In my last post I wrote about the second volume collecting Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing stories. One aspect of that collection that I purposely avoided discussing was the creature’s relationship with Abigail Cable, my reasoning being that that relationship was so complex, so touching, that it deserved its own post.
What can I say? I love a good love story.
When Abigail first appeared in the comics, I didn’t even consider her a love interest for Swamp Thing. Firstly, she was married. Secondly, Swamp Thing is a plant. I didn’t really see how there could be any romantic feelings between them. I just figured Abigail was a friend and confidante who cared about Swamp Thing and helped show the reader his humanity.
For the most part, it was that simple.
At least, until Abigail died.
Killed by the hands of her uncle Arcane (masquerading as her husband), Abigail’s soul had been banished to hell. In a strange yet somehow believable scene, her husband restores life to her body, but tells Swamp Thing he is unable to rescue her soul, before slipping into a coma.
This is the part where the creature’s true feelings start to show.
Rather than accept Abigail’s death, Swamp Thing delves into the very pits of hell, desperately seeking Abigail’s soul so that it may be reunited with her body and she may live. With other writers this may have seemed hokey, but Moore writes the story beautifully, balancing Swamp Thing’s tender emotions with the gruesome realities of Hell.
Retrieving Abigail’s soul proves no simple task, as Swamp Thing soon learns. He meets a number of vile demons along his travels, as well as a few he’s already familiar with, including Arcane himself. In this scene, Arcane asks Swamp Thing how many years he’s been in Hell, to which the creature responds:
I found this scene particularly disturbing, as it so accurately depicted the worst fears we have of Hell. Not only did this scene serve as closure, letting Swamp Thing and the reader know that Arcane will suffer for all eternity for what he did; it also showed just how deeply Swamp Thing cared for Abigail, willing to venture into such a god-forsaken place in order to rescue this woman’s soul.
Unlike other comics, I wasn’t sure how this one would end. After all, Swamp Thing is a horror comic. I haven’t seen anything yet to imply that there always has to be a happy ending here. Still, the creature perseveres, battling a number of demons and ultimately rescues Abigail’s soul and returns it to her body.
The reuniting of Abigail and Swamp Thing was not overwrought with sweeping declarations of love or passionate embraces. Rather, it was a quiet, sweet moment, yet one filled with unspoken emotion. Swamp Thing is so clearly overjoyed that he’s succeeded in bringing Abigail back from the dead. I’m glad that Moore didn’t spoil the moment with an unnecessary Hollywood-style ending to that issue.
Had the story been told differently, that could have been the end. Abigail and Swamp Thing could have remained fiercely devoted friends and nothing more.
Their relationship continues though, evolving organically, until one day when Abigail approaches Swamp Thing and professes her love for him. Swamp Thing is surprised, but nonetheless returns the affection, telling Abigail in his normal quiet, sweet manner that he loves her as well. In a moment that should have felt strange and awkward, Swamp Thing and Abigail embrace and share a kiss.
Luckily, Moore was pragmatic enough to not simply ignore the fact that we’re dealing with a human woman and a plant, which could pose some difficulties in the realm of physical love. Moore allows the pair the humility to acknowledge the barriers they may face, but manages to overcome them in a rather ingenious way. Swamp Thing feeds Abigail a fruit growing from his body, allowing her to ingest a part of him and experience the world as he does, feeling the organic connections between all living things in a euphoric trance-like state. I worried when this scene began that it would feel trippy and psychedelic, but not so. Instead, this scene was lovingly crafted, encompassing all that makes up the earth and allowing the reader to experience it through Abigail’s eyes.
The trade ends in this peaceful state, with Abigail and Swamp Thing embracing quietly. It’s the perfect ending to a sweet and lovely romance, one which was most unexpected but entirely welcome. In a way I’m glad the story ends like this. Although I know Moore continued the series, I can’t be sure these characters get a happy ending when all is said and done. I can at least be comforted knowing that in this moment Abigail and Swamp Thing are happy. Whether that happiness lasts is something I’ll just have to find out for myself.