Future State: Swamp Thing may be a small part of the DC Universe, but it dares to be a world of its own. Writer Ram V, artist Mike Perkins, colorist June Chung and letterer Aditya Bidikar lay the foundations for their own universe. As this creative team births a new world into existence, we see the myths and legends that are its makeup.
Future State: Swamp Thing reads more like The Epic of Gilgamesh than it does a comic book. V uses poetic language to create a sense of mysticism. We’re seeing worlds end and realities born. V has amped up the stakes to impossible heights, but keeps us grounded with the questions of children and the curses of old men. It’s an epic that’s deeply connected to its characters. We’re constantly checking in with them to see how these life-altering moments are affecting them. And their reactions are an array of human emotions. One character weeps, disappointed in her master. A little girl asks, wide-eyed, what’s really going on as an old man screams and roars at what’s happening. Except for one scene, where some villains speak in a way that’s stilted and expositional, V doesn’t allow his epic language to get in the way of the human pulse beneath everything.
It’s interesting to see Swamp Thing relate to his “children.” When the old man Indigo laughs, Swamp Thing hides his face. Perkins shows us just enough to sense the emptiness in Swamp Thing’s eyes. And when Heather asks about why she’s been created, in a fury, Perkins reminds us just who she’s talking to. Her lips, parted to show gritted teeth, are pictured above a diagram of her anatomy. The bones, muscles and organs, looking like a page out of a biology book, are shown next to images of her railing against her creator. But once Swamp Thing has connected to each of his “children,” each moment beautifully portrayed, we see him standing amongst the humans. Perkins shows the shift in him. After years of being surrounded by those like him, Swamp Thing reconnects to his human side.
Chung continues, like in the first issue, to play on shades of green and red. Green, the color of trees, is interrupted by tiny moments of red, the color of blood and humanity. We see it in Swamp Thing’s irises. They’re not the green or black that we might have expected. It reminds us of the man behind the bark, so to speak. When Heather speaks out to her creator, angrily, the background of the panel is red. She may be a plant, but her anger is human. But much of the other instances of red are strange. We see Woodrue, our sickly villain, covered in a red robe. Moments of violence and carnage have splashes of red in the midst of yellow flames. We can’t help but wonder, why does Swamp Thing give a damn about humanity? The violence and villainy shows humanity to be an ungrateful and cowardly lot. But that’s exactly it. Chung shows us these aren’t people who deserve mercy. But mercy is never deserved.
The most noticeable thing about Bidikar’s lettering is Swamp Thing’s kinship with Woodrue. They sound the same. They speak through colored word balloons that have flattened edges. Yet it’s the coloring that makes the difference. While Swamp Thing’s dialogue is colored in a dark orange, Woodrue’s is a light green. Bidikar is showing that Woodrue may think he’s like Swamp Thing, but he’s really a pale imitation.
Bidikar’s best use of lettering happens between Heather and Swamp Thing. “NO!” Heather yells. Heather speaks in bolded letters and the word balloon has a thick green edge around it. “NO!” she says again. This time, the letters are italicized, bigger but thinner, and the word balloon has a jagged edge. “No…” she says finally, in small letters. It’s a gorgeous representation of fighting against impossible odds. She screams, she panics, and finally, she collapses in quiet grief. Bidikar turns what could be a forgettable page into an instance of raw, unadulterated emotion.
Future State: Swamp Thing #2 is huge. It’s an epic, rewriting the rules of the DC universe and daring to dream big. But V, Perkins, Chung and Bidikar never lose the human heart at the center. Even if its veins are full of chlorophyll. Pick up Future State: Swamp Thing #2, out from DC Comics February 2nd, at a comic shop near you!