An animated, moss-encrusted monolith jettisons from beneath his bayou dwelling, towering above the various life forms and vegetation. He seldom speaks polysyllabically, though the very timbre of that voice levels the fearsome compulsions in the hearts of enemies.
He is the Swamp Thing – and no, this is not your standard horror series.
Originally conceived in 1972, “Saga of the Swamp Thing” ran a mediocre course until it hit a rough patch in 1976. It was then revived in 1982 to cash in on Wes Craven’s film release of the same name, but subsequently hit financial troubles. Finally, in 1984, for “Saga of the Swamp Thing 21,” acclaimed author Alan Moore was given free reign over the series and to reinvent it in any way he saw fit.
What followed was a Moore-caliber masterpiece.
No longer is the Swamp Thing the transformed form of Alec Holland, a scientist murdered in the swamps of Louisiana. Instead, Moore reveals that he is an organic earth elemental with a personality and memories like those of Holland via planarian worms – creatures that ingested his embedded consciousness and released it into the swamp, effectively creating a copy.
Moore’s first trade paperback covers issues 21-27, which primarily deal with Swamp Thing’s new origin, his subsequent reaction and heroics upon acceptance of who he is.
Older supporting characters like Abigail and Matthew Cable return, though many others do not.
A particularly delightful arc depicts a story involving Floronic Man, who was once human Doctor Jason Woodrue, a villain of yesteryear who returns to the pages of “Swamp Thing” after a lengthy sabbatical. Woodrue is given considerable depth as a quasi-tragic character driven by a desire to understand.
The story is at once exciting and thought-provoking, as Moore lends sympathy to this creature who initially longs for a humanity that never even existed. With the sparse presence of the Justice League, this series is arguably more fun and less analytical than much of Moore’s original faire, though it is hardly a brainless read. As a matter of fact, Moore continuously challenges his readers to address tough, environmental questions while maintaining a sense of suspense and sensitivity.
The art was handled by Steve Bissette and John Totleben, who should both be commended for their realistic portrayal of human proportions. Frantic lines serve as an apt symbol for the chaos within this first installment of Moore’s reimagining.
Former dressmaker Tatjana Wood lends her inks as the book’s colorist, providing vivid hues, which were praised by Ramsey Campbell in its forward.
A fantastic, progressively green adventure, the first collection of issues in the revamp of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” is enough leave you breathless on a cerebral high, even in today’s considerably faster-paced world.
An instant classic.