Monday, October 7, 2013

Mucking About #2 - The Man Who Wanted Forever!

The Swamp Thing returned in a second issue which really changed up the status quo of the series. Len Wein and Berni Wrightson clearly want the adventures of their boggy creation to move at warp speed.

The story picks up at most  hours after the last ended and Swamp Thing is still in the bayous of Louisiana as his wife's killers are being taken away by the morgue. Matt Cable, who doesn't realize his communications are being monitored by the Conclave via the bugged dog he has adopted, continues to rant that he will catch the creature he inexplicably blames for the tragedy, but is cut short when he sees the Swamp Thing flying away strapped to a cross strapped to the underbelly of a plane. The Swamp Thing had been overcome by a small army of synthetic half-men who take him to their master in the Balkans half a world away. There in a classic horror movie castle atop a desolate peak, Swamp Thing meets Arcane who it turns out had been following his progress via a magical mirror. Arcane is a decrepit scientist/sorcerer who wants to free Alec Holland of his burden by taking over the Swamp Thing form and returning Alec to his original humanity. Needless to say Alec accepts and after some tests where we learn Swamp Thing is exactly eighty-nine inches high and weighs five hundred and forty-seven pounds, Arcane and Holland use the "Soul Jar" to make the mystical transition. All Alex needs to do is really want the change. It works, but soon after the transition Alec learns that now fortified by the immortal body Arcane plans horrible revenge against the village below his mountain castle and on the world in general. Alex chooses to change back and destroys the Soul Jar reversing the magic. Arcane overwrought with his defeat falls from the castle to the ground far below and his hopelessly loyal synthetic "Un-men" follow after him into the abyss. All save one, who follows a disappointed Swamp Thing as he leaves the castle. But that's for next time.

In this story we learn a great deal about Alex Holland. Before he was motivated by love of his wife and revenge to take action. But now a more noble spirit is exhibited when he reluctantly chooses to return to return to his swampy form. It's likely I'm over thinking this, but I got the sense that after sampling life as a fully functioning human again, that he missed to some degree the solace he found in the isolated existence of the Swamp Thing, somewhat freed of the emotional jerks and tugs of humanity. But that's as I said, likely overstating the situation.

Holland sacrifices his immediate happiness for the sake of others he doesn't know and who in all probability would not respond so favorably to the great green creature he has become. One interesting detail is that Arcane in the Swamp form can speak much more easily than Alec can, hinting to this reader at least that maybe Alec's pain in communications is somewhat self-inflicted. One neat trick in the story is that as soon as Alec decides to return to his Swamp Thing body, his word balloon is shown in the classic Swamp Thing orange pointing to a fundamental connection between Alec's mental state and his ability to communicate.

I can see why Len Wein wanted to shift the setting of the story, but to be honest I've always felt this shift at this stage of the story was too much too soon. The bayou setting had hardly been explored when the story is taken away to a distant classic Gothic landscape. It's gorgeous, but was jarring. 

The "Un-Men" as rendered by Wrightson are they typical menagerie of slithering bodies that Berni is so famous for. His ability to draw human and near-human shapes bubbles with a ferocious sense of physicality.
You can almost feel and nearly smell the undulating shapes that Wrightson draws, giving the whole a weirdly sensual impression.

The final panel shows a Frankensteinish character trailing after Swamp Thing and does a dandy job of making the reader anxious for the next installment.

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  1. Getting my intrigued. These are available in tradepaperback form, I hope?

    1. Readily. I'm currently reading "Roots of the Swamp Thing" which has all the original Wein and Wrightson stories along with a few Wein did with Nestor Redondo.

      I own only one or two original Swamp Things, but I've bought these classics in reprint at least four times in the old Special issues from the 70's, the Dark Genesis trade from the 90's, a cute digest from early in this decade and the most recent one mentioned above. It's a handsome and easy to read volume. I recommend it.

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