Friday, May 7, 2010

Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (W), John Totleben (A) and Steve Bissette (A) part 2

Dagnabbit.  Been staying up later for social stuff and getting up slightly later.  Let's finish this thang.

Continued from yesterday.

Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 1A funny thing about the trade paperbacks for Alan Moore's run of Swamp Thing is that none of them contain issue# 20.  To get that issue, you have to either purchase the comic separately or buy the new hardcover edition from DC Comics, but from what I can tell, each hardcover edition is not necessarily longer than each corresponding paperback (with the exception on the first volume that has issue# 20.)  It is probably cheaper to buy the trades, unless you have the cash.

Swamp Thing issue# 21 is where Alan Moore really begins his tale.  Having wiped the slate clean, with the hero of the series dead on a slab in a refrigerated laboratory, Moore is ready to begin his real reworking of the character and that is where the book moves from hit-or-miss entertaining, to completely fascinating.

***SPOILERS for the second Moore issue and a couple of other plot points, but seriously just read it.***

The second Moore issue opens with Dr. Jason Woodrue, a convicted superhuman criminal called the Floronic Man, who is also a plant based creature similar to the Swamp Thing.  Woodrue has been released by the aged head of the Sunderland Corporation to conduct an autopsy on the body of the swamp monster, Alec Holland, and as a result of Woodrue's specialization in botanical science he is granted a reprieve from prison to conduct his work.  The Dr. is intrigued by the creature and readily agrees to conduct the experiment, but it is his findings that completely turn the tone of the series on its head.

Woodrue, while conducting the autopsy, finds that inside the swamp creature are masses that are meant to be the internal organs of a human being.  There is a heart, kidneys, lungs and all other organs, but they are made of plant based materials with no real functioning purpose.  Capillaries are much too thick to carry blood or oxygen, lungs too thick to expand and contract, and the kidneys are solely a mass of vegetation...useless.

Dr. Woodrue theorizes that Alec Holland believed that he had fallen into the swamp and that his bio-restorative formula had changed his flesh and bones into a plant, but that was not the case.  He reads some research concerning planarian worms that are taught to run a maze, that are then diced up and fed to a planarian worm that has never run the maze before, and upon consuming its more knowledgeable kin, gains the ability to work the maze.  Woodrue's theory is that the Swamp Thing was never a man trapped in a monster's body, but actually the result of the swamp plants (monster) absorbing the bio-restorative formula and also the memories of Alec Holland.  In the end, there was only the monster who thought it was Alec Holland, not the actual Alec Holland who was indeed dead.

The head of Sunderland ends up not liking the findings and fires Woodrue before the Dr. has the chance to finish the tale and threatens to have him thrown back into prison.  The critical part of Woodrue's findings is not that Alec Holland the man is dead, but that the Swamp Thing--who thinks he is Alec Holland--is not only a plant that thinks it is a man, but that it is a plant that is still very much alive.  In a final act of vengeance on Sunderland, Woodrue turns off the freezing apparatus to allow the Swamp Thing to thaw, grow a new body and to find his reports.  Needless to say, the creature is enraged to discover that he can never again regain his humanity. 

From there, the Swamp Thing kills the head of Sunderland, goes into a catatonic state, Woodrue gains the ability to control all plant life on the planet and vows revenge on the world of meat, and Alec's friends try to wake him.  All of these events occur in only issue# 21 and 22, and the rest of Alan Moore's run becomes even more complex and involved.  Swamp Thing dances into the realm of folklore and myth, into dreams and nightmares, and into love and intolerance in such beautiful and infuriating ways that I always have a difficult time putting the book down.  Moore's love and wonder of nature are at the heart of the series and coupled with the beautiful...and at times of Bissette and Totleben, you are pulled into their wonderful world of benevolent Swamp gods and demonic threats.

One of my all time favorite comics that I cannot recommend highly enough.  Dammit.  Now I need to reread this one again too.

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