Monday, 23 March 2015

Swamp Thing #40 [The New 52] - DC Comics

SWAMP THING No. 40, May 2015
As encouragements to cause a comic book collector to make an impulse buy go, the Jesus Saiz front page illustration to the fortieth and final issue of “Swamp Thing” ‘The New 52’ really does ‘tick all the boxes’. It is a tremendous piece of artwork by the “DC Comics” penciller and inker, which portrays all of the Avatars of the past, even those from Prehistoric times, grimly marching alongside the current incarnation of Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s co-creation. Unfortunately though the hopes for the enthralling read such an impressive piece of cover art creates in the mind’s eye are disappointingly dashed, once the first few pages of Charles Soule’s writing have been digested and the elemental entity leads his band of followers out from the watery depths of the Green back to our World.

Admittedly without a cumbersome ‘foreword’ at least providing the reader with a brief summary of past events, picking up the story during the last instalment of such a long-running series is always going to be a tough ask. But actually the New York Times best-selling author manages to do a reasonably good job of ‘naturally’ bringing everyone ‘up to speed’ as Swamp Thing is forced to brief his former selves as to what has previously occurred in order to convince some of them to accompany him in the grand battle against the mechanical Rithm.

Surprisingly it is the American attorney’s haphazard pacing of the climatic confrontation between vegetation and metal itself which causes this book to become so bitter an experience. One moment the “muck-encrusted mockery of a man” is telling his predecessors that they must fly to the North “near the Pole” in order to face the Machine Queen, and then a turn of the page later the reader is faced with a double-splash in the Gobi Desert as the Green’s army charges into that of both the Machine Kingdom and the Rot? Worse there is little in the way of explanatory dialogue provided by the characters concerned for the remainder of the comic, just a lot of flowery poetic prose, which is delivered almost as if it were a soliloquy.

The plot also abruptly halts mid-way through the battle, as Swamp Thing, close to being overpowered by a horde of robots, is suddenly and bizarrely sent crashing through the window of a library in Philadelphia? Besides this turn of events allowing the humanoid plant to become composed entirely of written pages, and the story be progressed by way of a double-page spread consisting of plain text, it isn’t really clear what is going on.

Yet somehow “the Swamp Thing, strengthened by his strange sojourn”, is suddenly transported back to “the battle in the desert against the forces of the Rithm”, allowing Soule to then narrate the briefest and hastiest of conclusions for the fight… as well as the purification of the Rot’s poison from the Grove.

Incomprehensibly, the material’s madness does not end there as having defeated and dismantled the Machine Queen, Alec Holland leaves the remainder of the Rithm’s essence contained within a small robot cat and simply plugs it into a shed wall socket before departing for one hundred years of solitude…

Equally as confounding is a similar departure in quality regarding the artwork of Saiz, who’s standard of pencilling seems to noticeably drop, along with the writing, as soon as the battle starts. Indeed by the time Swamp Thing has inexplicably been whisked away to the Paper Kingdom mid-fight, the artist’s panels have dishearteningly become little more than a pale shadow of the wonderfully rich and detailed drawing style found on the magazine’s attractively illustrated front cover.
Writer: Charles Soule, Penciller: Jesus Saiz, and Inks: Jesus Saiz with Javi Pina

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