Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saga Of The Swamp Thing - Book Two!

Alan Moore's reign as writer of The Saga of Swamp Thing continues in this second volume. Having dealt with loose ends and having created some potent horror tales, he uses some of the next issues to switch up the atmosphere a bit. There's no doubt that the storytelling in Swamp Thing stories has changed, become more internal and at times completely character based. That will continue in this volume. 

The primary artists on the series continue to be Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, but in this issue artist Shawn McManus fills in on a tale which almost literally puts to rest the Alec Holland aspect of Swamp Thing. Since discovering that he was a plant trying to become Holland, there has been a question about the disposition of Holland's body. Swamp Thing must confront this new reality as well as come to terms with his old identity. 

The next issue by the regular team beings arguably the most disturbing story yet told in the pages of Swamp Thing. It begins with Abigail Arcane Cable who has learned a terrifying truth about her husband Matt Cable, that truth being that Matt is no longer himself. Who has become "Matt Cable" has been a husband to Abigail in all ways and that causes her to want to shred her own skins. 

Swamp Thing comes to her rescue, as much as she can be rescued from the terrible truth of what Matt has become. And Swamp Thing must confront one of his oldest and most relentless enemies as he uses the full range of his newly understood powers to withstand an assault from all directions. 

He attempts to save Abigail from her "husband" who has become a monster. Matt Cable does return in a manner of speaking for a moment or two and he does help end the threat, but it's been at a terrible cost. With Matt turned ironically into a vegetable and Abigail are dead we are running dangerously low on characters. But the Swamp Thing is able to use his new mastery of nature to revive Abby's body, he cannot alas bring back her soul. That's a tale for the 1985 annual. Also of note is that this is the last issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing to have the full title on the cover. The phrase "Sophisticated Suspense" is now used above the logo. 

To rescue Abby's soul, the Swamp Thing must undertake a dangerous journey into the underworld. Like Dante before him he needs guides and at various times he is led by Phantom Stranger, Deadman, and ultimately The Demon. Swamp Thing must brave the most dangerous regions of hell to find and reclaim Abigail Arcane's soul. He is ultimately successful. It required the swollen pages of the second Swamp Thing Annual to tell the tale.  

Next Swamp Thing must meet some aliens who are more than a tad familiar in a Walt Kelly kind of way in a story simply titled "Pog". These sundry animals have come to Earth in a spaceship that resembles a turtle to find a haven where they can live without the threat of carnivores. These creatures are oddly wise and at the same time naive. That naivete causes a grim tragedy before the story ends. Shawn McManus is tapped to draw this tale, his style being ideal for the subject matter. 

The next issue is an odd one indeed as it tells both secrets and solves mysteries. Able and Cain, the brotherly hosts of The House of Secrets and The House of Mystery return for a special engagement to tell Abigail how there have been other Swamp Things in other times, one of those times a tale told long ago in the pages of The House of Secrets by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson. It was not Alec Holland's identity which was the template for Swamp Thing then but a lover named Alex Olsen. This tale reprints the original Swamp Thing story and Ron Randall is tapped to draw a frame story featuring the violent brothers. 

Underneath a gorgeous cover by John Totleben, the Swamp Thing enters a new phase in a gorgeous story by Moore, Bissette and Totleben when Swampy and Abby admit to their affection for one another and that despite the profound differences in their circumstances, they attempt to find intimacy. That intimacy is by means of Abbigail consuming  part of Swamp Thing and joining his consciousness on a rather tender acid trip. This is easily my favorite issue of the run by Moore and his assorted artists so far. 

The notion of a romance between human and plant is picked up and is a feature element of The Return of Swamp Thing from 1989. This movie is one I both love and hate. It's got a really good Dick Durok creature outfit and some choice scenes here and there. I like the performance as a somewhat daffy Abigail Arcane by Heather Locklear and that of  her demon uncle by the almost always grand Louis Jordan.  For the most part but the overall attitude of comedy seems to undermine any remote mote of tension or sadly sensitivity the movie might attempt to create. And there are two loathsome children in this one who are so crummy I want them to be eaten by the monster that threatens them at one point. 

By the end of this volume, the saga of the Swamp Thing is a whole other deal. But for more we'll have to wait for the third volume next time. 

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  1. I think #28 is my favourite of Moore's run, though I was never keen on the fact that his Swamp Thing wasn't really a transformed Alec Holland. I note that Len Wein tended to ignore that aspect when he returned to the character for a 6 issue series a few years back.

    1. I've not finished the run of Moore issues yet, but the further along I go I see the distinction between the two is pretty minimal and only sort of goes to explain why Swamp Thing's powers increase so dramatically. I rather like that he's a plant with human memories myself, it's a wee bit creepier I think.

    2. Creepier perhaps, but his angst at not being able to turn back into Holland is redundant, and doesn't explain why he was able to in previous occasions. I guess I just like to read about the characters I grew up with, not close facsimiles.