Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review time! 'Saga of The Swamp Thing' Books One and Two.

There is always at least 'one thing' you've always been meaning to see/read/get. For me, 'Swamp Thing' by Alan Moore (Bisette, Totleben too) was at the very top of my very long list of 'one things I really must get'... and so here, at last, is a review from me about something that really should be on all self-respecting comic afficionado's shelves -
So, what did I think? So much has already been written - much of it more sophisticated than I can manage here. Consequently it'll be unecumbered by the weight of any specific expertise - and you might agree with none of it. But I hope, as a result, you'll go and read it yourself (if you haven't already done so).

First impressions? What struck me straight away, is that the narrative is more dynamic than I had expected. Even during 'introspective' moments there is a real sense of movement, both in the drawing and in the 'scripting'. In part this is  driven by the non-standard framing. It's responsive to, and part of, the narrative itself. I think also the simplicity of colouring and the uncluttered content of the frames keeps the reader focussed. The writing does makes full use of speech and expositional/narrative text boxes, mostly though, these are short -and intense. I've read back issues of 'Uncanny X-Men', for example, where the dialogue seems to be swamping the story. There's a lot to 'read' but there is a real sense of balance.
Yes, there are many moments of 'introspection' which is the second most important feature of these collections. SwampThing (a a character) cuts an existential figure. He (?) struggles with the nature of his existence and, though the pages of these two books at least, begins to grasp that indeed, he is the sum of what he says and does. Not what he was. Not what he may yet become.
I think that last sentence encapsulates much of the 'story' in these first two books. Swamp Thing has to discover who or what he is, it's a very human set of desires. Yet he is quite clearly not human. He doesn't do human things of necessarily feel in human ways and this is one of the things he has to learn. Interestingly, Swamp thing is not the only one learning about themselves - Abby, Matt, Dr. Woodrue, Arcane...villains and heroes alike appear to be on journeys themselves and, as a reader, that sense of charcter exploration is a further factor in what makes these books so engaging.
There is a lot that's odd here too  - mystical, spiritual moments (Yes, I know - and in the 1980s too!), etherial, non-sequential moments. There are elements of gothic horror, science-fiction, philosophy, hallucinations, zombies, super heroes, resurrections and in one episode wierd aliens land are eaten by alligators. You could argue that it's sometimes challenging, not always strightforward, unclear and, well just plain too odd.
But enough said. Your turn. I'm off to buy Book Three.


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