Swamp Thing 171 (October 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 170 (September 1996)

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.…

Swamp Thing 169 (August 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 168 (July 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 167 (June 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 166 (May 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 165 (April 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 164 (March 1996)

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,…

Swamp Thing 163 (February 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 162 (January 1996)

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…

Swamp Thing 161 (December 1995)

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…

Swamp Thing 160 (November 1995)

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…

Swamp Thing 159 (October 1995)

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…

Swamp Thing 158 (September 1995)

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,…

Swamp Thing 157 (August 1995)

Hester’s back and he and DeMulder do a fantastic job illustrating Anna–she’s the author of “River Run”–and her life as it all falls apart. Millar might be explaining how she found herself in the predicament of being stuck in her own stories, but it’s not clear. He might be fooling. Bad things happen to her, page after page, and one forgets the comic is called Swamp Thing. When Alec finally does show up at the end, he’s a stand-in for Millar, the author, explaining to the character why she’s going through such torments. As a comic about a writer’s life falling apart…

Swamp Thing 156 (July 1995)

Phil Jimenez pencilling Swamp Thing. I sort of get it–he’s realistic and the story this issue is set in the real world. It’s a real world retelling of the first Swamp Thing comic only this time the Hollands have a daughter… and Swamp Thing arrives from another dimension to save them. There are, not surprisingly, complications. Millar uses the “real” Alec Holland to narrate the issue. The regular Alec–you know, Swamp Thing–he pops in and has some scenes with the Hollands, but he mostly bonds with the daughter. The daughter is the stand-in for the author of the “River Run” short stories,…

Swamp Thing 155 (June 1995)

Millar shows off. Admittedly, the constraint of the “River Run” arc–it being a short story collection–let’s him be more writerly than one usually expects from a comic, but this issue is just a fantastic show of talent. The story centers around a Golden Age hero who has grown old, but still does the superhero thing when needed. Millar doesn’t open with him though, instead setting up the ground situation for the first few pages. Slaughter Swamp is where people go to get rid of themselves and others. And Alec pops into Solomon Grundy’s mind in this place. The hero shows up to…

Swamp Thing 154 (May 1995)

There’s a cute little reference to Ultraman and Owlman on the news at the beginning of the issue. Alec’s travels bring him to Earth-Three (or something like it) but he doesn’t run afoul of the supervillains. Instead, he finds himself with the Arcanes. Only, Anton’s the good one and Abby’s the bad one. There’s a lot of awful stuff this issue. Millar never gets too graphic, keeping it at the “just enough” level but he makes up for the lack of visuals in disturbing intimations. As a Swamp Thing comic it’s interesting because it’s the first time Millar’s written Abby solo, but…

Swamp Thing 153 (April 1995)

The pacing is a mess this issue. It’s a decent little issue and all, but Millar’s pacing is just a disaster. He introduces a world where the Nazis won, where Hitler’s son runs the world (and is married to Marilyn Monroe) and the President of the United States has no problems more than a wandering wife. It’s a perfect world. And Alec shows up inhabiting a Golem in order to destroy it. Or maybe not. It’s up to Alec, who finds the Nazis prove more environmentally conscious than the Allied nations. It’s a weird issue to be sure–one has to assume Millar…

Swamp Thing 152 (March 1995)

It’s a good, but far from profound, issue. Much like Moore and Veitch, Millar has sent Swamp Thing on a multi-issue themed adventure. Not through time or space, but through genre fiction. Here he appears in a supernatural noir world, aiding a private detective on a case involving a devolving man. The detective’s actually the lead; Alec being reduced to a guest star in his own comic (for these reasons, anyway) reminds of the series’s glory days. It can’t be unintentional on Millar’s part, especially not since he writes the detective and the strange world of zombies, werewolves and witch doctors so…

Swamp Thing 151 (February 1995)

Millar opens the issue with an homage to Time’s Arrow… telling the story of a woman drowning in the swamp in reverse. He rewinds her final day (starting with the autopsy) until she meets up with Alec. An indeterminate period of time has passed since the previous issue. Alec’s back in the swamp, sort of in a caretaker role, all by himself and enjoying the world. The town of Houma is almost deserted, everyone fleeing because of his rampage a few issues before. Alec’s half of the issue is spent talking to the mystery woman about her collection of short stories, which…

Swamp Thing 150 (January 1995)

And here Millar writes his best issue so far. It’s probably the best Swamp Thing since some time during Veitch’s run–and not just because Millar gives Alec a moment where he can appreciate life in the swamp again (something big during the Moore and Veitch runs). The issue’s about a few things. There’s all the mystical stuff, which is probably the weakest part because Millar’s just building towards the future, there’s the stuff with Sargon and his niece, which is probably the best because Millar’s dealing with complicated human emotions, and then there’s Alec’s stuff. He’s got to save Earth from resurrected…

Swamp Thing 149 (December 1994)

Did Sargon die in a Swamp Thing issue? I can’t remember. I think maybe he did. If so, Millar’s reaching way back to bring forward new plot elements–though it’s not essential for Sargon’s character to be Sargon, it just needed to be a magician with a niece. Speaking of the niece, Millar spends about half the issue with her. She’s the reader’s gateway; Alec walks around without doing much and the mystics all sit around and talk to each other. Millar goes for the very disturbing at end–no surprise–and it builds up a lot of expectation. Unbelievable horrors would be okay just…

Swamp Thing 148 (November 1994)

Hester and DeMulder draw Lady Jane for a scene. It’s interesting to see her show up–Millar uses the scene to establish she has some idea what’s going on with Swamp Thing–it’s also nice to see how well the artists visualize the character. The protagonist this issue is Sargon the Sorcerer’s niece, who travels to Germany to find him. Millar doesn’t give Alec any dedicated page time throughout the issue, just some mentions and book ending appearances. The niece proves a fine protagonist, as she discovers horrific stuff in the town. In some ways, Millar’s returning the comic to its roots–the wandering Swamp…

Swamp Thing 147 (October 1994)

Millar doesn’t keep up with the unpleasantness. This issue is far less intense than the previous, even though Alec’s on the run in Amsterdam with Nelson (the big game hunter) after him. It’s an action issue, with interludes to the mystical stuff and a downright disturbing cameo from the Spectre at the beginning–fairly sure Millar further breaks the series continuity with that cameo too but whatever. Hester and DeMulder doing an action issue is a cool thing to see; the bad guys are shooting at Alec–who’s back to green form–or burning him or freezing him or whatever. The big finale to the…

Swamp Thing 146 (September 1994)

Millar goes for as disturbing as possible. There’s no humor in it, no smiles, it’s just Alec trapped in a decaying human form in Amsterdam, surrounded by perversions, desperate to escape. Meanwhile, there’s the big game hunter, who’s a caricature, out to get him. But the big game hunter is the only caricature–the rest of the supporting cast fits into the comic’s tone. There are psychics for the government, there’s the weird magic of the Traveller, it all feels appropriate. As for Alec… Millar’s pushing to make him as sympathetic as possible. But the sympathy doesn’t ground the comic. Swamp Thing is…

Swamp Thing 145 (August 1994)

And now Millar’s changed his approach. Alec’s not really the protagonist anymore; for his half of the comic–Colonel Strong, the monster hunter, gets the other–Alec’s just the biggest name in a disaster movie. Millar sets up a lot of little characters, quite well too, before putting everyone in a bad situation. While that bad situation is precisely executed, it’s obvious he’s spending more time on Strong. There’s a distinct flashback, a lot of lead up to its revelations; Millar’s creating a supervillain. Though it’s unclear how much Alec’s the hero anymore. Besides his concern for human life, the human appearance makes him…

Swamp Thing 144 (July 1994)

Now solo on the book, Millar’s approach is to make Alex the lead. He’s cut off from the Green and, for whatever reason, Millar’s not bringing back the supporting cast from before Collins purged them. And then there’s the new power–Alec can form himself human bodies now. He’s hanging out in New York dressed as Matt Cable. Millar is going back practically to the first series; I’m not sure Abby is mentioned by name while Linda Holland comes up multiple times. It’s a little uncanny, with Hester’s art working beautifully for the vibe, and it’s new. Millar might be ignoring continuity, but…

Swamp Thing 143 (June 1994)

The Parliament of Stones? What’s the Parliament of Stones? Morrison and Millar end the issue on a couple ominous notes, the aforementioned new Parliament being one of them. They also have the handful of strange guys playing handheld video games (the video games have to do with Alec’s quest). The rest of the issue is an awesome action issue. Phil Hester doing Swamp Thing monster action needs to be seen. He manages the brutality, the size and the various plant roots quite well. And it’s good the writers have the end surprises, because there’s really not much else to the issue. Abby…

Swamp Thing 142 (May 1994)

Well, Morrison and Millar sort of explain how Alec Holland ended up separated from the Swamp Thing but not really. At least not to anyone who has been reading the comic for a while. And it’s not a particularly visual sequence, so it comes off perfunctory. They wrote themselves into a corner and have to get out. The Swamp Thing monster doesn’t have a lot of scenes; Alec gets on its trail eventually. Abby has some scenes–she’s on the run–but the writers don’t give her much to do. They try to be very writerly, actually, with this awkward moment with a chauvinist…