Charles Soule has had an impressive run on "Swamp Thing" since taking the reins from Scott Snyder. What Soule has been able to accomplish is deepen the Swamp Thing mythos that Snyder breathed life into for the New 52. At the same time, he has distinguished himself apart from the Snyder run. His take on the book is fresh and thought-provoking. This is no less true of "Swamp Thing #25" where he pits Alec Holland against an usurper whom the Parliament of Trees have selected as their champion to challenge him for the title of Avatar.
In "Swamp Thing Annual #2," we discovered that there had been others who'd taken on the role as Avatar. It's also brought to light that these "champions" were selected by the Parliament of Trees and that they themselves were elected by past Avatars. The Parliament was shown to not always agree with one another. The political landscape of the Green seems to be an allusion to broken and archaic government.
Alec Holland is caught in the middle of this conflict of interest. Soule allows the character to struggle through it as well as with the revelation that the Green only sees him as another "cog in the wheel," if you may, to its own survival. At the end of the day, he could easily be replaced. But not without a challenger. This leads us to the mysterious Seeder (who was revealed to be Jason Woodrue in "Swamp Thing #24") and the Parliament's plans for him.
What Charles Soule has done in "Swamp Thing #25" is remind us that Alec Holland is vulnerable; that he is alone and has been lied to. He doesn't wish to submit his humanity to the monster that is the Swamp Thing. He seeks a balance in his identity with the Green. What Jason Woodrue represents is inhumanity. His wreckless abandonment of that humanity in order to acquire the power found in the Green readies him to do whatever the Green wants him to do. Even if that means wiping out humankind in an attempt to secure the Green's dominance. So the battle between these two stalwarts raged in the aptly entitled "Two Enter...One Leaves." Spoiler alert: one leaves, but not by choice.
Matthew Wilson's colors added a sharp contrast between greens and darks. In fact, we could see perhaps fifty different shades of green throughout the book (if you catch my drift). Jesus Saiz's two-page layout of the arena in which Swamp Thing and Seeder had their showdown captured the immensity of their environment: the Green was huge. His artwork was fluid, and it detailed the monstrosity of the green matter that makes up Swamp Thing's body mass (page 12, panel 1). As it was revealed in Annual #2, Swamp Thing can create copies of himself. We see this power at work in Saiz's pencils. Each copy was strange and yet familiar. We could recognize each as a unique version of Swamp Thing (page seven). He also did a fantastic job of drawing tangled, gnarled and stretched expressions of his powers. I particularly liked the fourth panel on page four. The way Swampy's face was drawn here reminded me of the mouth of the Sarlacc Pit in "Return of the Jedi." His rendering of Seeder, whose own face had also taken on a transformation starkly different from the one we saw in issue #24, was also drawn well. Of the characters that I'd imagine is difficult to draw in action, including Plastic Man, Groot and Mr. Fantastic, Swamp Thing is one of them. Saiz accomplished this. I hope both he and Wilson remain on the book.
I want to know more about Jason Woodrue's Seeder. Woodrue is a character that has appeared throughout the DC Universe for decades, most prominently as the Floronic Man. However, his re-introduction into the New 52 is still a mystery to me as a reader. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that whatever back-story Soule has planned for the character will come to light later. Still, those who are more adept on Swamp Thing mythology have me at a disadvantage as a new reader. But because the New 52 is...well...NEW; the book lacks reference points to previous stories in the Swamp Thing mythology. So there are no lettered boxes referring to issues or story lines written by Len Wein, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or others who were writing "Swamp Thing" well before Charles Soule.
I didn't start reading "Swamp Thing" until the start of Soule's run on the book. So I definitely have a lot of reading to do. However, I'd always had a on-again off-again interest in the character since I saw the "Swamp Thing" movie as a kid thirty years ago. So questions abound for me. How will Soule incorporate or ignore the already established mythology of Jason Woodrue, particularly that of Alan Moore who re-introduced him in "Saga of the Swamp Thing" #21 and #22 (1984)? In the blue section of "Swamp Thing Annual #2" penciled by Kano, a previous incarnation of Swamp Thing provided Alec Holland hope for maintaining his humanity. We saw the consequences of this hope played out at the end of issue #25. What's the back-story of this incarnation? How will it impact the mythology moving forward?
"Swamp Thing #25" is worth reading despite the questions I have above. It is also a good jumping off point for those interested in reading. Alec Holland has maintained his role as Avatar as embodied in the Swamp Thing for a long time. Of course in the New 52, not-so-long-a-time. He stands to lose this. Much like the Mono-Myth described by Joseph Campbell in "Hero with a Thousand Faces," Charles Soule has taken his character on a hero's journey. He's answered the Call to Adventure. He has had Helpers. He's crossed the Threshold. Now is the Test. Will Holland overcome it? We'll see in the next issue. I give "Swamp Thing #25" a four out of five stars.
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