Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Swamp Thing #1 Review (Len Wein, Kelley Jones)

Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein returns to his character for a new run with artist Kelley Jones in a throwback to older comics that DC’s elderly (guys in their 40/50s) audience are sure to enjoy! Younger readers who aren’t fanboys though are probably gonna be pretty bored with this one. 

A couple of parents approach Swampy after their son Lazlo goes missing at the ominously named Crowley College for the Evolving Arts. Why involve the faculty or the police, when you can just go straight to a swamp monster for answers, right?! It seems some demented “professor” decided to kill Lazlo in an experiment to bring him back to life - and sort of succeeded. Except now Lazlo looks inhuman and is exacting revenge on his former classmates! I guess that’s why most universities don’t kill their students as a general rule. Also, Phantom Stranger appears for no reason.

Wein reminds us that he came from an older generation of comics writers right from the first page with narrative boxes full of pseudo-novelistic sentences: “The mournful moan of the rusting midnight freight train in the distance, struggling to find its way home”, and “The sibilant hiss of the primordial alligator, lounging in stoic anticipation of its next meal.” I was sick of this trying-too-hard writing style by the end of the issue - it’s not atmospheric, it’s lame, not to mention redundant. 

Also like in older comics, our main character talks out loud constantly, whether he’s fighting an alligator or wandering the swamplands helpfully informing the reader of his recent history of the Parliament of Trees. But compared to the talents of Scott Snyder and Charles Soule, who both wrote Swamp Thing in the last few years, Wein’s style feels corny and outdated, a step backwards for the title as a whole.

If this first issue is anything to go by, this is a more traditionally horror angle to Swamp Thing than what modern readers will be used to. And what better artist to have on board for that approach than Kelley “Vampire Batman” Jones? His heavy ink style fits the dramatically gloomy mood while his characters’ usual exaggerated/warped physiques perfectly fits the morphing Swamp Thing who’s constantly being torn apart and re-knit throughout this comic. 

Older readers and fans of Wein’s Swamp Thing books will probably enjoy this one but for readers who’ve enjoyed Scott Snyder and Charles Soule’s fast-moving, modern, epic and inventive storytelling, this newly relaunched Swamp Thing is unlikely to excite in quite the same way. Its small scale makes it feel like a Scooby-Doo comic sans Scooby. Len Wein and Kelley Jones’ Swamp Thing #1 is a dreary comic that feels at least twenty years out of date.

Swamp Thing #1

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