The Saga of The Swamp Thing: Volume Two

It would be an understatement to say I sped through this second installment in the Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing.

I devoured it.  I couldn’t put it down, and I shirked numerous responsibilities in order to finish it.

And now here I am, completely bereft of any continuation to the story, knowing full well that the remaining collections have not yet been added to “the shelf”.

I believe this is usually the point in a comic where the scene pans out to provide a bird’s-eye view of the protagonist while a lengthy “Nooooooooo” is stretched across the sky.

Yes, I am fully likening my lack of closure with this story to the many tragedies that have befallen any number of superheroes.

Also, I may be slightly melodramatic.

I just enjoyed these stories so much.  As I mentioned last time, I went into this series knowing nothing about Swamp Thing, and honestly felt unsure whether I would really enjoy the character.  Well, I can safely say now that I am definitely a fan.

This second volume begins with a similar tone as the first, a slow-moving, introspective storyline focusing on Swamp Thing’s mental state and his attempts at dealing with learning that he is not really human.  In the first issue collected here, he is haunted by the ghost of Alec Holland, the man he once thought he was and whose memories and thoughts he now possesses.  Desperate to bury the past, the creature recalls Alec’s last few moments in an effort to rid himself of this ghost.  After realizing that Alec’s remains are still in the swamp, he locates them and, in a very tender scene, gives them a proper burial.

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Throughout this entire issue Swamp Thing is highly introspective, posing philosophical questions such as, “How deep must one dig to bury the past?”  The storyline itself is well done, but it is the superb narrative that truly holds this story together and gives it a sense of poignancy.

As with Volume One, this collection featured a few random appearances from outside forces, helping to ground the story in a larger reality.  One such figure is the mysterious watcher, orbiting the earth and monitoring all that occurs.

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We do not know who he is at this point, but for now he serves as the omniscient, god-like figure overseeing all of Earth’s activities.  Although his appearance is brief, I’m very curious to learn who he is and what role he may play in any future storylines.

Many other DC characters appear or are alluded to within the pages of this comic.  Deadman shares a scene with Swamp Thing, an inclusion that managed to feel perfectly natural.  Perhaps the most jarring appearance by another character, however, was the brief image of The Joker:

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Had other writers used such a tactic, I might have found it cheesy and unnecessary.  Therein, perhaps, lies the genius of Moore’s writing.  He often includes narrative asides which reference unknown individuals, meant to imply the wideswept mood of the particular issue.  In this instance, he simply included DC characters rather than a handful of “ordinary” people.  The note made in the panel above, that “The Joker’s stopped smiling”, is so simple yet so incredibly powerful.  Even people unfamiliar with the Batman comics likely know Joker’s propensity for smiling, and the fact that he has stopped implies that something must be very, very wrong in the world.

Such is the brilliance of Moore’s writing.  He makes connections to a larger world without detracting from his central story.  In this way he creates a complex background on which his character’s lives take place.  He reminds the reader that these characters are but a small part of a much larger universe, even as we become completely enraptured with their individual stories.

That may be one of my favorite parts of Moore’s writing.  So many superhero stories take place in big cities, featuring villains who are hell-bent on destroying the entire planet.  In Swamp Thing, we see a departure from that.  Yes, there are one or two villains seeking to take over the planet, but many of the stories deal with much more personal struggles.  Whereas Superman or Wonder Woman are often fighting to save the whole world, Swamp Thing is fighting to save his world, be it his backwater swampland in Louisiana or his dear friend Abigail.  His battles hit much closer to home, and indeed are even sometimes within himself.  Swamp Thing is a creature forced to face down his deepest emotions, all for the sake of protecting those few things he holds most dear.

Obviously, I’ve grown attached to this series after only two brief collections.  I desperately want to read more, perhaps moreso than any other comic I’ve read so far.  I want to buy Mistah J all of the remaining books in Alan Moore’s run.  Scratch that: I want to own all of these books.  I am not a comic collector, but these stories are definitely worth owning.  Until such time as I can continue reading these brilliant stories, I’ll just have to be left wondering where they go from here.

-Jess

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