Swamp Thing began with some beautifully crafted yet thematically lacking issues a few months back. Whilst the B-movie styled story was a welcome shift back to a more grounded horror approach to the character it did come across as slightly underwhelming from a wider, series long perspective. That appears to no longer be the case with this third issue as the series’ creators put their best foot forward and made some real headway into crafting a compelling yarn with which to close out the remaining issues of this mini-series.
Len Wein had previously seemed content to stick to a monster of the week type of format with the Lazlo storyline. It was fitting for the character of Swamp Thing but it didn’t lend itself so well to such a limited run where every panel counts when it comes to telling a worthy story. With this issue he switched that up in favor of a further reaching story that will have serious ramifications for the characters involved.
From the outset you get the feeling that something is amiss when Matt Cable, an old friend of Alec Holland’s, appears with an offer that seems too good to be true. The way that Kelley Jones draws him gives the new arrival a sinister quality that fits perfectly with what transpires. He tells Swampy that, after years of searching, he has found what he believes could be a way to cure Alec and return him to his human form.
After this you get something of an introverted story that, whilst featuring Matt and Zatanna, deals more with the desire in Alec to be his old self again and spend whatever time he has left leading a normal life. It was an intelligent move by Wein to dedicate some time to explore the mentality of his creation a little more than in previous installments as it gave more reason to his decisions and led to the audience sympathising more with a character that is not overly relatable.
His self-exploration is further aided by Zatanna who gives him the other side of the argument as it pertains to him becoming human once more. She makes it clear that there will be consequences to such a powerful spell and, in a world weary way, he concedes that there are always consequences but sometimes it is just worth it. Zatanna herself is not overly exposed despite being one of just a handful of characters in this book and as such she retains the air of mystery that always surrounds the sorceress. Her relationship with Alec is enjoyable to see as it further grounds such an out there figure and gives the audience a way to empathise with him through her eyes.
The ending, which won’t be spoiled here, sets up a potentially explosive final three issues and gives more than enough reason for readers to return. It would be hard to simply miss out on the next one after that cliffhanger.
As briefly mentioned above, Kelley Jones, turns in yet more exquisite work as each location and character comes to life in a way that they previously haven’t. Swamp Thing in particular looks more menacing than usual in the opening few pages, the panel beneath features the best example of this dark tone.
Along with this he also depicts the emotion of the tale with loving detail. All three main characters take on their own unique expressions as events unfold and each one tells a story all of its own.
Whilst it is true that some elements of this book were neglected, the investigation in Lazlo being chief among them, it was still a step up from the previous one and gave hope that this could become a truly classic arc for Swamp Thing. One thing is for sure, you won’t want to miss what happens next.
Score: 4.8 out of 5.
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