When Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" said, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," she realized that she'd crossed a threshold or gateway into an unknown world of adventure*. For Alec Holland, the strange world of the Green was neither Kansas nor the Louisiana bayou. It was here where he had to learn how to master the power of the Green if he endeavored to remain its champion.
In the opening pages of "Swamp Thing Annual #2," Charles Soule effectively transported me into that world; a world he enriched with pre-history that continues to deepen the Swamp Thing mythos. The man knows story-telling. Soule provided Holland a patron to guide him in the journey. The Wolf was also once an Avatar, a champion of the Green. Now he resided there as a tutor of sorts. As he put it frankly, "Just humor me, Dr. Holland. The worst that happens here is you get to meet some of the more...interesting personalities residing in the Green." And met them he did.
Soule's employment of voice aptly colored the dialogue between Swamp Thing and the various "personalities" he met in the Green. I could hear Holland's sarcasm, doubt, anger and frustration. Artist Javier Pina complimented a spectrum of emotions with his renderings just as well as Soule and colorist Matthew Wilson did with words, pen and ink. Wilson transitioned from well-lit environments to the more dark regions of the Green with blended contrasts. The shift between the Wolf and the home of the Lady Weeds, another "personality" that assisted Holland in his lessons, helped move the story along for me. Kano illustrated and colored the "Blue Section" of the book. Here Soule introduced another tutor whom Holland recognized from his past. The beautiful hues in this half of the book provided striking and somber contrasts to the verdant green of the Swamp Thing himself. It stood as a reminder that with Holland there was also sadness.
I thought that some of the renderings of Swamp Thing was minimalist at best. Past artists have portrayed him with pain-staking detail. I saw glimpses of this in the beginning of the book. By the time I reached the end, there seemed to be less intricacy. Pina's pencils were serviceable on this book. Perhaps the deadline to make copy in time forced him to pay less attention to detail in order to finish the book. Maybe Kano was called in to help with such an undertaking as a DC annual. Who knows?
"Swamp Thing Annual #2" is a bridge. It's more "road less traveled" than "bridge too far;" but it's a bridge nonetheless. It's one that moved me from the bayou cliffhanger of "Swamp Thing #24" to the strange, green world where he'll battle his challenger in "Swamp Thing #25." It's the quiet before a storm filled with "plump, warm summer rain.**" It's a good jumping off point for new readers. I give "Swamp Thing Annual #2" four out of five stars.
*Interested in learning more about the Mono-Myth and the Hero's Journey, check out "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell.
**Moore, Alan. "The Anatomy Lesson." "Saga of the Swamp Thing #21." Saga of the Swamp Thing. DC Comics. February 1984.
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