2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2010
Saga of the Swamp Thing is now one of the most underrated mainstream comics of the early 80's. When Alan Moore was chosen to carry on the torch of the series, he was relatively unknown outside of the UK and Ireland, the positive responses from fans and the increase in sales helped to generate the outstanding reputation he still holds to this day. If not for the stories contained in this series, Moore would never have been granted the creative freedom to put out Watchmen through DC Comics. When people talk about the most important comics of the 80's they always bring up Frank Miller's Dark Night Returns and Moore's Watchmen, I think Saga of the Swamp Thing is even more important in that it was probably the foundation which made those two books possible.
on 15 October 2013
When Alan Moore took over DC's then failing Swamp Thing series in 1984 he swept aside the mythology that had been built up since Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson had begun the first regular Swamp Thing series back in 1972 and instead firmly rooted the character into the circumstances and environment envisioned in House of Secrets #92, the one-shot comic that first introduced the world to the Swamp Thing. Prior to Moore's arrival on the scene, the Swamp Thing itself had been a mutated version of the scientist Alec Holland, his plight caused by a tragic explosion at his laboratory. Moore, however, wanted to return the Swamp Thing series back to its horror roots and so, in his first issue in charge, he brought the evil Sunderland Corporation to the forefront and had them apparently kill the Swamp Thing in a hail of bullets in an attempt to discover the secrets of Alec Holland's research. An obscure supervillain, the Floronic Man, was brought in by the Corporation to perform an autopsy on the Swamp Thing's body and discovered that it was only superficially human.
Although the body contains crude approximations of human organs, they were actually non-functioning, vegetable-based imitations of their human counterparts, indicating that the Swamp Thing had in fact never been human. The Swamp Thing was not Alec Holland; it only believed itself to be so. Alec Holland was killed in the explosion at his lab, but the swamp vegetation had absorbed his knowledge, memories and emotions and created a new sentient being that believed itself to be Alec Holland. This was the essential tragedy at the heart of the series: the Swamp Thing could never become human again because it had never actually been human in the first place. At the end of his autopsy, the Floronic Man realised that the Swamp Thing was not actually dead but merely in a coma and so the Corporation attempted to imprison the Swamp Thing in cold storage. The Swamp Thing quickly regained consciousness, however, and after partially recovering from the shock of finding out what, rather than who, it actually was, escaped back to the swamps of Louisiana. This reimagining of the mythology of the Swamp Thing took place in the comics that were collected together in Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One, the first volume of Vertigo's deluxe hardback collections of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run.
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Two picks up directly from where the first volume left off and collects together issues 28 to 34 of The Saga of the Swamp Thing and Swamp Thing Annual #2.
The first story in Book Two is "The Burial" and it offers a recapping of Swamp Thing's origins. It is also the story in which Alec Holland is finally laid to rest. However, Holland is not the only thing that is buried in this story; "The Burial" is Alan Moore's final marker of the changing of the Swamp Thing guard. In an homage to the work of Wein and Wrightson, Swamp Thing is shown staring out across the swamp as the vegetation that comprises its skin turns brown with the approach of Autumn; staring back is the fresh, green incarnation of Swamp Thing that was envisioned by its original creators. "The Burial" is an acknowledgement of how far the Swamp Thing series has come and a reminder that progress must continue.
And what progress Moore makes. While the Swamp Thing stories of Wein and Wrightson were remarkable for their time, Swamp Thing under the control of Alan Moore was truly groundbreaking. The next story in Book Two is "Love and Death" and it is the first part in a sequence most commonly known as the Arcane trilogy. "Love and Death" is an extremely shocking story that opens with the disturbing image of Abigail Cable (previously Abigail Arcane) naked and bleeding after a hopeless attempt at cleansing. It becomes apparent that Abigail's uncle, former Swamp Thing nemesis, Anton Arcane had possessed the body of her husband Matthew Cable in order to trick her into engaging in an incestuous relationship. Given the subject matter, it's easy to see why Swamp Thing was the first DC monthly title to be distributed without the Comics Code Authority's seal of approval. The trilogy continues with "A Halo of Flies" and "The Brimstone Ballet" as Moore provides an unsettling perspective of evil, of an approaching Armageddon, and of how it affects Abigail and her love.
In reality, referring to it as the Arcane trilogy is misleading, however, since the ultimate resolution is not arrived upon until "Down Amongst the Dead Men". Here, in Moore's interpretation of Dante's The Divine Comedy, Swamp Thing travels to hell to try and save Abigail's soul. While Dante had Virgil and Beatrice as his guides, Swamp Thing has four of DC's classic otherworldly characters - Deadman, The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre and The Demon. The horrific torture that is inflicted on Anton Arcane in hell is grimly unnerving; the villain's body is stuffed with constantly hatching insect eggs. Steve Bissette's artwork captures the dark spectacle perfectly.
After the nightmares that have gone before, the next two stories in Book Two provide some very welcome light relief. With "Pog" Alan Moore offers a tribute to Pogo Possum, Walt Kelly's anthropomorphic animal adventure series set in the Okefenokee Swamp. "Abandoned Houses" is also a tribute, this time to the long-standing tradition in horror anthology comics (dating back to the early 1950s titles put out by EC Comics) of having a host as a unifying theme. DC's two main horror titles, The House of Secrets where Swamp Thing first appeared and The House of Mystery were hosted respectively by the fat demon Cain and his slightly thinner brother Abel. By the time Alan Moore took over on Swamp Thing both of the House series had disappeared but "Abandoned Houses" is a fitting tribute to them.
"Rite of Spring", the final story in Book Two and the one which Neil Gaiman refers to in his introduction as the "vegetable sex chapter", may well be the most controversial in the whole volume. By the time of this story, the relationship between Swamp Thing and Abigail has deepened to the level where they have admitted their love and then have gone on to make love through an hallucinogenic experience after Abigail ate a tuber produced by Swamp Thing's body. Pretty freaky stuff.
Taken all together, the stories that make up Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Two are landmarks in comics history. There is a lot of craziness and darkness involved and so Alan Moore's work might not be to everyone's taste, but the pioneering direction in which he took Swamp Thing paved the way for horror and paranormal comic storylines and series that were to come from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano. The entire Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing is a must-have of comics fans and I for one can't wait for Vertigo to bring out Book Three.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Moore's saga of the Swamp Thing continues and if you think this is good, which it is, you've seen nothing yet. Here we have a little more light and shade with some help from guest artists to allow those grisly eminences of Bissette and Totleben not to fall behind. Nevertheless, following a prologue illustrated by the smoother Shawn McManus wherin Swampy has a reconciliation with Alec Holland the person he thought he was, we enter a 3-part story arc that is at least as emotionally horrifying as it is physically and in the immediate followup Swamp Thing goes to Hell in search of.. Well, if you don't know, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Suffice to say that you're in for a hell of a ride, literally. It also allows Swampy to meet four of the DC Universe's most important supernatural entities.
After this, the reader is in need of a break and we get one. First off and well illustrated by McManus, there is a poignant and moving homage to Pogo, Walt Kelly's satirical funny animals strip. Here he is Pog shipboss of a group of varied aliens searching a new home called The Lady, having abandoned their own polluted planet. Sadly, all they find is that Earth is a mirror image of the place they lost. This is one of Moore's most touching stories. Next up is what could have been just a reprint but Moore weaves another seed-setting tale around a reprint of the very first Swamp Thing short by Wein & Wrightson, which is also important as one of the seeds planted in Gaiman's brain which would grow into part of his Sandman epic.
Last is one of Moore's most groundbreaking stories with Bissette and Totleben back on art. Here is the declaration of love and its consummation between Swampy and Abigail Cable. At the time it was mind-blowing.
I generally try to avoid synopses but with a series so important and consisten as this it's difficult not to, especially with these early issues, otherwise I'd simply be repeating superlatives every time I reviewed a new volume. Later on, Moore tackles important themes and ideas. There are introductions by Jamie Delano and Neil Gaiman written just a handful of years after these stories were published. It would be nice to see something new which adds a little perspective. Another minor grouch but one which almost lost this book a star is that the quality of the paper isn't quite as nice as for volume 1.
Still, absolutely essential for your graphic novel collection.
on 18 May 2015
Having read the first book around Christmas time, I finally got around to reading the next book after having thoroughly enjoyed the first.
This second instalment into the Swamp Thing saga does not disappoint, and is filled with great characters and brilliant prose as well as speech.
Although the story starts off a bit slow, it quickly picks up the pace as the Swamp Thing travels literally, as well as figuratively, through hell.
I look forward to reading the next one, and if it only gets better, this might have the potential to knock Preacher off of my top spot.