Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Stephen Bissette, John Totleben
Review by: Bill Jones
Len Wein has the incredible honor of calling himself creator of X-Men’s most popular character, Wolverine, but it wasn’t until the writing duties were handed off to Chris Claremont that the character truly came into his own. In similar fashion, Wein also created a major character for the other camp, DC, in Swamp Thing. But it wasn’t until a feature film necessitated a revival of the character that comics’ living legend Alan Moore came along and made the monster a relevant entity.
Saga of The Swamp Thing collects the beginning of Moore’s run, issues 20 through 27, on the series, with an intro by Wein. In true Moore fashion, the writer in many ways kills off the series’ titular character in the first issue, only to deconstruct him (in an autopsy, no less) in the second issue and reinvent him completely. The drastic changes somehow do wonders to make Swamp Thing an endearing character, despite the fact that it first enlightens the reader that Swamp Thing never really made sense, then takes away the humanity of the beast, leaving it a glorified vegetable monster.
Mix this up with a villain who is out to seek revenge against humanity on behalf of plant-life, and comic fans have a fairly ridiculous storyline on their hands. But Moore uses the loss of humanity and the deep notions of fear to make readers think, and his prose is so engaging that it is easy to ignore (or accept) the outlandish surface value of the comic. A couple of the issues seemingly lose their structure, but all in all, Moore does a fantastic job of blending social issues with a plea for environmental awareness, alongside the horror traditions of Swamp Thing.
The art is notably in the early 1980s style, which may throw modern readers for a loop and can be a bit cheesy. The panels are a mixed bag, but generally do a solid job of conveying the horror-action of Swamp Thing, as well as some of the more tender moments.
While Swamp Thing still may not rank among the top-tier comic characters, Moore’s run is a great showcase of his early writing, and is notable as being his first major stint with a mainstream American comic series. Whether readers have previously had any interest in the character or not, Saga of The Swamp Thing: Book One, provides a great take on Alec Holland…or rather the green monster that enveloped the sentience of Alec Holland.
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