So while Swamp Thing has his adventure in “Pog,” Abby has her own one here. Except she’s mostly just in a framing sequence, not quite an adventure.
For whatever reason, Moore brought the original appearance of Swamp Thing into continuity with this issue. So there’s a few pages of Abby with Cain and Abel–Moore’s starting to explore the nature of storytelling a little, something he’d later expand on in Promethea–and then a reprint of the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson House of Secrets Swamp Thing.
The end ties it all together, but the story isn’t consequential at all. It’s Moore mixing playfulness and good humor. He ends it on a joke. Moore’s often his most startling when he’s doing light comedy. It’s nice.
Ron Randall does the Abby bookend art. It’s the best work I’ve seen from him.
But he’s nowhere near Wrightson.
And Wein’s nowhere near Moore.
Hey, wait a second, I’ve already read this story….
This issue reprints the tenth issue of the original Swamp Thing series, when Arcane swims across the ocean and attacks Swamp Thing only to be defeated by the spirits of dead slaves. Wrightson art, one of Wein’s last good unsettling issues, it’s a good comic book. Wish whoever had been in charge had at least changed the editor’s notes so it didn’t refer to the second issue of the original series here in a Saga of the Swamp Thing book.
There are bookends, of course, and I guess they’re were the issue has problems. The flashback isn’t particularly important, at least not as a full reprint. Pasko, Bissette and Totleben could have retold it in a page or two. It’s an awkward fill, since it doesn’t do anything to resolve the previous issue’s cliffhanger.
They should’ve just taken a month off.
The Man Who Would Not Die!; writers, Martin Pasko and Len Wein; pencillers, Stephen R. Bissette and Bernie Wrightson; inkers, John Totleben and Wrightson; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
I love this issue. I only sort of remembered it, but I love what Wein and Wrightson do with it. Wrightson gets a story credit so maybe he’s the one who came up with the concept. Swamp Thing’s back in his swamp, basically just hanging around, when he comes across an old black woman. A very old black woman; she used to be a slave on a plantation nearby. She tells him a story about how the swamp is protected by the ghosts of slaves.
Then Arcane and his Un-Men show up and attack Swampy. You get a few pages of beautiful Wrightson fight art, then the slaves’ ghosts show up to save Swamp Thing. He sleeps through the fight; it happens unseen.
The issue has a dreamlike quality to it. It’s this haunting little story where Swamp Thing isn’t even the lead when fighting his nemesis.
The Man Who Would Not Die; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Wein and Wrightson (he has some amazing panels this issue, whether Matt and Abby at the beach or a captured alien) are back on task this issue.
While Wein still overwrites, the plotting is so good it doesn’t matter again. This issue brings Swamp Thinig back to the swamp where he was created and Wein nicely contrives to get Matt back there too. Swamp Thing’s back to work in his lab—it only occurred to me this issue all his adventures previous were out of his control; the delay is because Arcane grabbed him second issue—and he runs into an alien.
The alien’s using the lab to repair his spacecraft, which leads to some misunderstanding between him and Swamp Thing. The alien design from Wrightson is singular; it’s utterly brilliant.
Cable shows up with the rest of the government agents to contain the situation.
A great issue.
The Stalker from Beyond; writer, Len Wein; penciller, Bernie Wrightson; inker, Wrightson and Mike Kaluta; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
While the cover—Swamp Thing versus green tentacles—might be memorable, this issue is the first where Wein doesn’t come up with something distinctive as far as narrative. It’s Swamp Thing not versus green tentacles but versus a Lovecraftian god. A really, really weak one who lives in a mine and eats people to get stronger. Swampy takes him out with a cave-in.
Wrightson’s panels, on the monster section, are very strong. He draws a hideous creature and does the summary of its history well too. But the rest of the issue feels dispassionate. Swamp Thing shows up in town after fighting a bear. It’s not a very interesting fight scene, against the bear, in a cave. And then there’s a bunch of talking heads pages, only since Swamp Thing doesn’t talk, it’s rather boring.
It’s decent enough, but something’s definitely missing.
I mean, where are Matt and Abby?
Night of the Bat; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Swamp Thing arrives in Gotham to save Matt and Abby from the Conclave and runs into Batman. Wrightson doing Batman is something, especially seventies Batman. I love Bruce’s hair, but how does he fit it into the cowl?
Wein finds a great way to integrate Swamp Thing into the DC Universe proper; for a while, as he’s roughing up thugs for information, it’s clear he’d make an interesting pulp hero (which later writers came back to, I think). Wein even avoids most of his regular missteps, maybe because Batman takes up so much of the issue, not Matt. There is one regular Wein moment when Matt’s proud he’s not answering questions under torture (even though he doesn’t know anything).
The issue resolves some of the questions so far—but not why the Conclave’s leader has a pet monkey.
The only serious drawback is Batman gets the conclusion, not Swamp Thing.
Night of the Bat; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s sort of amusing how Wein can construct these fantastic, devastatingly emotional moments for Swamp Thing… but still have inane plotting. This issue, Swamp Thing finds a little Swiss town in Vermont. He also discovers himself (as a human) and his dead wife living happily there. Wein soon reveals a Swiss clockmaker spent the thirty years putting together a town of androids, their identities from the obits. It’s purely coincidental he picked Alec and Linda Holland. Swamp Thing has some beautiful, depressing scenes with his wife’s android stand-in.
Now, Matt Cable and Abby show up—because no one in town has been filing their taxes. Matt’s gone from CIA agent to Interpol agent to IRS agent in six issues. Wein doesn’t acknowledge no one in town would file their taxes because they don’t have any income. They’re aware they’re robots.
Still, great art, memorable issue; albeit contrived Wein plotting.
A Clockwork Horror; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Wein’s writing is back on track—except one page with incredibly awkward second person narration where he addresses the reader. Swamp Thing ends up in Maine, teaming up with a young woman accused of witchcraft and her little brother. Wein and Wrightson have a good time with the setting—even coming up with a conclusion I’m surprised the Comics Code let pass.
The issue opens with Swampy having to jump overboard on a freighter (there’s a brief explanation of how he got on the boat between last issue and this one) and it features some wonderful Wrightson art. Most of Swamp Thing, after the first issue, has been more traditional, British horror setting (even this issue) but the beginning is thoroughly modern. It’s interesting to see Wrightson do action, especially when it’s not monster-oriented.
The last page has a stunning soft cliffhanger.
Like every previous issue, this one’s indelible.
The Last of the Ravenwind Witches!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Okay, so this issue confirms Arcane (and Abby) were in the Balkans… so the English-speaking thing is problematic. This issue drops them (Abby, Matt and Swamp Thing) in Scotland on the moors for a bit of an “old dark house” and werewolf story.
Again, the draw is Bernie Wrightson doing a werewolf on the moors comic book. It looks fantastic. For the first time, I’m seeing a little of the Eisner eyes in Wrightson’s work. At times, his faces almost look like Ploog faces out of Werewolf by Night.
And Wrightson never worked with Eisner….
Anyway, the art’s the draw. As a horror comic, Wein’s script is all right. As a chapter in the Swamp Thing story, it’s problematic. Matt’s obsession with Swamp Thing is a little unbelievable and Abby’s barely a character. She doesn’t make a good damsel in distress.
Wein even stumbles on Swampy’s thought balloons here.
Monster on the Moors; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, Bernie Wrightson; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
This issue introduces Abby (still Abigail and oddly a great English speaker for Eastern Europe) and the Patchwork Man. The issue’s incredibly awkward, because most of it is Wrightson doing this lovely homage to old Universal monster movies. The Patchwork Man looks just like the Boris Karloff Frankenstein Monster (down to having his outfit, albeit fluffier, from Son of Frankenstein) and the setting is very Universal, vague Eastern European. They spoke English in the movies too.
Wait, maybe it’s supposed to be Switzerland. I guess I can buy it if it’s supposed to be Switzerland….
So Swamp Thing takes a supporting role, with most of the narration in the second person, from the Patchwork Man’s point of view. Wein is ambitious, but falters. Plus, he’s got Matt Cable inciting the villagers to take up pitchforks and torches.
Still, the art and general tone make it a more than worthwhile read.
The Patchwork Man; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, Bernie Wrightson; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Wrightson (and Wein) take Swampy to Europe this issue for Arcane’s first appearance. Arcane doesn’t even get a first name here. I say Wrightson first because the art is truly wondrous. He gets to do daytime scenes, so there aren’t any colors muddling his art, and he gets to do the Un-Men and a big, scary Eastern European castle. The issue is beautiful from the first page.
Wein’s writing, as usual, has strengths and weaknesses. The third person narration is particularly overwritten and Matt Cable seems like Wein’s ideal character (the alpha male in pursuit of a fugitive). But he still has the wonderful Swamp Thing arc. I’d forgotten Arcane does give Swampy back his humanity… only for him to decide it’s not worth the price. It’s a great little arc and Wein handles it all beautifully, especially the thought balloons.
The issue’s a fast, lovely, outstanding comic book.
The Man Who Wanted Forever; writer, Len Wein; artist, Bernie Wrightson; colorist, Wrightson and Glynis Wein; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Horror comics can get away with overwritten narration; other genres it stands out, but something about horror… it fits.
Writing this issue’s narration, Wein goes overboard with the narration. Some of it works, more doesn’t. But his thought balloons for Swamp Thing (there aren’t any for Alec Holland, just Swamp Thing) work. They’re still a little overcooked, but the guy just got turned into a big swamp monster, he’s allowed to live in his head.
The big draw to Swamp Thing—the element I was most looking forward to seeing on this reading—was supposed to be Wrightson. And he’s fantastic, but not the whole show. It’s the package; Swamp Thing works because how Wrightson’s wondrous panels and his great character designs (human and Swamp Thing) integrate with Wein’s writing.
Wein plots a great origin, particularly excelling at the passage of time. It’s where Swamp Thing’s thoughts are most essential.
Dark Genesis; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, Bernie Wrightson; editor, Joe Orlando; publisher, DC Comics.
Conan has another dalliance, this time as consort to a queen. It doesn’t turn out so well for him—well, he gets in trouble because of her fetching handmaid as well. At least in the queen’s perspective. To Conan, he’s getting weary of women.
The sex is so obvious, I was a little surprised to see the Comics Code on the cover.
Thomas gets in a first and second act here, not much of a third one. There’s an organic feel to the plotting though—it’s very nice how he passes two weeks in brief narration.
The ending is Conan and the handmaid against the queen’s pet monster. Windsor-Smith does an excellent job of the action, using pages full of small panels to convey the scene.
The backup is a story of a knight’s machinations to marry the king’s daughter. Great art from Kane. Thomas paces it poorly though.
The Dweller in the Dark; artist, Barry Windsor-Smith; colorists, Mimi Gold and Smith; letterer, Sam Rosen. The Blood of the Dragon; penciller, Gil Kane; inkers, Kane, Tom Palmer and Bernie Wrightson; letterer, Artie Simek. Writer, Roy Thomas; editor, Stan Lee; publisher, Marvel Comics.
Shockingly, the Niles story story this issue–one of his Cal McDonald ones–is mildly inoffensive. It’s poorly written detective narration, but at least he’s work in a recognized genre (badly written detective narration). It’s stupid and Casey Jones’s art isn’t any good… but it’s not intolerable.
Oh, the Marz and Wrightson Aliens story ends this issue too. It’s not as predictable as I thought it was going to be, but it’s still pointless. Maybe it’s setup for a series or something.
Shaw’s Alan Bland, about a floundering painter, is all right. Shaw’s art isn’t quite finished enough for the cartoon look, which he seems to be going for. He’s too busy with lines. But it’s not bad.
Pekar and Sacco contribute another page–this time so Pekar can tell jazz enthusiasts to check out Sun Ra. Thanks Harvey.
The issue ends with a sublime Pope installment. It’s just lovely.
Aliens, Incubation, Part Two; story by Ron Marz; art by Bernie Wrightson; lettering by Sean Konot. Alan Bland, That’s Mr. Painter to You, Part One; script and art by Stan Shaw. Sun Ra; story by Harvey Pekar; art by Joe Sacco. Cal McDonald, Hairball, Part One; story by Steve Niles; pencils by Casey Jones; inks by Bruce Patterson; lettering by Konot. The One Trick Rip-Off, Part Two; story and art by Paul Pope; lettering by Michael Neno. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.
Posted in Alan Bland, Aliens, Cal McDonald, Dark Horse, One Trick Rip-Off
Tagged Bernie Wrightson, Bruce Patterson, Casey Jones, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Paul Pope, Ron Marz, Stan Shaw, Steve Niles