It might be argued that the ninth issue of Swamp Thing showcases the series most famous image. The cover of the Swamp Thing erupting from the ooze has been used as the cover for most of the reprint packages the character has seen, and the one I'm currently reading, Roots of the Swamp Thing, is no exception. (See below.)
The story begins on a train where to hobos try to mug a another only to discover the victim is Swamp Thing. The two miscreants are thrown from the train, and Swamp Thing swiftly follows since he realizes that he has at long last returned to the place of his birth, the bayous and swamps of Louisiana. The scene shifts to a Florida beach where Matt Cable and Abigail Arcane recuperate from their torture at the hands of the Conclave. Cable is perhaps having doubts about his relentless pursuit of the Swamp Thing when he gets notice he is to return to Washington immediately. Because of his familiarity with the swamp areas he is assigned to assist with "Operation: Space-Face" which has detected a UFO in the immediate area where the Hollands did their research. The leader is Captain Brad Samson and Cable doesn't cotton to him. Meanwhile Swamp Thing returns to the barn in which his lab had once been located with the meager hope he can find a cure, but instead finds a spaceship inside along with its alien pilot. A battle ensues and Swamp Thing is defeated and his wounded body is deposited into the swamp. Soon after the team led by Cable and Samson arrives at the barn and likewise confront the alien who seems befuddled by their hostile behaviors. The alien is captured while contact is made with leaders outside the swamp. Samson though has sabotaged the equipment making contact impossible. Swamp Thing emerges from the swamp healed and returns to the barn to find the team still trying to make the radio work and debating whether they should just kill the alien.When the others sleep Samson tries to kill the alien but is stopped by Swamp Thing. Cable awakes and a battle breaks out in the camp while Swamp Thing takes the alien back to his spaceship. The squad composes itself and confronts the alien just as he prepares to leave. He speaks sufficient English to condemn mankind for its violence then blasts off destroying the barn once and for all time. The tattered squad survives and watch as the spaceship rises but fails to escape the atmosphere and explodes. A sad Swamp Thing visits the crash site and wanders away.
The details of this "stranger in a strange land" fable make for a decent Swamp Thing story, but for some reason the morality seems to ooze a bit too strong in places. The squad of military types are overwhelmed by a xenophobia which erupts from nowhere. I suppose we are to think they brought it with them. Maybe Samson's unreasoning hatred of the alien is meant to counterpoint Cable's hatred of Swamp Thing, something Cable is at long last re-thinking.
The alien as designed by Wrightson is magnificent, one of the most odious designs I've seen. Berni's ability to bring a palpable physicality to his drawing works to great effect here with this creature who is not much human in most respects. There's a neat blend of classic BEM design and something more subtle at work. Mike Kaluta, Wrightson's future The Studio mate, steps in to ink about half this issue, and the blend (as can be seen from the page above) is very atmospheric.
It's nice to see Swamp Thing actually back in a swamp after all these issues. He looks great tromping around in the oozed and muck and it's dandy to see those vines and fronds in the background. With this issue Swamp Thing's odyssey comes full circle but somehow I don't think his journey has ended by any means.
That might have to wait until next time.