Summary

LEGEND OF THE SWAMP THING HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR #1 is a satisfying collection of short stories that tell tragic tales with an alternate version of Swamp Thing throughout history. There are more hits than misses with each story, and it's a melancholy collection that will put you in just the right mood for the holiday. Happy Halloween!

REVIEW OVERVIEW

At The Heart Of Trees
Ring Of Stones
Sleeping Giant
No Sign Of The Enemy
Age Of Discovery
At The Heart Of Man

Review: Melancholy Is The Green That Binds Us In LEGEND OF THE SWAMP THING HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR #1

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LEGEND OF THE SWAMP THING HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR #1, available from DC Comics on October 6th, follows Big Green’s anthology of life, loss, and revenge over the ages. Created by an assortment of artists and writers, this anthology is more tragedy than horror, and it reminds you that the green, crawling things of nature are as much a part of this world as we are.

[Author’s Note: For an atypical comic, this will be an atypical review. Each section will cover each short story’s art and writing in a quick-hit style so you can get a sense of the overall work. There will be some mild spoiler throughout]

At The Heart Of Trees

(Writer: Ram V, Artist: Mike Perkins, Colorist: Andy Troy, Letterer: Aditya Bidikar)

This is the wrap-around story of the anthology. Swamp Thing saves a boy lost in the swamp while the boy is cared for by one of the swamp’s tree spirits. The ancient tree spirit has taken on so much pain and grief from other lost souls over the years that the thought of this boy’s death drives it to unnatural means of protection. Swamp Thing frees the boy and offers comfort to the tree in exchange by sharing how Swamp Things of the past have given aid or wrought justice when needed.

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This is one of the best stories in this anthology. Ram V does an excellent job establishing the players and their motivations, especially the Sheriff leading the search party. Every character has a past that’s scarred by the pain of loss, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book nicely.

Likewise, the art suits the subject matter perfectly with deep heavy lines and long dramatic shadows. It’s a mix that pays homage to Bernie Wrightson’s grotesque body-horror style and Gene Colan’s dramatic shadow work by nailing the deep sadness of the Halloween season… and the grave.

Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween #1, Heart Of Trees

Ring Of Stones

(Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Artist: Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Colorist: Jeremiah Skipper, Letterer: Dave Sharpe)

Set in Druidic times when Roman forces occupied Britain, this short tells of a Roman commander who forfeits his allegiance to Rome and sacrifices everything in service to the Green and Britain’s native people.

Johnson’s story is the stuff of ancient legends where monsters rise to protect their people in mercilessly violent ways. It’s a stiff reminder that old rituals from even older cultures have a dark power that shouldn’t be taken lightly. More warning fable than revenge tale, this story portrays the most symbiotic take between Swamp Thing and the land people he protects.

The highlight of this entry is its utterly monstrous version of the Swamp Thing character as a patchwork beast formed from Earth’s elements. Hulk-like and raging, this version of the creature is an organic weapon of mass destruction. You could easily picture how such a beast effectively puts Britain’s country off-limits to the entire Roman Empire.

Sleeping Giant

(Writer: Vita Ayala, Artist: Emma Rios, Colorist: Jordie Bellaire, Letterer: Ariana Maher)

A girl seeks revenge for her sister’s death at the hands of a local sugar mill owner. Revenge, in this case comes, by way of a petition to waken the Green that rests at the base of the mountain at the heart of the island. The Green then raises a Swamp Thing to set things right.

Ayala’s story is the weakest in the anthology, not for its premise but its clunky execution. Several times I caught myself going back a few pages or panels to understand what was going on. This could be chalked up by a gap in a synergy between writer and artist, but the result is a lopsided story with a bait and switch for an ending that fell flat.

Mostly, the art in this story works to match the story’s jungle island flavor, but the big creature reveal near the end was odd. This version of Swamp Thing looked closer to a bizarre jungle flower plant with a wrinkled face. As far as a fresh take on Swamp Thing, this version is unrecognizable and misses the mark.

No Sign Of The Enemy

(Writer: Julian Lytle, Artist: John Timms, Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb, Letterer: Clayton Cowles)

This short would fall into the “alternate history” category. A Japanese soldier, abandoned on a remote island during World War II, continues his mission for decades with only the Green to keep him company before he meets a tragic end.

Emulating the real-world circumstances of Hiroo Onada, Lytle’s story leans heavily on the bitter pill of carrying out your duty against all reason. The main character chooses to endure any hardship from living alone on the Pacific island over the shame of returning home defeated while the war rages on. In the form of a small plant, the Green encourages him to give up his mission repeatedly over the years. Lytle crafts an interesting character piece about how easily honor and responsibility can devolve into obsession when left unchecked, with the spirit of Swamp Thing acting as a spiritual force instead of a physical one.

Despite the lack of physical representation from Swamp Thing, the art is loaded with intense and personal moments for the soldier. Even while carrying out such mundane tasks as digging a ditch, the offset camera angles imply a manic and desperate tone that escalates with each passing year in the soldier’s life. You can feel the soldier degenerating into madness with each panel until the bitter, final scenes where Swamp Thing appears for a saddened goodbye. This is the most emotional story of the bunch.

Age Of Discovery

(Writer: James Tynion IV, Artist: Christian Ward, Letterer: Travis Lanham)

The honor of most fantastical short goes to this story by Tynion IV. Spanish sailors motivated to plunder by greed, encounter an uncharted island that will take from the men much more than it gives. This is an interesting facet to the Swamp Thing’s history that shows the Green can be the very land itself.

Tynion IV has a knack for whimsy with a dark edge, and this story is no exception. Told through a young sailor’s eyes aboard the doomed ship, the narration starts on a note of excitement for the undiscovered future. Once the island’s nature is revealed, Tynion IV layers on creeping dread as the young sailor realizes how foolish and naïve he truly was. What makes the story more fantasy-like is the almost poetic narration style that gives the short a dreamy quality.

What sells the dreaminess of the story is Ward’s gorgeous art. The story becomes more horrific because the setting is bright, colorful, and beautiful. The art makes the island seem peaceful and the stuff of dreams the young sailor longs for, but once the island’s voracious actions take its toll on the crew, the dream shifts to a nightmare. And bonus points to Ward for the most esoteric, yet recognizable, interpretation of Swamp Thing revealed as a gut punch in the very last panel.

At The Heart Of Man

(Writer: Ram V, Artist: Mike Perkins, Colorist: Andy Troy, Letterer: Aditya Bidikar)

This story book-ends the anthology by revisiting the rescued boy from the first story many years later. The boy, now an old grandfather, encounters Swamp Thing and the Green during a camping trip and tells his own tale about his search for personal meaning after he was rescued all those years ago.

Ram V expertly captures a sense of tragic irony with this final short. A boy is so shaken by an experience that he spends his life searching for a way to justify his worth in being saved. At the very end, he fails to realize that the search itself was all the justification he ever needed and more. Here, like with No Sign Of The Enemy, it’s the desire to be more than we choose to believe we already are, which leads to obsession and a tragic end. And as with any good Halloween story, the hero who thinks he escaped his fate winds up right back where he started.

Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween #1, Heart Of Trees2

Conclusion

LEGEND OF THE SWAMP THING HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR #1, available from DC Comics on October 6th, is a satisfying collection of tragic tales with an alternate version of Swamp Thing throughout history. There are more hits than misses, and it’s a melancholy collection that will put you in just the right mood for the holiday. Happy Halloween!

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Gabriel Hernandez
Lovers of all things Comics, Sci-Fi and Horror. Former Rocket Scientist. Current IT Guru. Amateur musician. Writer. World Traveler. I live in Wilmington, DE with my wife and two children.

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