Thursday, September 6, 2012

Swamp Thing #0

The Swamp Thing's Origin has already been fleshed out (ha ha!) pretty nicely so far in the New 52. Alec Holland was resurrected by The Parliament of Trees in a desperate attempt to get their Warrior King back from the discard pile. The Preboot version of Swamp Thing was apparently a messed up simulacrum of Alec Holland merged with the Green. But now that Alec was alive, the Green's great warrior could be created if only Alec would agree. He eventually does and becomes the best Swamp Thing of all time. What more needs to be said? Maybe the Origin of Alec Holland which will consist of 20 pages of his parents fucking in a seedy motel?

Well, the comic definitely begins in Origin territory by stating it takes place in Manitoba in the year 1897. A young girl has braved the harsh cold which has been killing everything to find the legendary Green Man near her home.

It's a twist!

I told Marcus To that I don't say it enough when it happens so let me get this out of the way now that everyone has seen the art: I really like this art. It's only been three pages or so and I don't know how it'll play across the horror aspect of the book, but Kanu has captured the snowy environment and the young girl beautifully on the first pages. And now, the Swamp Thing is brilliant. He looks skinny and malnourished which should be expected after a long winter and probably a long life living in the cold environment. While the current Swamp Thing is a hulking beast of a creature because it lives in the swamps and filled with all the disgusting nutrients it needs.

Well, my question about how the horror aspect will come across with Kano is answered the very next page.

That's actually pretty disgusting.

And Arcane is not quite done being disgusting.

This Swamp Thing was obviously a lover. And perhaps a little bit hors d'oeuvre.

In just a few pages, Swamp Thing Zero has done everything right. Well, at least "right" in the way that I think things should be done. Which means I'm using right in an incorrect and self-indulgent way. But at least I'm aware of my narcissism which makes me at least 95% more self-aware than the rest of the human race, you bunch of Goddamned self-involved monkey men. What else can I say here that I can stick a "self" in front of? How about self-pleasure. That's probably my favorite!

I should probably explain the stuff I found right about this issue. The young girl seemingly on a mission to help her community turns out to be the Avatar of The Rot. It's a really nice moment especially since Anton as the girl risks his life to find The Swamp Thing. He's actually healed by The Swamp Thing in its cabin before it transforms. The transformation is well done. The girl is not just the monster Arcane transformed but a suit, a skin of mortal flesh which Anton explodes out of. All of these things twist the familiar by making what we thought safe and inviting and good the exact opposite of these things. And then the expected battle between Avatars, the battle comic book readers are taught to expect, turns into two panels where Arcane eats The Swamp Thing's face. The panel where Anton chews off The Swamp Thing's eyes, where he blinds him in one go, is the essence of disturbing. And at this point, it's simply a formality since Swamp Thing's eyes (as the readers) did not work to clue him into the danger anyway. He was actually blind before the moment his eyes are eaten. This is near perfection of the Unheimlich, the uncanny, I was asking for earlier. I would stand up and applaud Snyder but I don't want to scare my cat.

After this moment, the action moves ahead 110 years into the future. Anton Arcane is still the Avatar of the Rot and he's maneuvered himself into close proximity of Alec Holland before he becomes The Swamp Thing.

Now Anton is obviously an Avatar that doesn't give a shit about balance. The Swamp Thing he killed earlier had no overreaching ambition at all. He was content to let the harsh winter go on even longer since it was just a natural, if seemingly cruel, part of the cycle. But Anton needed to interfere to keep it going. So Anton has been an interfering bastard Avatar of the Rot for the entire 20th Century. Is this commentary on our times by Snyder? Could Anton have been the major influence to usher in the nuclear age? Or at least an age that was willing to use nuclear power in such a destructive way?

Anyway, so Anton has felt Alec's amazing connection to The Green and is ready to murder him before he becomes The Swamp Thing.

Anton is the dungeon master with the beard and the ponytail.

Alec is toasting monsters because the bio-restorative formula he's created could not have been possible without the "Monster-Fruit" plant. But the toast causes Anton to become nostalgic for all of the "monsters" he's killed across the years. It seems he's killed many Avatars of the Red and Green, keeping The Rot overpowered through 100 years. And Snyder and Kano continue to hit it out of the park with their depiction of a truly horrible monster in Arcane.

Not quite as whimsical as the zealots tossing toddlers into Monster Lake in Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE.

That last panel is just such a brilliant perversion of a proud parent gazing lovingly at his baby through the window of the maternity ward.

The Green managed to hide Alec Holland from The Rot for about thirty years longer than the baby above. Anton (as Dr. Ross) invades the Holland home with a shotgun to put an end to The Green's hope. But he's noticed by Linda Holland, Alec's wife. She bashes the intruder in the face but then stops when she realizes it's Dr. Ross. But when she notices that through his torn flesh she can see a monster, it's far too late. And since Anton now needs new skin, he takes hers.

This issue gives me so much hope for this series once they get all of the crossover bullshit out of the way. Let Snyder tell tales like this! This is horror comics at their best. Snyder and Kano have subverted nearly everything that should be good and loving and life-affirming. And now they've taken (yes! They! The creators! It's not Arcane's fault! He's an innocent victim of the writer's disturbed mind) Alec's wife from him and are going to use her as the instrument of his destruction.

No wonder Alec had such a hard time dealing with his resurrection way back in Issue #1. He was mind fucked pretty hard in his last life.

Now he's just toying with the poor bastard.

This is a good example that not every story needs to be a universe shattering dilemma. Anton Arcane has caused The Rot to be the strongest influence over the world for a full century. But he hasn't destroyed the world. His pursuit of killing Avatars is more personal than some large plot by The Rot. He just enjoys the shit out of the killing. And while there is a lot at stake where the balance of power is concerned, this story is primarily a horror story involving a single human and the tragedy that awaits him at the end of the book. I like my horror comics with more horror and less worldwide plots and conspiracies. That's the fucking normal world!

Anton leaks the bio-restorative formula and turns on a Bunsen burner. The place blows up, setting Alec on fire. And the rest plays out as it did before. Alec runs into the swamp and dies. His body is not incorporated into The Swamp Thing although a small piece of him gets trapped within it which is why he retains the memories once his body is resurrected five years later.

The Swamp Thing #0 Rating: Best Horror Story of The New 52. Fucking brilliant. No, no! Fu-motherfucking-cking brilliant!

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