REVIEW: Swamp Thing #23.1

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It’s Villains Month, and the Swamp Thing couldn’t make it to his book thanks to a mani-pedi at the Home Depot.  Luckily (for some values of the word, anyway) Anton Arcane has a few minutes to spare, and he wants to tell you something…

Something horrible.  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
Saiz knocks it out of the park.
Truly horrifying moments of story.


Cons

Arcane is truly awful.
TRULY horrifying moments of story.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

READER RATING!

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SwampThingCoverSWAMP THING #23.1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor(s): Chris Conroy/Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Swamp Thing:  When the Swamp Thing went to war against The Rot, his old enemy Arcane was the avatar of corruption, but after his defeat, Arcane has been left in his own personal hell:  A perfect, pastoral world where nothing can die, not even himself.  It’s a very fitting fate for the creature who would have brought death and corruption to the entire world, but even the most perfect prison has its flaws…

ABBY IS THE *WHAT*, NOW?

I’ve been reading Swamp Thing for a very long time, and I’ve always found myself quietly rooting for Abigail Arcane (while also wondering how she does that awesome thing with her hair.)  As this issue opens (with Saiz drawing utterly depraved and gore-filled moments with Arcane, including multiple attempts to kill himself), I found myself slightly enjoying the karmic nature of his punishment…  Cue Abby as the new Avatar of The Rot.  It’s a pretty shocking moment, especially for someone who is a few weeks behind on his comic reading, and she kind of looks awesome in a terrifying way.  Abby offers a deal to her wicked uncle:  In return for a brief taste of the power of The Rot, she wants Anton to tell her a story, the story of How I Met Your Her Mother.  There’s a lot in here that seems familiar to the long-time Swamp Thing reader, with some lovely details, dating all the way back to the year 1875, with Arcane the origins of his fascination with death.

You do not want to know the details of the origins of his fascination with death.

Because “Eww.”

AN ORIGIN EVEN MORE UNSETTLING THAN BEFORE…

But, it makes for good story-telling, especially as Anton courts his sister-in-law at the same time as he attempts to unlock the secret of decay without death.  It’s a very disturbing tale, and the interplay of story and art is amazing, as well as the sight of Abby’s mother turned into a patchwork creature, due to skin-graft after skin-graft to try to save her life after repeated run-ins with unspeakable diseases, and a very powerful twist near the end.  It gives new depth to Abby and her unexpected role as Swamp Thing’s opposite number, and the story ends with an unexpected moment both for her, and a hint of a way out of his existential horror for Arcane.  The whole tale is self-contained, and reminds me a lot of the origin of The Patchwork Man back in the original Swamp Thing tales 30 years ago.  I haven’t fully read a lot of the Villains Month stories, but I find this one to be a wonderful examination of the most iconic of Swampy’s recurring foe, and a strong single issue on its own terms…

THE BOTTOM LINE: WORTHY OF THE CHARACTERS’ PEDIGREE.

In short, as much as I worried about the gimmickry of the whole Villains Month enterprise, at least one creative team took it as an invitation to add depth (and an utterly horrific eye for detail) to their chosen bad guy, using it to advance the ongoing story.  Swamp Thing #23.1 has a lot to offer, and makes me want to go back and read the entire series from the beginning, which is what any good book should do, and earns 4 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m also setting the countdown clock for Arcane’s escape at 12 issues or less…  Write that down.

Rating: ★★★★☆