Monday, 27 April 2015

Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones

Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette & others
Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones (2012)

Following on from my finding Peter Milligan's Red Lanterns borderline unreadable, it was proposed to me that I might direct my gaze elsewhere in DC Comics' newly reinvented cosmology, specifically to the Scott Snyder version of Swamp Thing.

'It's not as good as Alan Moore's Swamp Thing,' my informant told me, 'but it's better than the Mark Millar version.'

So here we are.

In case anyone missed the memo, DC Comics have been doing this sort of thing for a while, regularly rebooting its entire cast of characters back to their own year zero so as to avoid the ludicrous situation of anyone finding themselves required to draw Batman falling asleep in front of Countdown and not shitting himself before he's made it to the lavatory. I'm still not sure what to make of this development, although as I barely read the things these days my opinion would in any case probably be worthless. I was a massive fan of the version of this title which ran throughout the eighties and some of the nineties as written by Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, Doug Wheeler and others, and I can't really see that anything is likely to improve upon those issues. Apparently Swamp Thing has been revived twice since then, by which point I'd wandered off in another direction; and now here we all are, back to the beginning once more. Except it isn't exactly back to the beginning because it tells a story at the same sort of tangent to its earlier self as tends to arise from Hollywood adaptations. Similar situations and characters emerge seeming less like reinvention than someone playing with Alan Moore's toy box - the parliament of trees, the defender of the green as foretold by prophecy, broken necked chaps with their heads facing backwards, and so on. So it all feels at least a little familiar, even referencing what went before in obtuse acknowledgement of everything having returned to year zero, but all joined together in an unfamiliar configuration. Abigail Arcane has had a haircut, and she turns up on a motorbike with a shotgun which she points at the bad guy whilst growling you don't have to do this. Somehow it feels like a bad fit, given that Abigail Arcane probably isn't quite so essential to the founding mythology of Swamp Thing as, for example, is Lois Lane to that of Superman; but maybe I'm just too ingrained with the previous version of the story. Maybe I need to let go.

Actually, the story as spread across the seven issues of the comic collected here does seem to have a pace and dynamic closer to certain Hollywood conventions than was the case with the previous incarnation - just to squeeze out my penultimate winnet of objection-poo; but, for what it is, taking the new Swamp Thing on its own terms and ignoring the recycling, this is a more than decent effort. Excepting the intermittently wonky faces drawn by Marco Rudy for the fourth issue, the art is mostly fucking fantastic, and the writing is mostly pretty darn great, despite my reservations regarding some of the plot across which that writing is draped. I suppose, most importantly, the horror is at least as horrible as anything from Moore's run, which is after all the point of this title.

So yes, possibly better than Mark Millar's Swamp Thing - which I liked a great deal as it happens - and not quite up to Alan Moore standards, and whilst I have some minor reservations, this is a very respectable effort and an absolute pleasure to read.

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