Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Swamp Thing 27, originally released January 8th, 2014.
Shelby: In Robert Jordan’s series Wheel of Time, children often play a game called Snakes and Foxes. The player has to get their game piece from the center of the board to the edge, and back to the center without getting “killed” by a snake or a fox. They are represented by separate pieces that the player has to roll for and move at the same time he moves his own. It’s only played by children because once they get to a certain age, they realize the game is structured such that the only way to win is to cheat; if you follow the rules of the game, there’s no way to defeat the snakes and the foxes. In Swamp Thing 27, Alec finds himself in a similar pickle; he played the Parliament’s game by their rules, and he lost. Instead of quitting the game because it’s pointless, though, he decides it’s time to cheat.
Despite pestering the Wolf for advice, Alec is no closer to leaving the Green and stopping Woodrue. He goes to the Lady Weeds, the only other former Avatar who’s tried to escape, and she tells him the Parliament is the secret. Did I forget to mention that by “secret” she meant “fighting the Parliament to the death?” That’s when Alec figures it out: the only way to win is cheat. He fights the Parliament for a while, grows himself out of the Green, and tricks Woodrue into coming to him. When he realizes Woodrue still has a human body (one he can heal), he comes up with a plan; cover the water of Earth with algae, choking the oceans and pumping the atmosphere so full of oxygen eventually all non-plant creatures die.
Needless to say, the Green is impressed, and reinstate Alec as avatar. He promptly makes every former avatar go dormant forever.
First and foremost, I was so glad to get more Lady Weeds action this issue. I love how crazy she is; she has the same disregard for non-plant life as Woodrue, but in a so much more casual, backhand sort of way. Except for that whole potato famine thing, anyway. Jesus Saiz doesn’t disappoint in her design, either; she looks amazing.
If I were better, I would figure out how to turn that into a costume, and I would wear the hell out of it. Charles Soule doesn’t fail to deliver on her character, either; she’s devious, manipulative, and delightfully crude in calling Alec a pansy for refusing to kill Woodrue. It’s a shame she’s dormant with the rest, I would love to see more encounters with her.
Once more, we find that what’s really at stake here is Alec’s humanity. He’s been struggling with his lack of a human body since the end of Rotworld, and this issue finds him reasserting that humanity. He knows he has to stop Woodrue because Woodrue has killed people and he can’t be swayed by plant-y reproductions of Abby and Capucine because they’re “women, not playthings,” and yet he finds himself in the position of threatening to completely destroy the human race. The only way he can get the power he needs to save humanity is buy seemingly killing it. It’s an interesting juxtopostion between Alec, who will do anything to protect humanity while being completely inhuman, and Woodrue, still a man and yet with zero regard for human life. Did you notice that Alec found Woodrue reclining on a throne of animal bodies, torn to pieces?
If Alec found himself in need of a throne, I imagine he would grow it out of local flora; his seat would reflect his ability to create. But Woodrue feels it is more appropriate to build (by hand, mind you) a monument to his ability to destroy. It’s such a perfect demonstration of the difference between these two as avatars. Even with that difference in mind, Soule shows us a Swamp Thing who’s not afraid to embrace his ability to destroy to get what he needs. Is this going to usher in a new Alec Holland? One who is harder, colder, not afraid to do whatever it takes to get his way? Scott, what do you think? Do you think this was a moment of Alec showing his love of humanity by appearing willing to truly give up his own to save the rest of the world? Or does his demonstration of his ability to kill every living thing show he’s more like the Parliament than we originally realized?
Scott: I wouldn’t say Alec is more like the Parliament, but he’s learned a few things from them. Parliament wanted a champion who is willing to take extreme measures, someone who’s strong and likes to flex his muscles and put on a good show. Alec proves he can be that champion, but that has a lot more to do with him trying to convince Parliament to give him his powers back than with any fundamental shift in his morals. Alec says he doesn’t care about balance anymore, but I don’t believe him. He believes in fairness. That’s why he sends the former Avatars into dormancy, because they’ve already had their turns. It’s only now that Alec will have the freedom to be the Avatar he’s always wanted to be, without influence from the Parliament. Is there a new Alec Holland? There doesn’t need to be. He’s smarter and stronger thanks to this experience, but I doubt he changes all that much.
It’s probably for the best that Alec has severed all ties with the former Avatars. For starters, it means lunatics like Lady Weeds won’t be getting in his way anymore. (Honestly, I think she’s hilarious and I’ll miss her- her “The hand has been played” line is the best of the issue.) Second, and more importantly, it allows this title, which has been focused on the politics of the Green for a while now, to move on. Every opportunity we’ve had to learn about Capucine has been interrupted by something Seeder or Parliament related, so I’m excited to finally learn her backstory next issue.
I have to applaud Saiz and colorist Matthew Wilson for their efforts in this issue. Both are significantly handicapped- Saiz has to draw every character with that same Avatar-of-the-Green face, while Wilson is basically limited to one color for the entire issue- yet they manage to create a distinctive cast of characters.
Each Avatar has distinguishing features- facial hair, wardrobe, being a dinosaur- except for Alec! In fact, Alec and Seeder are by far the most boring looking Avatars to have appeared in this book. Is it because they’re white guys? That still wouldn’t explain why they’re naked. White people wear clothes. Give Alec a fleece pullover. Or some kind of North Face jacket, at least.
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