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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Swamp Thing #32 - Aug. 2014

Aquaman has been appearing in so many comics lately I can't keep up! Luckily, Shrine Correspondent Andy Luckett stepped in to talk about the Sea King's guest appearance in this month's Swamp Thing. Take it away Andy!

Hey there everyone, Andy Luckett here with a review of Swamp Thing #32, written by Charles Soule with art by Jesus Saiz, Matthew Wilson and Travis Lanham. And guest-starring Aquaman!

When we last left this story, Aquaman and Swamp Thing had come to blows over a recent algae bloom in the oceans caused by Swamp Thing (and by "blows", I mean Aquaman summoning alligators to rip Swamp Thing's body apart). Of course Swampy can always build a new body, and as this issue begins he has fashioned himself a snappy ensemble out of kelp and other sea plants in order to investigate a strange presence in the waters off the Philippines. 

It doesn't take long for him to locate the being he seeks: an algae creature that seems to exist outside of the Green (the dimension formed by all plant life on Earth). This creature is marauding along the sea floor, killing any animal that ventures too close. Swamp Thing attempts to make contact, but finds himself being absorbed into the creature's mass. Then he receives another visitor:
Aquaman's sudden appearance causes Swamp Thing to flash back to their former meeting, in which Arthur blamed Swamp Thing’s actions for the creation of the algae creature. It turns out that he was right, and is an aberrant piece of the Green, separated and eager to fulfill its basic needs. Back in the present, Aquaman still views ST as a threat, and calls in some specialized assistance:
Having dissipated another of Swamp Thing's bodies, Aquaman summons a small army of parrotfish to feed on the creature's body.  Unfortunately the creature defends itself violently; impaling the fish and dugongs with sharp tendrils. Aquaman is horrified, but suddenly hears Swamp Thing's voice in his ear:
Aquaman calms down and agrees to let Swampy handle the crisis. ST enters the creature's mind, and discovers plant bodies that look like...Aquaman and a dugong drinking martinis in lawn chairs? Two of the Green's former Avatars are inhabiting the bodies, and help Swamp Thing realize that the creature is an attempt by the Green to form a small separate reality. 
Meanwhile, Aquaman tries a direct assault on the creature, but is almost absorbed as well. He contacts one of his generals and asks them to bring the heavy artillery to blow up the creature. In the creature's mind, Swamp Thing fights its own version of an Avatar; a crude, misshapen solution to protect itself. After a hard battle, he defeats it, and emerges from the creature’s mind just as Aquaman is about to give the order to fire:
Tell me that isn't a Random Panel of the Day in the making! 

Swamp Thing confronts Arthur about his unwillingness to trust him. He replies that he doesn't know ST, and that he had to think of the welfare of his kingdom. As a rebuttal, Swamp Thing reminds him that plants have existed underwater long before humans, and that the oceans are really his kingdom. As he leaves he advises Aquaman, "don’t push it."


I found myself of two minds about this issue. Plot-wise, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Aquaman and Swamp Thing in a battle of wills over the best way to end the destruction of this rogue consciousness led to some interesting conflict (the scene with the dugongs was highly inventive and a nice mirror to the alligator attack during the two characters' last meeting.

However, I had a few qualms about character depiction, particularly with Aquaman. Headstrong has always been a facet of Arthur's psychology (though not to the extremes of Namor--most of the time) but it is usually tempered by thoughtfulness and intelligence. This story, in my opinion, swung the pendulum a bit too much toward the "shoot first and no need for questions, I’m the King" side, and it made Aquaman seem like he was having a tough week to begin with, and was a little tired of all this nonsense.  Maybe that's just me, but it did feel that Swamp Thing had the lionfish's share of the sanity and reason in this crossover.

Visually speaking, I have no reservations. Jesus Saiz and the art team's take on Arthur's uniform subtly morphs the gold scalemail into more of a pumpkin-orange armor-plating look, giving it a slight military bearing. Very appropriate, I think. And one of my favorite aspects of the Swamp Thing character is his ability to build himself a body from the local plant life wherever he is; in this case, algae and kelp. It makes for great visuals, and a character that isn’t confined to one nailed-down look. The underwater coloration is subtle and the attention to detail on aquatic flora and fauna is impressive. I wouldn't mind seeing this art team doing more work in Aquaman's world sometime.

Overall, I wouldn't call this crossover a slam-dunk, but I do think its pluses outweigh its minuses, especially the creative action scenes and the engaging artwork. Just don't expect to root for Arthur quite as much as you usually might. 


Count Drunkula said...

Nice review, Andy!

bribabylk said...

Yes, good work!

This issue was great; I love seeing underwater flora and fauna depicted and this hit a lot of sweet spots.

I wasn't as chagrined about Swamp Thing having to give Aquaman a little schoolin'; I think it's kind of understandable. Aquman's connection is with animal life; it's entirely plausible that he wouldn't have ever given much thought to there being a sapient plant "kingdom"; even a king can stand to have his eyes opened a little wider every once once in awhile.

Nice crossover and very natural; if there ever was to be an Aquaman team-up book ala SURF & TURF, Swamp Thing could be in every tenth issue without complaint from me.


Count Drunkula said...

I just remembered that Jesus Saiz illustrated The Brave and the Bold issue where Aquaman teamed up with The Demon. There seem to be some interesting visual parallels between Aquaman with Etrigan and Aquaman with Swamp-Thing here.

Russell said...

I really enjoyed this issue for the art and the overall tone of it, but I just couldn't figure out what the menace was. It wasn't clear to me, and how ST defeated it wasn't clear to me, either. Other than that, great fun. I liked their interaction here and in AQUAMAN.