There’s one thing that makes DC Comics’ The Swamp Thing such a mesmerizing series. It’s a horror series, but it’s full of beauty and joy. Writer Ram V, artist Mike Perkins, colorist Mike Spicer, and letterer Aditya Bidikar know that without joy and light, the darkness has no real effect. The Swamp Thing #10 is a textbook example of this approach. You won’t have any confusion around why this brilliant series got extended.
This is one of the darker chapters of The Swamp Thing. After the final pages of our last issue, it would seem that everything is going to fall apart. Yet V still fills these pages with so much optimism and magic. Even as Levi faces his brother, who is hell-bent on killing him, he isn’t full of rage or revenge. He’s thinking back on the times they spent together as children. And when we get to the twisted ending of this chapter, we see the bad guys still have a few cards up their sleeves. But so do our heroes. For every moment of horror and doom, V adds in a scene of happiness and hope. It’s a beautiful balance that helps readers really feel the stakes of this series.
The exact same thing can be said of Perkins’ stunning artwork. When his characters feel happy, you can’t help but feel it with them. When they feel terrified or furious, the intensity of their emotions gushes off of the page. But it’s in the marriage of these two extremes that Perkins’ art really shines. On one page, we see the quiet, simple scene of Levi and Jacob on a tire swing. We see Levi’s laughing face as he swings out, into the air. But overlaid on the page are three panels of death and destruction. One man stares at the reader, a mix of fear and fury in his eyes. And then we’re back to the boys and their tire swing, now seen as a silhouette against a gorgeous sunset.
Later, amidst the chaos of Mr. Pilgrim escaping the Swamp Thing, we see Pilgrim’s face briefly. He’s a villain. Perkins has previously depicted him as the kind of guy who could get away with wearing a flowing cape, dramatically playing an organ. He’s rotten, and we’ve seen the joy on his face when he’s made other people suffer. But now, he looks quietly terrified. Perkins is empathetic to this character. Instead of a villainous trope, Perkins presents us with a human being. Despite everything he’s done, you can’t help but feel for him. Even if it’s just for a second.
Spicer’s pages are truly breathtaking. And he absolutely dives into the double nature of some of his colors. At first, we see his dazzling oranges used as the backdrop to a charming scene of childhood innocence. The orange sunset paints everything in its wake, giving these scenes a golden hue. Later, the same colors are used to show the fires of destruction. And it’s in The Swamp Thing #10‘s bleakest scene that we really see Spicer’s work in its full glory. He strips back the scene, making everything look grey and lifeless. And as hope slowly finds its way back in, so do Spicer’s colors. Spicer has the ability to make everything look gorgeous, while also giving every shade and tint a deeper meaning.
Bidikar’s lettering is really something to behold. We see the calm, casual cadence of Jacob talking to the Swamp Thing, in the midst of battle. His font stays the same size, his words are rarely even bolded. He isn’t frightened or desperate. Later, when we see Jennifer Reece yelling at Mr. Pilgrim, her word balloon is surrounded by a thick red border. “You won’t get away with this!” she yells in bold. But her font isn’t huge, her words don’t try and break past the border of her word balloon. Bidikar hints that even as she says it, Reece knows her words are pointless. And later, Bidikar shows us what true desperation looks like. The Swamp Thing gasps for breath, he screams, and the “GNAAAH!” sound he makes barely sits in his word balloon at all. It reaches out far, just as he urgently reaches out for life.
DC Comics’ The Swamp Thing continues to be a beautiful and compelling series. Part of the magic of it comes from this creative team refusing to create something that’s monotonal and bleak. Instead, they have created a series that has just as much hope as it has terror. The result is a balanced, poetic, moving series that thankfully is getting a well-earned extension. Pick up The Swamp Thing #10, out from DC Comics December 7th, at a comic shop near you!