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.
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.
Weird comic. Especially for a first issue. Dick Foreman’s narrative choices don’t help it much either. He makes Black Orchid the subject of the issue, not a player. She’s an urban legend and so on; Foreman’s got a lame investigative reporter narrating and trying to find her.
There’s a lot about how great it is to drink coffee in the narration. Probably two or three hundred words. It’s sort of uncomfortable to read, it feels so amateurish and I’ve liked Foreman’s writing before.
The Jill Thompson pencils (with Stan Woch inking) are cool, but they don’t really make the issue worth it until the finish. When Black Orchid finally does have a scene, Thompson and Woch do wonders. Before her arrival, it’s just an interesting looking comic. The style’s not quite mainstream, but going for it.
For a first issue of an ongoing series, Foreman fumbles big time. Big time.
Sightings; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Jill Thompson; inker, Stan Woch; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Tom Peyer; publisher, Vertigo.
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 and her work not even being able to keep her together, it’s quite good. Millar’s rather writerly again and he wears that hat well.
Alec showing up at the end feels forced, like Millar’s now trying to neatly tie everything together.
Messy would’ve been better.
River Run, Chapter Six: Sink or Swim; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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, which means she’s writing them about Swamp Thing. It’s a little odd. I’m hoping Millar ties it together because otherwise it all feels too contrived. Good issues or not, his frame seems false.
The Jimenez art is good, but lacks personality. Wrightson he ain’t.
River Run, Chapter Five: Darker Genesis; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Jimenez; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 stop Grundy, which leads to a reasonably good fight scene from Hester and DeMulder. It doesn’t read fast enough–Millar foreshadows the hero’s death, which makes one want the issue to read faster. Then there’s the revealation.
Again, not much Alec, but who cares… It’s great.
River Run, Chapter Four: The Secret of Slaughter Swamp; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 it’s more interesting as a DC comic.
The implications of Earth-Three never really come through like they do here.
Lots of great art from Hester and DeMulder. All of it’s disturbing… it’s still great.
Millar’s just wasting time though. Alec isn’t learning anything from his trip.
River Run, Chapter Three: The Bad Seed; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 took some joy in showcasing the ultimate bad guys as the ultimate good, just because it’s so out of whack–but there’s really nothing to it.
The President’s a limp noodle of a protagonist. Maybe if Millar had made him stronger….
Great Chris Weston fill-in art.
River Run, Chapter Two: Twilight of the Gods; writer, Mark Millar; artist, Chris Weston; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 well.
It probably could be its own comic, but there’s no sign Vertigo was using Swamp Thing to soft pilot comics. Too bad.
There’s a lot of blood, a lot of implied gore, but mostly just great storytelling from Millar, Hester and DeMulder. The comic oozes mood.
River Run, Chapter One: City of the Dead; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 has apparently caught her in them.
It’s a somewhat literary issue, given the Time’s Arrow reference and it’s hard not to think slips in time (from Slaughterhouse-Five), for the woman’s problems.
The other half is a Houma cop experiencing his strange new world.
It’s an outstanding comic.
River Run, Prologue: Flotsam and Jetsam; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 damned souls and himself from the Earth Thing. That big game hunter is now Ben Grimm as a rock elemental.
Millar writes them a fantastic fight scene, ending with Alec’s narration returning. Millar really excels at that narration; he returns Swamp Thing to its internal narration roots.
The Illumination; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 so long as the good guy wins, right?
Except Millar hasn’t really given Alec much power back. He’s also rash and slow. Millar shows Alec’s big move from the niece’s perspective, which makes him seem even more passive.
The series is nearly back on course.
The Root of All Evil; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 Thing finding himself among a strong supporting cast for an issue or two.
There’s some good, odd superhero art from Hester and DeMulder. Even though the comic’s often unpleasant to read, Millar utilizes cameos to make it still feel rewarding.
It’s disturbing and quite good.
Feeding Habits; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 action scene is the first time Alec’s narration returns. Millar does an excellent job with that narration this issue; matter of fact, but still reaching for something more.
The comic’s mildly confusing because of the structure and cast. Millar makes Alec’s spotlight moments count though.
Amsterdamnation; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.
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 all over the place, with Millar questioning the reader’s understanding of current events as much as he does Alec’s.
It’s an unpleasant read; Millar needs a big pay-off to succeed.
Hester and DeMulder’s art is excellent. Even the mundane appears horrific. It’s a horror comic again.
Murder in the Dark; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.