REVIEW: Swamp Thing Annual #1

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With its nearly year long build up, Rotworld has finally begun, promising us a long, epic tale spanning three titles. The Swamp Thing Annual has arrived and it’s telling a very different kind of story for a horror book. Major Spoilers takes a look to see if a story of love works along side all the death and decay.


SWAMP THING ANNUAL #1
Writer: Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft
Artists: Becky Cloonan, Andrew Belanger
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Colorist: Tony Avina
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously in Swamp Thing: Anton Arcane and the Rot appear to have won, overtaking the world with death. With the help of the Green and the Parliament of Trees, it’s up to Swamp Thing to stop him. But what has happened to Alec Holland’s true love, Abigail Arcane?

A STORY OF LOVE AND HORROR

When I sat down to read the Swamp Thing Annual, I was expecting to get a tale of horror and an introduction into the Rotworld storyline. What I got was something completely different…a love story. And let me tell you, it’s a great story and it works.

We’re introduced to Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane’s first meeting in a small town in the Carpathian Mountains. Anton Arcane asked Alec Holland to figure out why there is no plant life in town and Alec comes across Arcane’s niece, Abigail. As they tour the town, they both realize there is a connection between the two of them that runs deep.

Unfortunately, Holland was brought there by Arcane to be killed, stopping the avatar of the Green from ever being created.

This story completely caught me off guard, giving me an intimate story of two people who were meant to be together meeting for the first time. I loved every page of it too, as we see the past of characters that don’t have the best lives ahead of them. It’s very simple in its structure (boy meets girl, boy and girl realize they have a connection, girl’s uncle tries to kill boy) but the way in which it’s told had me eagerly turning the page. I wanted to see how these characters that we’ve come to know for a while met, and how they were separated and lost the memory of ever meeting. Turns out Arcane was infecting the town with its only “flower”, one of rot, which has a secretion that makes people lose their memory. All this was fascinating as it showed us something that we’ve never seen before and now is added to the Swamp Thing mythos. That’s not to say the story is all love and pretty flowers. There are some pretty horrific moments as well. Anton Arcane flays someone so he can wear their skin and the final battle between the Green and Arcane were moments that you would expect from Swamp Thing. All of it came together to provide the reader with a story that, while not a necessary read, provides background and motivation for the characters in the upcoming Rotworld story. It grabs the reader by the throat, but also by the heart, and doesn’t let go.

LOVE, HORROR, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

When I first saw Becky Cloonan’s art in the book, I thought it was not an appropriate fit for a title like Swamp Thing. Her style is, for lack of a better word, cartoonish and I get a Jeff Smith kind of vibe when I see her work. It’s not bad art at all, but it would not be my first choice and I wasn’t sure she could handle the horror aspects needed for a Swamp Thing story. Then I came to the splash page of Arcane skinning a body and my opinion quickly changed. Just as the story surprised me, the art surprised me just as much. As it unfolded, I realized she was a perfect match and could draw not only the intimate moments, but the nasty ones as well. And when the nastiness hits, she doesn’t hold back. The final scene has all the horror and action needed and any scene with Arcane in it was creepy, as it should be. From the beauty of the first shot of Abigail to the disgustingness of Anton, Becky Cloonan brings the goods. Not to be forgotten are Andrew Belanger’s pencils in the first few pages at the beginning and end of the book. His work is what I picture when I think Swamp Thing and the detail in the few pages he draws really has me hoping to see more of his work in the Rotworld storyline.

BOTTOM LINE:  DIDN’T GET WHAT I EXPECTED, I GOT SOMETHING BETTER

This book really came out of left field and gave me something a hell of a lot better than what I expected. I would call it a love story but it still feels like Swamp Thing and provides a good motivation for him to kill Arcane. From the great storytelling to Becky Cloonan’s art, this book is a must read for Swamp Thing fans. The final shot of ol’ Swampy pissed has me extremely excited for Rotworld. ‘Cause you really don’t want a giant Swamp Thing pissed.

Rating: ★★★★½

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