Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Swamp Thing 40, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Drew: I’ve always been frustrated by endings. Not necessarily because I want the story to continue, and not even because they’re done poorly (though they often are), but because the notion of “ending” draws attention to the limits of the narrative precisely when we want to savor every moment of the story itself. “Life goes on,” so the saying goes, but stories don’t — at least, not on the page. It’s a testament to this awkwardness that even William Shakespeare felt the need to lampshade it, defiantly pointing at the limits of the narrative itself in the hopes of elevating it beyond them. Charles Soule does something very similar in his Swamp Thing 40, turning this final issue into a postmodern commentary on endings in general. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing 39, originally released February 4th, 2015.
“My lack of vision was unsurprising, in a way. If you’ve lived within a system long enough, it’s hard to imagine existing without it.”
Lady Weeds / The Machine Queen, Swamp Thing 39
Patrick: Comics, and superhero comics in particular, are a recursive, thematically redundant medium. Archie’s always going to date two ladies, Batman’s always going to miss his parents, Spider-Man is always going to crack wise. But if the X-Men are always going to be an analogue for any group with outsider status, why do we even bother to pick up the new issues? Is there something comfortable in reiterating on the same themes over and over again? Swamp Thing 39 features just about every single Swamp Thing-ism you can name — grotesque body horror, warring elementals, physically repulsive affection, John Constantine — but still seems to slyly suggest that there’s an alternative to all of it. Charles Soule has played the part of Swamp Thing writer so faithfully for so long, but if he’s any bit as anarchic as Lady Weeds — a character of his creation — we might be in store for an unpredictable ending to his final Swamp Thing story. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing 38, originally released January 7th, 2015.
Spencer: For lack of a better word, our bodies are sacred. Everything we are is contained inside our body, and while we can do our best to make a mark on the world and be remembered for it, the truth is that once our body is gone, so are we. It’s why invasions of our personal space — whether by an oblivious close-talker or someone with more insidious motives — are so deeply unsettling, and why tattoos have come to be such a powerful form of self-expression. It’s that kind of deep, primal connection that the Machine Queen exploits by attacking Swamp Thing with his own reanimated corpse; when one has transcended humanity in the way Alec Holland has, it’s probably the only way to make him vulnerable again. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Swamp Thing 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014.
Men have become the tools of their tools.
Henry David Thoreau
Drew: I think it’s safe to say that technophobia has always been a thing. From fire to electricity, somebody was always more concerned over what we were losing than what we were gaining. Stories of people fearing electrical vapors or locomotives seem quaint to us now, but it wasn’t so long ago that buying things through this new internet thing seemed like an absurdly risky endeavor. In fact, I think consumers were so scared of online shopping that we were kind of oblivious to the impacts it could have in offline shopping. If anyone should have been scared of online shopping, it was brick-and-mortar establishments like Blockbuster and Borders (and, you know, countless small businesses) that couldn’t compete with the convenience and selection. The comics industry is still recovering from its most recent bout of technophobia, having only recently fully embraced same-day digital releases and content designed specifically for screens. Those growing pains are very much at the heart of Swamp Thing 37, which checks in on how the various avatars are reacting to the space technology is carving out for itself. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing Annual 3, originally released October 29th, 2014.
Spencer: As a very young child, I loved watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Supermanwith my mom every week. It wasn’t the first superhero show I fell in love with, but it was the first show I loved that got cancelled. I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor at my grandfather’s house bawling inconsolably the night the final episode aired. As an adult I’ve better come to appreciate that everything ends, but while many endings are absolutely triumphant (see: Trillium), there’s still always a feeling of melancholy that accompanies watching something I love come to an end. Charles Soule clearly can relate: Swamp Thing Annual 3 is all about the fact that all stories must come to an end, and how difficult those endings can be for those that have to experience them. In the process, Soule also explores the great power stories have in our lives, be it the power to comfort and inspire or the power to deceive and sow fear.
Today, Patrick and Greg are discussing Swamp Thing 1: Futures End originally released September 3, 2014.
Patrick: Okay, so why “five years later,” huh? What’s the point of all these glances into the theoretic furutre of DC Comics? I know it shouldn’t matter that these stories may prove to be part of a future-narrative that gets wiped out of the canon, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re reading a bunch of what-if stories. Intriguingly, these glimpses into future have their eyes set on the past; evoking elements of Pre-Flashpoint continuity and reconciling that with what’s been established since September of 2011. The future is a point on a line, plotted using the past and present as reference. It’s a herculean task, but one that writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz are more than up for, aligning themselves with the intrepid Alec Holland, perhaps unsure that they would make it through to the other side unharmed.
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 32, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Scott: We all want to feel like we’re in control. It’s a big part of growing up. We move out, get our own place, buy a car, pay bills, decide what we eat and when we sleep. But we can only control things to a certain extent. As resolute as we may want to be, we still can’t really know what to do the first time we carve a turkey, or get in a car accident, or find out we’re pregnant. In our rush to take control of our lives, we fail to realize just how much we don’t know, and in doing so we become a huge liability to ourselves. Fortunately, life is pretty forgiving, allowing us to acquire wisdom through a system of trial and error. Like the rest of us, Alec Holland has a lot to learn, in his case about being the Avatar of the Green. Swamp Thing 32 finds him fighting for control against an obstacle he brought on himself but never saw coming.
Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Swamp Thing 31, originally released May 7th, 2014.
Scott: There are two types of “bad guys”: those with real, understandable motives, and those who are just purely evil. Think Two-Face versus the Joker in The Dark Knight. Some villainous characters have a humanizing characteristic, a defining tragic trait or plight that the average person can feel sympathy for. That’s not to say they always redeem themselves, necessarily, but they’re harder to root against than those who are simple embodiments of greed or hate. In Swamp Thing 31, Alec takes on both types of bad guys, and each is socially relevant in surprising ways. If it wasn’t clear already, Charles Soule is doing things very few writers have the creative energy, or the guts, to take on.
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 29, originally released March 5th, 2014.
Drew: Ah, the learning curve. It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that there are things that everyone simply sucks at when they start. Some stick with it and get better, others don’t, but the fact that so many people are out there parallel parking or whatever just goes to show what we’re capable of when we put our minds to it. Of course, a good teacher helps, and the learning curve has a funny way of exaggerating the type of help we get. At our noblest, humans are capable of providing age-old (or even personal) wisdom to n00bs, but we’re just as capable as having a few yuks at the expense of the new guy. As much as I enjoy a good larf, I’ll never fully understand the inclination to let the new guy muddle through the same mistakes everyone else has made. Sure, maybe he needs to experience those mistakes firsthand, but how are we to know if nobody’s ever bothered to help anyone avoid it? At best, it’s negligent, and at worst, it’s malicious, but it always leaves the new guy worse off. Unfortunately, Alec is still in the early stages of learning the ropes as the Avatar, and every one of his mentors seems more content to watch him fuck up than offer any kind of help. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 28, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: After the surprising events of Swamp Thing 27, Swampy and his amazing friends are entering a new era. Charles Soule is clearly excited to begin the next chapter of his story, but before he can really dig in, he takes some time flesh out the mysterious character of Capucine. The results are fine, but this issue feels a bit like Soule is stepping on his own toes. Hopefully this is just a case of needing to take a few steps back, before being able to move forward again. Continue reading →