Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing 171 (October 1996)

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Millar hits a home run with the final issue.

He ties up all sorts of things, the little things he’s done throughout his run, the bigger things no one ever could have done without his arc. He rewards the faithful reader, with more than a few nods to memorable events in long ago issues.

The reason it works is because of Millar’s narration. He writes Alec as he changes from powerful elemental to ultimate elemental to whatever comes next. There are little tricks he does–putting some scientific terminology into the narration, letting thoughts pass without ever coming to the fore–but he accomplishes something wonderful.

Hester, DeMulder and colorist Tatjana Wood (who’s been on the book from the start) really come through here too. Millar’s got to write the unimaginable, but they have to illustrate it.

The narrative’s miraculously plotted for the reader, but never feels compromised.

It’s magnificent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, The End; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

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Swamp Thing 170 (September 1996)

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Poor Chester and Liz, they only get a page together. But Millar does give Chester just about the only joke in the entire issue.

It’s Alec–turned into a human Alec Holland again–versus the Word. The Word is the embodiment of God’s power (they call him the Voice here, probably as not to alienate any readers). But there’s a lot with Woodrue and all the experimenting his plans on doing to Tefè. She’s seven, it turns out, which means Millar did play a whole lot with the internal timeline logic.

Then there’s some stuff with Abby and Constantine, who are always interesting together. Millar does well with their scene, which is rather important because it’s unclear how honest Alec’s being in his scene.

There’s quite a bit about Tefè’s new origin. It’s Millar’s biggest change. He works hard to sell it and… for the most part, achieves that goal.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Five: Apocalypse Now; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 169 (August 1996)

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It’s the big Constantine issue. Oddly, Millar hasn’t really given his own new characters much to do. Instead he relies on the classics to wrap up the comic. It’s appropriate and all, but one might think a writer would be selfish. If Millar’s writing this finale dispassionately, he’s a master faker.

Besides some subterfuge on Constantine’s part, there’s absolutely no action this issue. It’s all talking heads, whether Constantine and Alec or Abby discovering what’s become of Tefé. The Abby scenes with Tefé are better than most of Constantine and Alec’s sequence, though the finish for that one is superior.

Millar has a great cliffhanger for the issue too. The conversation between Alec and Constantine never really references their past relationship (Millar flashes back to a different point in Constantine’s career) but just has the gravity of two people who’ve known each other for a long time.

As expected, excellent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Four: The Judas Tree; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 168 (July 1996)

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Millar continues killing off Parliaments this issue. Between that subplot, Arcane’s return and Abby preparing for her visit, it’s a full issue. Most talky is obviously Arcane’s return, since he really does only come back to lecture. Millar also reveals the new Arcane ties into something in his first issue–he’s doing a really good job of tying the whole series together, whether stuff from his run or much earlier.

There’s some comedy with Chester, Liz (who I think Martin Pasko created at the start) and Abby. It feels like old Swamp Thing when Millar writes the three of them together, even after all the changes in the characters. All the fantastic stuff he’s writing, the humans ground it.

Alec does get a lot of time this issue. He and Arcane talk back and forth for–with breaks–half the issue. Millar the best Arcane since Moore.

It’s all great.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Three: The Last Temptation of Anton; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 167 (June 1996)

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Lots of returning faces this issue–Millar’s first (and last?) regular appearance of Chester. He and Abby go to a McDonald’s stand-in and discuss the world’s predicament. Millar positions their relative calm against everyone else, who are all expecting the world to end.

Most of the issue follows Timothy Raven. Millar’s setting up this arc like a heist movie. Every character has a role to play, the reader is watching it all play out, Alec is the loot. He’s pretty much off panel the entire issue.

There’s also what must be the last appearance of the Parliament of Trees. They try to stand up to God. It doesn’t go too well. Millar really shows it in Lady Jane, who is–while scary looking in the Hester rendition–very caring and sympathetic.

There’s only one hiccup. Millar’s got some weird timeline gaff. It’s slight but jarring. Otherwise, another excellent issue.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Two: The Word of God; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 166 (May 1996)

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Millar brings in Jason Woodrue, who hasn’t been around for quite a while, and Constantine, who Millar hasn’t written in this series before.

He also jumps ahead a year in the present action. Alec had built himself a Hearst Castle and cut himself off from the world. Woodrue’s journals fill the reader in on the changes while Constantine and Abby–in separate scenes–show how cut off Alec has become. Cut off and quite dangerous.

When Alec finally does appear, Hester has designed him a new look to take the air elemental bit into account. He’s unrecognizable for the most part, except maybe the eyes.

It’s a big issue, dealing with a big question–the end of the world–and Millar does a good job. Even though the issue’s regular length, it feels very full. I haven’t even mentioned the Phantom Stranger has his own subplot this issue.

It’s good.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part One: Golden Days before the End; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 165 (April 1996)

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The wonderful Chester Williams issue. I remember it from reading it years ago–though I forgot Curt Swan pencilled it.

It’s a joke issue, with Millar turning Chester into a neo-con cop who’s fed up with all the dirty hippy stuff going on around him. It actually follows the character’s history pretty close–though Chester was always so stoned he really didn’t have a personality–and it ends, as it should, with Chester confronting Swamp Thing.

Swan’s pencils are good, but the kicker is the hippy version of Swamp Thing (who looks a lot like the Scot Eaton Swamp Thing from later issues).

It’s a political issue–Millar did it in time for the 1996 presidential election–and it wouldn’t work without Chester. Having him spout generic Republican catchphrases when people are actually talking to him is a fine gag.

The issue’s memorable and decent, but it’s obviously filler.

CREDITS

Chester Williams: American Cop; writer, Mark Millar; pencillers, Curt Swan and Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 164 (March 1996)

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To become the rock elemental and the water elemental, Millar put Alec through a whole bunch of grief. But to become the wind elemental, there’s really not much to it. He has to solve one of the easier riddles I’ve ever read. It’s probably not even a riddle. He just has to find a clue. A very obvious one.

No wonder Millar spent most of these last issues dealing with the fantasy world and just had Alec depressed. If he came up with the solution first, then wrote the issues, there’d be no way to give Alec an interesting journey.

Alec’s depression, of course, is well-written. Millar’s showing his dwindling humanity in his insensitivity–not to everything but to a few choice targets.

But after multiple issues promising these awesome warlocks, Millar never delivers. We don’t even get to see a single warlock.

Still, it’s fine, with excellent art.

CREDITS

The Parliament of Vapors; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 163 (February 1996)

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It’s a nice, full issue. Alec meets the son of one of the Cajuns he killed–not his fault, of course, Parliament of Trees banished his human side–and has a very interesting encounter. He bonds with the kid, but also gets to talk to some of his victims.

Millar has almost made the victims a Greek chorus; they’re stuck in trees, apparently immortal, but also part of the Green. They tell Alec a lot he doesn’t want to hear–and it becomes clear Millar isn’t using Alec as a reliable narrator.

But then the last third or so of the comic is this run up to an invasion from another dimension. The three mystical beings who support Swamp Thing magically banished superhero involvement in the saving the world from destruction.

And now Alec doesn’t want to play ball.

Very good stuff, with very evocative art from Hester and DeMulder.

CREDITS

Trees of Knowledge; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 162 (January 1996)

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It’s a particularly awesome issue, even if the Abby thing doesn’t work out.

The evil druid from another dimension has Alec trapped while he’s burning down a building with a bunch of hostages in it. Millar doesn’t go easy on characterizing the hostages. He makes sure the reader knows how scared and desperate they are in their situation.

Then there’s a big action sequence and it’s awesome, some great narration for Alec. Then there’s a resolution scene full of magic and wonderment–also awesome (Hester and DeMulder do better on the action than the resolution; they don’t do wonderment very well).

Millar hasn’t done an issue like this one, with Alec confronting a threat and also trying to think of others. It’s the most superhero Swamp Thing has been in a hundred plus issues.

But the Abby resolution is bewildering… until one remembers last issue–Millar skips a necessary refresher.

CREDITS

Telephone Calls from the Dead; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 161 (December 1995)

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See, I say Tefé doesn’t get mentioned and Millar all of a sudden mentions here. This issue features the first time Millar has written the regular Abby solo (before he was working with Morrison). She drops by the swamp for old times sake–and because she and her human lover have split up.

Abby’s always been the hardest character for Swamp Thing characters to get–well, maybe just the ones after Veitch–and Millar only does okay. He doesn’t focus on either character this issue, with Alec’s narration disappearing and turning into expositional dialogue.

Most of the issue is spent on the terrified residents of Houma, who go about their lives without knowing some big bad guy is coming after Alec. Millar spends more time on them than Alec and Abby.

It’s not bad at all; in fact, it’s quite comfortable and good, but Millar’s not stretching himself at all.

CREDITS

Many Happy Returns; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 160 (November 1995)

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Millar splits the issue between Alec and some old guy named Jim Rook. I don’t think he’s an existing character, but basically he’s a burnt out rock star who used to be a sword and sorcery hero in an alternate reality.

What’s strange is how Millar will go from the comical rock star–the situation’s serious, of course, an elf has come to Manhattan to bring him to save the universe–and the melancholic with Alec.

Alec’s spending his days sitting around the swamp, enjoying nature, maybe messing with Killer Croc a little… He misses Abby (but apparently not Tefé as Millar hasn’t mentioned her in a long time) but he’s relatively content.

The rock star’s story is the important one, as it’ll undoubtedly tie into Alec’s next quest. But the comic’s still called Swamp Thing, even if Millar doesn’t have anything for him to do here.

It’s still good.

CREDITS

Ace of Swords; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 159 (October 1995)

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Jill Thompson does fill-in for Millar’s attack on, let’s see, both the English upperclass and on Scottish parents.

It involves an elite dining club; the members have to eat whatever is put on their plate to keep in good standing. Can’t really spoil the big surprise, since Millar does a whole bait and switch for seven pages to hide it, but the salad course is an old Swamp Thing head.

Even though it’s horrifying, it’s a lovely little story about a boy and his dog–Millar dedicates it to a past pooch. It also gives him a chance to show off outside the comic’s regular constraints. He gets to be weird and funny but still show some heart without figuring out how to make it tie majorly into Swamp Thing.

Thompson’s art is fine. There’s nothing particularly good about it; the regular artists would’ve handled things just as well.

CREDITS

Swamp Dog; writer, Mark Millar; artist, Jill Thompson; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 158 (September 1995)

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As much as I like Hester and DeMulder, the beauty of the art this issue surprised me. Alec finds himself meeting the Parliament of Waves, who themselves are quite wondrous, but the art is also very expressive as Millar reveals the secret of “River Run.”

Even though there are a couple big forced foreshadowing moments, it’s one of Millar’s best issues. It’s all so tranquil; his narration for Alec is perfect. One can practically hear running water when rereading it.

The issue itself is actually almost entirely talking heads. Alec and the Parliament–there are a couple continuity breaking moments in the conversation, but Millar’s nicely earned breaking the long continuity. He maintains the important things.

It’s also surprisingly successful because of the short time–the last issue and this one–Millar’s had to fully establish the Anna character. He creates and sets free a fabulous new creation with her.

CREDITS

River Run, Conclusion: The Parliament of Waves; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.