Swamp Thing #1 (November 2011)
I will readily admit that I have mixed feelings about the New 52 universe-wide reboot DC has undertaken. Part of this is because I'm bitter that Xombi got axed, and part of this is the fan's inherent resistance to change -- but part of it is also because I flipped through some of the relaunched titles this week and found them surprisingly grim. Still, when I saw a copy of Swamp Thing #1 sitting in the 50 cent bin at a local comic show due to a dinged-up back cover, I wasn't about to pass it up. And boy am I glad.
The first issue of this series focuses on Alec Holland attempting to adjust to being human again after some time being Swamp Thing and living an entirely different life. There are allusions to events in the past, Superman shows up and indicates that his own death-and-return is still canon in some form in this new version of the DC universe, a fossilized mammoth skeleton disappears, and lots of good old-fashioned comic book weirdness takes place. It reminded me, in places, of the aforementioned Xombi, the proto-Vertigo titles of the late 80s and early 90s, and even some echoes of Junji Ito's less gruesome work. It hooked me, and I went from being dubious about the whole reboot event to wanting to follow at least one of the titles going forward. Check it out, even if you're not lucky enough to find it in the cheap-o bin like I was.
I'd like to say a few more words about the New 52. Now, this is the only relaunched title I've sat down and read cover to cover, but I read through a fair bit of three or four other titles at the stand before deciding not to pick'em up.
Scott Snyder has a bit of an edge on several of his fellow writers in this relaunch, because, unlike Superman or Martian Manhunter, Alec Holland/Swamp Thing has been out of the mainstream DCU for a while. This means that there's less of a burden of previous characterization to deal with -- a reboot by necessity requires some changes to the character, but going to far afield can be problematic. For instance, when I read through Action Comics and Stormwatch on Thursday, the portrayal of the Man of Steel as a wanted-by-the-law urban vigilante seemed bizarre, and J'onn J'onnz trying to bully Apollo into joining his team seemed both wrong-headed and off-key to me. I recognize that, as the universe has been rebooted, the characters won't be carbon copies of what they were prior to the relaunch, but that doesn't stop me from wondering about the decisions being made.
(I was happy to see that the Superman who appears in Swamp Thing seemed more in keeping with what I expect from Supes, and I can only assume from comments made that the Action Comics story takes place substantially earlier.)
On the flipside, the fact that Swamp Thing has been a part of the pre-boot DCU in the past makes blending him into the New 52 more straightforward than it is for characters from Wildstorm or Milestone. Swamp Thing fills a unique niche, while a character like Apollo has to go from being a Superman-esque figure in the Wildstorm universe to being a Superman-esque figure in the same universe as Superman (and Supergirl, and Superboy, and Martian Manhunter, and possibly Icon, and...) The world that gave rise to the Wildstorm characters was substantially different from the one that gave rise to the DC ones, and I'm not sure how the two will be blended together.
That being said, Swamp Thing has given me hope that at least some of the New 52 will be worth following. I may even go back and give some of the other titles that came out this week another chance.