Review: Swamp Thing #13 – Rotworld: The Green Kingdom – Part One
I love reviewing comics by Scott Snyder. Why? Because I love comics. I only
review comics because I love comics, and, loving them so, I hate when I’m forced to say
something negative about them. Scott Snyder rarely forces me to do this, and Swamp
Thing #13 is no exception. Here’s the thing, though – it should be, as it serves the role of
a transitional set-piece, getting us back into the swing of things after the blow-off valve
that was last month’s obligatory #0 issue (it wasn’t a dud, or anything, it just wasn’t
necessary, and interrupted the momentum of the just-beginning Rotworld crossover with
Animal Man – see my review elsewhere on the site).
It often helps, in understanding a comic book that you’ve read, or one that
you intend to write, to take a step back from the eye-candy artwork and kinetic action
sequences, and think about what really “happened” in the book. In the case of Swamp
Thing #13, in so far as it relates to the broader plot of Rotworld, all that happened was
that Alec Holland, titular Swamp Thing, was brought before the Rotworld’s Parliament
of Trees, and swore to fight the Rot on their behalf. It’s not an insignificant occurrence,
but it is quite singular in terms of what it “accomplishes” for the forward movement of
the Rotworld story. Issues like this tend to fall flat, hamstrung by their own un-ambitious
aims, but Swamp Thing #13 is as strong an outing as any, and, indeed, one of my
favorites of the run. Why? Read on!
It’s actually been a common complaint of mine for the duration of Snyder’s run
on Swamp Thing that, all too often, “not all that much” seems to happen in a given issue.
Indeed, the earlier arc of the run was rather “plot-light,” as the first few months saw Alec
Holland refuse to be Swamp Thing! This was certainly an interesting, bold, new choice,
and all the more worthwhile for it, but it made for a slow start, and seemed like Snyder
was spinning his wheels, waiting for something big that was building below the surface.
You can imagine him planning each issue: “In the first issue, he meets Abby, in the
second issue, she turns out not to be too friendly, in the next issue, they get in a tussle
with some baddies and we find out that she’s of the Rot, and in the next issue, Alec isn’t
powerful enough to save her without the power of the Green, and, in the next issue, he
finally becomes Swamp Thing!” This is fine, but it leaves a lot of empty pages, ably
filled by Snyder’s awesome narration boxes and Paquette’s eye-candy artwork, that
nevertheless feel light on “things that happen.”
I say all of that to better impress upon you, dear reader, how clearly that IS NOT
THE CASE HERE, which is even more surprising, given that this issue is a transition, a
welcoming-back, after the loss of momentum brought about by the zero issue. Perhaps,
false-starting at the gate he’d been waiting to reach since the beginning, Scott Snyder was
all the more revved up to get back into Rotworld, or perhaps issue #13 was going to be
this way all along. Either way, it rips, and the dressing around the main story-point (Alec
Holland aligning himself with Rotworld’s Parliament of Trees) is dynamite, carrying the
tension and momentum through to the end!
To start, we’re dropped right into the middle of things, as Swampy is confronted
by Deadman and Poison Ivy. The iconic, yet B-List, superhero cast of Swamp Thing is
always interestingly chosen, and Deadman makes a return from the Alan Moore days of
the book. Poison Ivy is a well-known Batman villain, but here, she’s allied with the
Green, a deeper-seated allegiance not seen in Gotham that comes to the forefront with the
arrival of Rotworld, as previously held standards become meaningless. I, personally,
have always wanted to see her brought into a Swamp Thing book, as her environmental
concerns make her motivations sometimes similar to those of Swamp Thing, himself.
Here, we gloss over the fact that she’s a villain and he’s a good guy, their alliance clearly
dictated by circumstances – but that just leaves me with hope for having that crossover
take place in a more normal continuity!
Anyway, after Deadman and Ivy confirm Alec’s identity, we’re treated to a brief
Abby scene. Our gal’s on an airplane, returning home to the Carpathians to
stop “something that will turn the world into a nightmare if [she doesn’t] stop it,”
complete with some poetically correct observations by Snyder on how a “bleak,” “stark”
mountain range with “no vegetation” and “thousand-foot drops everywhere” is a perfect
place to play home to the death-focused Rot, as it reminds you “that death is part of life.
That it’s part of what gives life value. That there’s something beautiful to it, too.” I
dunno, those sound like the words of a Rom – I mean Rot supporter, not a loyal Greenie.
Regardless, we’re treated to an amusing scene of a girl listening to headphones, staring
out the window, and being completely unaware of the Rot-infestation tearing through
Abby’s plane before being returned…
… to the Parliament of Trees, who explain to Alec Holland – a.k.a. The Swamp
Thing – that he’s somehow been absent for a year, though he and Animal Man seem to
recall having entered The Rot, intending to bring the fight to their enemy, mere hours
earlier. Apparently, this was a trick of Anton Arcane’s, and, though we’re told that he
used this advantage to press the forces of the Rot into our world, we’re still not told how
he managed to rob Alec and Buddy of all that time. Mysteries abound, as does the
prettiest art of the issue, as the Parliament clears things up for Alex, detailing the defeat
of the Green, and the perilous situation they find themselves in. For his part, Paquette
cuts loose, and it’s always nice to see one of his two-page, Swamp-Thing-Classique
spreads survive un-interrupted by advertisements. Here, he takes the opportunity to
provide a montage of Rotworld’s invasion of the DCU, trying his hand at Supergirl, Red
Robin, and a personal favorite, Princess Koriand’r Starfire, The Comic Buyers’ Guide’s
20th Sexiest Woman in Comics! I’m always a huge fan of seeing artists throw in a
character they typically don’t have a chance to draw; well done, Paq!
I know I made it sound really exciting, but what has happened so far is BO-RING!
Not boring to discerning comic readers like you or I, but definitely not something that
would keep a 6-year-old reading. May I direct yours (and my) inner 6 year old to the first
4 of the last 7 pages? Swamp Thing is called upon to defend the Parliament’s home, the
last Green place on Earth, and flies out with his allies, Deadman and Poison Ivy, to
deliver a righteous, verdant, butt-kicking to the forces of the Rot: zombified Teen Titans!
Turn the page once more for one of the awesomest two-page battle spreads of all time!
Five panels cross the two pages, with extra ones at the top and bottom for a total of
seven, and each one of them is filled with bloody, plant-ichor-y, zombified, Rotworld,
battle-type goodness! The excitement factor here is off the walls, in a battle that doesn’t
even seem to be a decisive one; it must be seen to be believed!
Just before the comic ends, we return to Abigail, in a scene narrated by the
Parliament of Trees, and we learn that, though she returned to the Carpathians to attempt
to stop Rotworld before it began, she died in a plane crash. This is rather sudden, and I
still don’t count it as “something that happened this issue” because Alec himself has yet
to learn of it! It’s always interesting to have your readers be a few steps ahead of your
character, but sometimes it can negatively affect the balance of your book. Again, this
issue manages to avoid each of the pitfalls it skirts so dangerously close to, making of
them strengths instead of weaknesses: Abby’s scenes are sparingly dotted into the book,
and always tie, in a narrative sense, into the main action revolving around Swamp Thing.
Damn! What an issue! I feel exhausted after reviewing it, and I’m not even the
one battling zombified Teen Titans! One could consider this the real beginning of
Rotworld, and it delivers in spades, setting the scene for a fight and a plotline that I can’t
wait to see play out! Even more impressively, it does so while navigating a veritable
minefield of potential failures, falling prey to none of them, and instead delivering one of
the stronger issues of Swamp Thing to date!
Apparently there’s an annual coming up, in addition to #14 in a month’s time?
See you then!