Charles Soule is doing it. He's taking "Swamp Thing" to places some critics doubted he'd be able to do effectively in the New 52 after Scott Snyder left the book. His writing is really good. Soule did his research well for "Swamp Thing #26" as I'll briefly explain later. However, first off, spoiler alert: Jason Woodrue has replaced Alec Holland as the Green's champion. Swamp Thing was defeated by Seeder in issue #25 in a challenge to the title of Avatar of the Green.
As I suggested in my review of that issue, Holland, as the Swamp Thing, doesn't want to lose his identity nor his humanity to the Green. Woodrue, on the other hand, has no qualms about giving both of them up. Readers witness this in issue #26. In a twisted quest to satisfy what he believes the Green wants from him as the champion, Woodrue confronts the "enemies of the Green." First, he goes after Capucine, Swamp Thing's new friend whom he left behind in Louisiana. Next, he springs an attack on Animal Man (Buddy Baker) presupposing that killing the Avatar of the Red would seal his rightful place as champion in the eyes of the Parliament of Trees. He fails. However, he bourgeons ecological terror, in the end, on an unsuspecting factory in Peru that's responsible for cutting down acres of rainforests on a massive scale. This he does to make up for that failure. The quick establishment of Seeder as a malevolent "Green Man" interspersed with his origin story was genius to accomplish in one issue.
I also stated the earlier review that I wanted to know more about Jason Woodrue. Soule provides that. I asked the question, "How will Soule incorporate or ignore... the mythology..." brought to "Swamp Thing" by the Alan Moore runs of 30 years ago? In the course of reading this issue, I had to do my own internet search to understand a reference to "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," a late 14th century piece of Middle-English literature.* This story is part of the Arthurian legends. Many English scholars correlate the Green Knight to the "Green Man," a recurring motif associated with the earth and the environment.** Variations of this motif have been found in church architecture, myth, folklore and literature throughout history. According to Colin Beineke in his article "Her Guardiner: Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as the Green Man," "the characteristics, attributes, and ideologies connected with the motif allow Moore, through Swamp Thing, to present an analysis of the way in which modern America views the relationship between "nature" and "civilization""*** (Beineke, 2011). So, I too believe Soule blends these elements into an emotional read that showcases not only his own "adroit" attention to English literature and to "Swamp Thing" canon, but also demonstrates an antithesis of the Green Man in Jason Woodrue as a destroyer.
Jesus Saiz continues to wow me with his art. Seeder looks scary and gnarled like a patchwork of wood shavings. He's not "green" like the Swamp Thing. He's "other" as in more than just a different color. We can thank colorist Matthew Wilson for that. Moreover, Seeder's last lines in the issue, "Oh look...Christmas colors," in reference to his having destroyed that factory in Peru, shows just how malevolent he really is.
I used "God's green earth" in the synopsis to make a point. As a reader I am personally concerned about which direction Swamp Thing's association with the Green Man motif might go. Given Alan Moore's own connection with the occult and pagan belief systems, I fear that the book will solidly delve deeper into that territory. It doesn't surprise me. I'm comfortable with the Green Man as symbol. I'm uncomfortable with the Green Man as deity because that squarely places Swamp Thing into that category. Here's to hoping Charles Soule create opportunities in the storyline for more discussion about and challenges to that motif and others in forthcoming issues.
Again, "Swamp Thing" is a horror comic. It's written to make readers feel uneasy. I'm glad I've had a chance to read this issue from an opposing perspective while still being able to enjoy the story, the writing and the art. Beineke quoted Lee Rozelle regarding the spark for concern over the environment: "When does an awareness of home provoke terror and awe? When it's burning"**** (Rozelle, 2006). "Swamp Thing #26" ignited both.
*"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Wikipedia. 6 Dec 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Gawain_and_the_Green_Knight.
**"Green Man." Wikipedia. 6 Dec 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Man.
***Beineke, Colin. ""Her Guardiner": Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as the Green Man." . ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies. 5.4 (2011). Dept of English, University of Florida. 6 Dec 2013. http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v5_4/beineke/.
****Rozelle, Lee. Ecosublime: Environmental Awe and Terror from New World to Oddworld. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2006. Print.
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