Alan Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing” forever changed the landscape of comics. Moore’s unique approach to the narrative allowed Swamp Thing to straddle the line between comic and graphic novel. The prose passages create a sense of dread without ever dipping into voice over narration. The result is a horrific tale of man who has lost himself entirely to something else.
Alec Holland is dead, and the Swamp Thing lives on in his image. With incredible work by Steve Bisette and John Totleben the book manages to chill with every page. The stories here hit topics such as the manifestation of fear, the corruption of the green, and reclaiming your humanity. It’s a pulse pounding examination of the reluctant anti-hero. If you haven’t had the chance to read Moore seminal work on Swamp Thing, now is the time.
For those who are not familiar with Swamp Thing the hero is the living vegetated remains of scientist Alec Holland. Moore introduces us to his story through scientist Jason Woodrue a man who is obsessed with Swamp Thing. Woodrue studies the frozen remains of the creature in hopes of understanding it. The result is a long mediation on the nature of life. Moore raises the question of Swamp Things very existance. Is he the remains of Alec Holland, or is he a plant with the memory of Holland?
In typical Moore fashion the answer isn’t simple. The majority of the first arc has Swamp Thing coming to terms with its own existence. Bisette and Totleban send us through a trippy journey into the subconscious as Swampy tries to regain his humanity. The art here hits full stride, the warped sense of Holland’s memory is aided by the incredible dynamic art.
Abigail Arcane is a fixture here, and helps Swampy regain part of himself. Through his love he gains humanity. Abigail is married and moved on, but her relationship serves to help Swampy. Without her, he would only have his crippling loneliness. Even the Justice League doesn’t quite understand the Swamp Thing. He truly is the outcast of the universe.
Moore ensures to imbue the creature with a certain sense of loss. He finds a hard time identifying with his role in the world and spends time contemplating his purpose as the seasons change.
The second arc deals with the manifestation of fear. Abigail picks up a new job assisting young children with autism. Quickly a variety of demons descend upon the school and put every one of the children in peril. Swampy arrives and defends his love just within the nick of time.
The story allows for some distance from the narrative. The reader is asked to contemplate the nature of existence and fear. The incredible art by Bisette and Totleban will chill even those with the thickest skin. Their depiction of the monstrous creature the Floronic Man is incredible. The panel of his melting face as the JLA arrive to take him into space is horrifying. It is the face of an anguished man, stuck between different natures of existence.
Moore’s run on Swamp Thing brings adult themes into comic books. This was a time when Swampy was brushed off as something less. Moore helped redefine horror comics, and adult themes. Saga of the Swamp Thing isn’t your typical comic book. It is a thoughtful mediation on one’s role within the world and how that role relates to themes of fear and identity.
We all have felt alienation but what if it never went away?
Do we adopt the mantle of responsibility and carry it with us or do we give up?
Moore poses these questions on the hero who may have been the least able to answer them. However, after finishing this first volume you’ll realize the magic in Moore’s narrative approach. It will entertain, it will scare, and it will make you think. What more can you ask for?
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