Review: Swamp Thing – Winter Special

Swamp Thing is one of those character’s whose reputation, at times, actually exceeds his actual publication presence.  Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the character didn’t really come to the fore until Alan Moore came on board and change the dynamic and in doing so, set the character done a totally different path.  With that said, you should not discount the work done by the original creators of this iconic character.  It is of these creators that this homage book reveres.

Swamp thing is stranded in the snow, cut off from the life-sustaining Green.  Along with him is a boy, under his protection and the target from the Snow Monster.  Along the way, the two form a bond helped by Swamp Thing’s lack of memory.  The day always starts with a recounting of how the pair almost beat the Snow Monster, before trying to make their escape.  As Swamp Thing weakens, there is a reckoning to be had.

Writer Tom King has recently been flexing his adaptability, with his work on the excellent Mr Miracle and turning the emotional screws with a more personal Batman.  Here, emotions are again at the forefront.  The bonding between the two major characters is the key to the issue, with King giving hints of Swamp Thing’s past.  The dialogue between the two is heart warming, if a little obvious in places.  Swamp Thing’s mantra toward the creatures who need to “continue their long journey” adds a horror element that is essentially missing.  I was a little confused with the location for some of this book; as it reminded me of the snow storm arena that had been used in a Batman annual a while back.  Finally, there is the bookend  football commentary, which truth be told sounds like a Dolphins loss rather than a Knights game.

One of the great finds of the New 52 books was the art by Jason Fabok.  His Batman work is full of reinterpretation of some classic artists, with the influences of Adams, Lee, and Miller to some extent, all on show to deliver a great whole.  It feels like ages since I have last been able to enjoy some new Fabok pencils.  The art here is totally different in style and structure to Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The story telling elements, the beats of the story are fantastic as the characters move from conflict to conflict, with smaller moments of protectiveness caught in the middle.  Colourist Brad Anderson does a fantastic job throughout, with the snow scenes looking exceptional.

The second half of the book features Len Wein’s last ever Swamp Thing story, started before he passed away.  The editors of the book have taken the respectful and bold decision “as no one can write like Len, why would we have anyone try”.  Comic books without words are always a risk as the reader is just left with the art trying to tell what is normally a collaborative process.  Under Wein’s direction, Kelley Jones delivers the type of the art for which he is known for, which is a million  times better than his recent work on Justice League of America.  Michelle Madsen provides the colors, giving Swamp Thing a level of darkness and horror that is maybe missing from the first story.  If anything, it’s this story that echoes the Swamp Thing of the past, and by default Wein and Wrightson.

This book has a lot riding on it.  Firstly its a chance to re-integrate the character into the Rebirth universe, regardless of how he fits better in Vertigo or even Young Animal.  Secondly, it gives long-term fans a chance to say good-bye to the great Len Wein.

Writing – 3.5 Stars & 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars & 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars & 5 Stars

Written by; Tom King & Len Wein
Art by; Jason Fabok & Kelley Jones
Colors by; Brad Anderson & Michelle Madsen
Published by; DC Comics




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