Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Kelley Jones
Release Date: 6th January 2016
The first issue of this eagerly anticipated Swamp Thing miniseries from the character’s co-creator Len Wein and acclaimed Batman artist Kelley Jones sees a distinct change in tone and style from the previous DC run. Instead of featuring broader concepts like the Green, Rot and Red, this is very much Swamp Thing taken back to his roots (pun partially intended), with an old-school approach and aesthetic reminiscent of classic EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror.
Wein’s descriptive, almost poetic narration throughout the course of this first issue gives the story a wonderful extra dimension, particularly during the latter stages when the mysterious new threat finally reveals itself. While it may not necessarily takes as many risks as some of the previous tales featuring the character – at least not yet, anyway – there’s a certain sense of charm about the stripped-back simplicity of the story; this is classic Swamp Thing in all his alligator-wrestling, citizen-saving glory, and while I absolutely loved the New 52 runs of Snyder and Soule, this first issue feels like a welcome breath of fresh air to me.
Jones’ distinctive visual style works extremely well with the Swamp Thing character, portraying him as a hulking, muscle-bound beast. While he may be a little ‘smooth’ for some tastes, Jones’ heavily inked and shaded style works wonders in recreating the dense, claustrophobic swamps of Louisiana — not to mention doing a truly impressive job with aforementioned Wrightson-esque threat. Michelle Madsen also deserves additional praise for her colour work, keeping things murky throughout with a palette consisting of mainly browns and greens, while still managing to keep the panels crisp and clear as the story progresses.
This mini-series serves as a perfect jumping-on point for the character, with no prior continuity knowledge required and even a quick ‘origin story’ thrown in for good measure to help bring new readers up to date. The bigger picture is only hinted at here, with a mysterious message being delivered to Swamp Thing by a familiar face, warning him of an impending supernatural nightmare. It’s going to be interesting to see how Wein and Jones handle the rest of the series as it moves forwards, and just how far they’re willing to push the supernatural envelope while still staying true to their own distinctive vision of the character.
While it has the potential to be somewhat divisive given its total departure from the approach of the previous, critically-acclaimed DC runs of Snyder and Soule, as something of a Swampy aficionado I definitely got a kick out of the return to the classic horror origins of the character. Long-time Swamp Thing fans will be in absolute heaven here, and casual readers looking for a wonderfully old-school horror comic are in for a real treat.
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