a DC panel at C2E2, and the big teaser he gave us for Swamp Thing’s future was “whisky tree.” Even though I was intrigued by the idea, I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical. It sounded so…whimsical. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with a little whimsy, but it wasn’t what I had come to expect from my dark and horrifying Swampy. Leave it to Soule and Kano to completely demolish any whimsy one could find in the idea of a whisky tree in rural Scotland.
Soule is able to put his own stamp on this story without losing that horror this character was founded on, and I love that.
I also love seeing Constantine and Swamp Thing together. I couldn’t feel any disappointment at this issue being Constantine-heavy, because god-damn do I love me some John Constantine. As much as I love his anti-hero, asshole-ish ambiguity, it’s kind of fun to see him just straight-up slumming as a villain. Soule is showing us that, as bad as we might think selfish Constantine is, actively bad Constantine is way, way worse.
As to what exactly is going on here with Seeder, I’m not sure. I’ll buy Constantine’s explanation of “feeling something” and coming to investigate; being where he needs to be when he needs to be there is conveniently part of his powerset. I’m not sure if Seeder is magic like Constantine is, though. I think his power is strictly driven by the Green; he almost looks to be sick with Green energy, did you see those pustules all over him? Maybe he has somehow been able to tap into the Green, but since he’s just a guy, all he can do with it is make these mutated attempts at “helping” that only do more harm than good. He also seems to have a vendetta against the Green itself, saying “When the world has so much to give, the idea that there are places left wanting — I find it offensive.” I’m guessing he’s struggled his whole life; he had to watch the world, the Green, provide for those around him while he and his were left wanting. Now’s he’s somehow got a direct line into the power of the Green, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to let those wimpy saplings selfishly hoard their power. He doesn’t understand that there’s a balance to be maintained. That makes him a very dangerous character, possibly a character who feels he has nothing to lose. His concern for humanity paired with his inability to properly help makes for a very interesting foil to Alec’s abilities paired with his struggle to maintain some sort of connection to mankind. I don’t know where this story is headed, but I do know that I am very excited to see this conflict play out; so excited, I just might riot when this whole thing is over.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?