Swamp Thing Annual 4 (June 1988)

The weirdest part of the annual–which is mostly a Batman story, which doesn’t suit Pat Broderick’s pencils as well as the Swamp Thing–is Chester getting stoned with Labo. I always understood Labo to be a stand-in for Alan Moore… so Stephen R. Bissette wrote a scene with Alan Moore getting stoned? The scene doesn’t work. Labo’s presence is too strange at Chester’s, too much like a sitcom. Otherwise, it’s a fairly okay issue. It’s not much of an annual. Bissette does write Batman as a violent madman, which is sort of interesting, but Swamp Thing’s got so little to do it’s never…

Swamp Thing 78 (November 1988)

It’s another fill-in issue–Mandrake’s on pencils again (with Alcala inking); Stephen R. Bissette handles the writing chores. It’s also filler narratively, but very nice narrative filler. Bissette doesn’t have much for Abby to do, however. He sends her on another trip to the afterlife, which could be eventful, but instead she just hangs out with Alec Holland for a few pages. The other Alec, though, Bissette’s got a lot for him. The issue’s something like Bissette musing on how Swamp Thing would be relating to the new developments. It’s a relaxer issue, but a beautifully paced one. Bissette has this incredible twist…

Swamp Thing 64 (September 1987)

One could, if so inclined, sit and try to figure out who drew what–Alcala’s such a unifying inker on Swamp Thing, it’s hard to tell Bissette and Veitch apart. Yeates I could easily identify, just because of the startling photorealism. For his last issue, Moore avoids sentimentality. His plotting is gradual, relaxed. Much of the issue is spent with Swamp Thing thinking about the state of the world and his place in it. The big decisions in the issue are rather small. He and Abby decide to retreat from the world for a while. Moore is putting his characters–he owns them in…

Swamp Thing 59 (April 1987)

Stephen R. Bissette comes back to Swamp Thing to script a fill-in. Well, maybe not a fill-in. I mean, I’m sure Moore was busy with something else, but the story itself isn’t disposable. It’s just an Abby issue when the series has become, for a while anyway, about Swamp Thing. The issue serves a couple purposes. First, it shows what Abby’s up to while Swampy’s off having an interstellar adventure. Second, it shows how Arcane’s time in Hell is being spent. It keeps Arcane, even damned, constant in the series. The majority of the issue is split. Half is Abby at her…

Swamp Thing 50 (July 1986)

While touted as an anniversary issue, Swamp Thing barely figures into this story. Moore’s upfront about his limited role–the comic opens with Cain and Abel, after all. It again features guest appearances from the DC supernatural set, with a couple deaths involved. Moore eventually does make it all about Swamp Thing, but in a relatively quiet way. His experiences and questions about himself inform the greater story, which is a really big one. It’s an all action issue, but the most important action is very quiet dialogue. What’s strangest about the issue is the lack of intensity. Moore’s done a lot with…

Swamp Thing 46 (March 1986)

While I love this issue–the way Moore tells the reader the ending is going to be awful, then still manages to make it even worse (without a drop of blood), is awesome–the cover does imply something else entirely. The cover implies, between the banner and the superheroes, a Crisis tie-in. And I suppose Moore does deliver to some extent. He does send Constantine and Swamp Thing off into regular DC superhero land where they get a mission for helping save the world. But their mission really has nothing to do with Crisis. It’s too disturbing to be mainstream; Moore thoroughly grounds it…

Swamp Thing 44 (January 1986)

I never thought I’d be making this statement–but I can’t tell Randall from Totleben. Randall does some of the inks here and two inkers are seamless at first read. Maybe if I had been concentrating more on the art…. Instead, this issue of Swamp Thing is a big mishmash and, against the odds, it works. I mean, there’s a scene with Batman bumping into Constantine and Mento (from Doom Patrol) on the street. Moore’s integration of Crisis is hilarious. He acknowledges it, but treats it as inconsequential. I guess they already knew Swamp Thing was safe from a relaunch. There’s a great…

Swamp Thing 42 (November 1985)

In a strange but significant way, Moore cops outs with this issue. He concludes his possessed slave descendants story without examining any other the racial elements he brought up in the previous issue. Instead, he conveniently brings in some zombies, some hallucinations and Swamp Thing… everything ends very nicely. Actually, it ends nicely for zombies too. It’s Alan Moore ending on a joke. It’s a creepy one… but still a joke. What’s so inexplicable is that shift in tone. Moore set this story up to be serious and, instead, it’s a little episode in the life of Swamp Thing and Abby. Nothing…

Swamp Thing 41 (October 1985)

So in 1985, Moore did a frank story about racism. That feature alone would make this issue of Swamp Thing significant, but it’s far from the most stunning part of the comic. Hollywood has come to the swamp and they’re making a miniseries about plantations and slavery. The evil of the plantation reincarnates, down to the local black extras being possessed by their slave ancestors. It’s a little shocking, especially when one considers Moore’s British (which does give him the observer’s perspective), but Swamp Thing’s a plant and Abby’s from the Balkans. It’s a stunning issue with some great supporting characters. Moore…

Swamp Thing 40 (September 1985)

This issue’s kind of a downer-in-one. Bissette and Totleben are back at full strength and do a great job. The story concerns a housewife whose lycanthropy manifests itself (seemingly for the first time) while Swamp Thing’s in town for a visit. Moore juxtaposes the woman’s problems against the history of a local Native American tribe and the sufferings of that tribe’s women. Bissette and Totleben have the task of mixing both those elements with the visiting Swamp Thing. Strangely, it’s not exactly a visual feast–the art isn’t exuberant as much as measured. They’re carefully telling this story and they do a great…

Swamp Thing 39 (August 1985)

Something strange happens with the art this issue. It’s Bissette and Totleben, but one or both of them is darned lazy. While there’s some great Swamp Thing art, all the human characters are hurried. And the amazing Swamp Thing as landscape (first time ever) is far less amazing than I’d expect from the artists. That unfortunate condition aside, it’s a good issue. Moore toggles between three narrators–victims, vampires and Swampy–and it all works well. Swamp Thing versus underwater vampires, with Swampy learning how to flex the plant elemental muscles. Moore even makes the vampires sympathetic, though the vampire baby isn’t cute at…

Swamp Thing 36 (May 1985)

Not a happy comic, not at all. Moore plays with having multiple points of view, fragmenting the story’s timeline to give everyone a chance at a surprising moment. He opens with Swamp Thing, who doesn’t really have a story this issue. Moore’s showing his mastery; he turns what should be a filler issue into an essential one. He focuses on Abby toward the end, which reveals the most. It’s clear Moore’s real protagonist is Abby at this point, maybe because she has to be. Moore never gives Swamp Thing as good of moments. For example, there’s a short line here about Abby…

Swamp Thing 35 (April 1985)

The truly nightmarish quality of Moore’s Swamp Thing shows itself here in his ability to gradually peel back the layers of a small incident. Moore frames this story around a collection of newspaper headlines (about nuclear power and, more importantly, nuclear waste) and a guy addicted to it. To nuclear waste. It’s really gross, but it takes Moore about half the issue before he lets Bissette and Totleben show the full effect. The result is an uncomfortable reading experience. It’s not the worst thing Moore could focus on–he’s touched on worse in previous issues–but when the artists take so long to fully…

Swamp Thing 34 (March 1985)

I should have remembered this issue, but I did not. The story is pretty simple. Alec and Abby start dating. In one of Moore’s rare moments, he forgets Swamp Thing’s acceptance of “Alec” as Abby’s name for him came in a dream sequence, not in scene. Anyway, the issue is a big crazy art fest from Bissette and Totleben. Even before Abby eats the tuber, the art spreads across pages. Bissette and Totleben capture, even without much background to start, the tranquility of Alec and Abby’s time in the swamp. It is infinitely calming. Then the hallucinogenic pages begin. I assume Moore…

Swamp Thing Annual 2 (January 1985)

I am having a hard time deciding my favorite part of this annual. In terms of ambition and payoff, it’s probably the best annual ever. Moore, Bissette and Totleben don’t just produce a great story, but also a fun one and an emotionally devastating one. All while Swamp Thing goes to Hell. The contestants for favorite moment are the end, which is another great Bissette full page spread emotional finish, the moment when Swamp Thing doesn’t want to meet Linda Holland in Heaven or the scene with Arcane in Hell. The first two are devastating, one quiet, one not, and the second…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 30 (November 1984)

In many ways, this issue is an exercise more than a full issue. It is not, actually, a full narrative gesture, not in the way Moore has established himself on Swamp Thing. It reads very quickly and one of the reasons it does is because Moore does not encourage lingering. Arcane is back and he’s bringing hell to Earth. Notice the lower case hell and the uppercase Earth. Much of the issue is single panel snapshots of people about to do awful things to one another. Really, really awful things. Moore and Bissette do not show these things… because the reader’s imagination…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 29 (October 1984)

This issue isn’t really a Swamp Thing comic, more an Abby one. Moore frames it in a dream, but a dream where Abby remembers all her latest experiences with her husband. Her possessed, dead husband who’s not really her husband. While the end revelation is incredibly disturbing on a few levels, Moore makes sure the whole issue is uncomfortable. Abby’s investigation into her husband’s condition has a lot of effective uncanny revelations. As usual, the art from Bissette and Totleben ties it all together. They only have one nice moment, when Swamp Thing and Abby meet up. Moore does the whole “falling…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 27 (August 1984)

The issue ends on two wildly divergent notes. First, Swamp Thing and this previously scared little boy go for a peaceful walk back to the boy’s school after a monstrous night. It’s calm and gentle. Moore doesn’t give Alec too much dialogue—there’s still something tragic and sad about Swamp Thing, even if he’s at peace. Second, Abby finds out she had something to do with the events leading up to the evening (well, the Demon suggests it and, as Jason Blood points out, even the Demon’s occasionally honest). The issue ends with her getting into a car with Matt. Who, a few…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 26 (July 1984)

It’s a fast issue, so fast I don’t even think Alec has any dialogue (Abby reflects on the proper name for him, it’s good to know Moore’s thinking about it too). Instead it’s an Abby issue and Moore layers the whole thing, flipping between flashback and present action. Most of the present action is Abby and Alec wordlessly running to save a bunch of children from a monster. The flashbacks reveal some of Jason Blood’s involvement, Abby’s first day at work (which also ties in to the plot) and more of Abby and Matt’s marital problems. This issue is all horror–though the…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 25 (June 1984)

Moore solves the problem of not having a start point (since he previously “closed” the Saga). First, he opens with Jason Blood coming to town. Moore’s Blood is one part hilarious, one part dangerous. It’s a great character (though does it foreshadow Moore too letting the supporting cast outshine the titular protagonist?). Second, this issue is set an indeterminate period of time from the last issue. Not too long, but long enough Abby and Alec are hanging out on a regular basis. Moore’s the implication of the relationship—more about closeness than interaction—is a gentle one. There’s still the villain of the issue,…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 24 (May 1984)

What’s strange about this issue isn’t so much the story or even the Justice League guest appearance (Moore writing the Justice League, with Bissette and Totleben on the art is otherworldly though). It’s the finish. Moore could use this issue for the series finale. In dealing with an insane Jason Woodrue, Alec accepts his reality—he’s Swamp Thing—and he’s happy with it, happy with living in the natural world. It’s a joyous finish; he even, basically, says goodbye to Abby. But it’s not the final issue and the way Moore leaves it, one wonders what can possibly come next and not feel forced.…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 23 (April 1984)

So I should start by talking about Moore opening with Alec narrating and basically giving the reader the insight the previous issue’s exploration of his psyche didn’t have. Or I could talk about how he, in his third issue, has cast Abby as the human conduit into the story (and retconned her attachment to Alec a bit). I could even talk about how Alec’s dialogue and thoughts are about his lack of humanity but Bissette and Totleben give him the most human eyes in comic book history. Instead, I’ve got to mention this one really awful page they draw. It’s the closest…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 22 (March 1984)

Moore does a few things here. He skips ahead a few weeks, so we don’t get to see Alec return to the swamp. In fact, we don’t even get to understand what puts him in his initial condition this issue until the end of it. It’s not so much a layered narrative as Moore trying to linearly and visually show Alec’s mental response to discovering he’s not who he thought he was. The loop the end creates, like the recurrences of the title in story proper, is pretty neat. Moore splits the issue between Alec (in his dreamworld), Abby (as she discovers…

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 (February 1984)

And here’s the famous Anatomy Lesson. It’s difficult to think about Swamp Thing before this issue–Moore doesn’t so much retcon as he explains–because it immediately changes every expectation of the series. Moore uses Jason Woodrue to narrate and it’s a nice device. It lets Moore be enthusiastic about the scientific discovery process; he even manages to make General Sunderland even worse by revealing him as willfully ignorant. I wish I remembered the first time I read it, how it affected the reader page by page. Moore understands how comic readers work, he understands the investment and the possessiveness. He paces the revelations…

Dark Horse Presents 143 (May 1999)

It’s Yeates and Bissette doing a Tarzan issue… how bad can it be? Not at all; it can’t be bad. The story is split into three parts–the first features Tarzan exploring the Hollow Earth and thinking about his life, before he runs into some cannibals. Well, are they cannibals if they only eat other humanoids? They also eat each other. So they are cannibals. It’s an amusing buildup to that revelation. The second part mostly has to do with Tarzan journeying with a Hollow Earth native. She’s trying to find a mythical island. This part is from her perspective so it’s never…

Dark Horse Presents 37 (March 1990)

Thank goodness there’s a Bacchus in here because otherwise it’d be a complete loss. Guinan’s art continues to be acceptable on Heartbreakers, while he and Bennett’s writing just gets worse and worse. Some of the issue is with them trying to do too much in such a short amount of pages… But mostly they just can’t write it. They can’t make their characters matter, so they try to make their ideas matter. Except it’s a bunch of theoretical ideas, so… as usual… who cares? Speaking of bad, Davis is now changing the hairstyles for the protagonists between panels on Celia & Delia.…