Review: Swamp Thing #4

Scott Snyder continues telling great stories in this one-two Green-Red punch combo with Jeff Lemire's Animal Man.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Swamp Thing #4

As with the other indescribably excellent series Animal Man, Swamp Thing is getting better and better with each issue. Even though Swamp Thing #4 is setting the stage for the next part of the story arc, it’s still better than most other comics out there. Writer Scott Snyder, or as I think I shall call him from now on "The One," opens Swamp Thing with one of the most disturbing scenes in comic history. It’s the kind of thing that belongs in the best issues of EC horror comics.

Picture, if you will, a small diner in the Midwest. A boy, a young boy, walks in and acts for a milkshake. Suddenly every single dead thing on any person in the diner begins to mutate. From dead skin cells to small tumors, the diner becomes a mass grave of things exploding out of skulls, vomiting out of mouths, bleeding from ears and other orifices.  While this carnage goes down the boy, an avatar of an evil called The Rot, sits and eats his milkshake.  The opening is so creepy and disturbing that the calm of the rest of the issue is welcome.

Like Animal Man, Swamp Thing goes into great detail about the constant battle for balance between the Green and the Red. Alec Holland, still reeling from returning from the dead, has partnered up with Abigail Arcane to try and stop her brother, the young man in the milkshake scene. Swamp Thing #4 takes us into Alec Holland’s mind as he’s visited by the ancient avatars of the green that try to persuade him to accept the mantle of Swamp Thing. Holland is still haunted by the memories of his time as part of the green and, having only recently gotten his own life back, is in no rush to be Swamp Thing. Of course if he doesn’t accept the mantle the war with The Rot may turn against humanity.

Snyder’s Swamp Thing is as much about the humanity as Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. Both are stories of heroes who doubt themselves and both are about the fear of accepting your destiny. Where as Lemire’s Animal Man is family oriented, Snyder’s is a more personal story centered on Alec Holland and his struggles with being back as himself as opposed to part of a greater consciousness. Holland just got his life back and now he may have to become part of the swamp again. The rift that creates in his life is a major part of the entire story. Snyder deftly winds between action, horror and humanity.

The art from Marco Rudy is a massive part of what makes Swamp Thing #4 work. The opening scene is incredibly gruesome but also really creepy. Rudy has an interesting style in that his lines are strong but the panels are still tuned with a fine art sketch vibe, very detailed. The visuals are always right in tune with the story, neither really ever overshadows the other. Swamp Thing #4 continues Snyder’s quest to add his own verse to the Swamp Thing mythos.