Thursday, October 14, 2021

Swamp Classics - The Lurker In Tunnel Thirteen!

The eighth issue of Swamp Thing finds the mossy giant having finally rid himself of the Conclave. It's time for him to find other menaces, and he does that most effectively in this issue.

Swamp Thing trudges through the snows of Appalachia with the temperatures threatening to shut down his plant-like body entirely. He finds thanks to a scream a cave in which he finds an old man being attacked by a giant bear. He fights and reluctantly kills the bear but it proves too late for the old man who is named Ezekiel,  warns Swamp Thing to stay away from the town of Perdition, his own hometown. It seems Perdition  was once a thriving mining community but when the sources of coal ran out, his father Abraham looked to the occult for answers and ended up disappearing from the town, the last citizen ever to leave. Swamp Thing takes the old man in his arms and soon enough finds Perdition where he is met with first hostility then hospitality, as Jason, the son of the old man greets him and thanks him for trying to save his father. A party is planned to greet this new visitor. Swamp Thing feels uneasy but is at least partially contented to be greeted with something other than threats. Meanwhile in an undisclosed location a looming eye opens and something strange begins to call out. At the party things go well enough until Jody, Jason's son disappears. His tracks lead to a mysterious mine called "Tunnel 13" and Swamp Thing volunteers to go inside to look for the boy. But he has been tricked. Once inside the mysterious caller is revealed to a quivering gigantic mass of living flesh named M'Nagalah who it turns out is an impossibly ancient entity who has witnessed the whole of creation on Earth and was freed from his prison by the spells of Abraham. M'Nagalah bonded with Abraham and absorbed him then began to call out for more flesh or mass hoping to build up to a critical mass in time for a cosmic alignment which will spell doom for mankind on Earth. Swamp Thing resists the call to join the mass and instead throws a support timber into the creature at the same time causing Tunnel 13 to collapse. Outside, Swamp Thing chastises the town for trying to sacrifice him and strides away. As he does he doesn't see that a tiny piece of M'Nagalah has bonded to Jason.

This decidedly Lovecraftian tale woven by Wein and Wrightson here is a beaut. Swamp Thing rubs up against the decidedly weird and lurid universe of Lovecraft exceedingly well as showcased here. M'Ngalah is a very creepy creation, and is introduced to us very slowly and effectively. Sadly I think the monster is defeated by Swamp Thing a tad easily, but the limits of the comic hurt that element.

It's very good to read a Swamp Thing story free of Conclave involvement and without the whining Matt Cable. Swamp Thing's odyssey needs this kind of free range activity. Swamp Thing needs more different people to react to, and to react to him. This story does a great job of turning the tables when he finds a town which ultimately greets him warmly, though for their own highly toxic reasons.

The little tag left by the creators that M'Nagalah might return is a sweet bit of storytelling. No need to throw away such a dandy baddie, and it certainly gives this vintage horror tale the final down beat it needs to send a chill.

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