DC Comics’ The Swamp Thing has always been something of a horror series. Mike Perkins’ art almost seems to seize on the page at times, twisting and contorting into terrifying images. And writer Ram V’s scripts are often full of a quiet dread. But this series is as much a work of lyrical poetry as it is horror. With The Swamp Thing #8, writer Ram V, artist Mike Perkins, colorist Mike Spicer, and letterer Aditya Bidikar explore, through lyrical dialogue and breathtaking action, what it means to be a monster.
The rhythmic feeling to V’s writing in this chapter is impossible to miss. V is verbose and complex in his language. “The forest lies littered… with the effluent… of war,” he writes. At times it reads almost more like a hymn than a comic book. But that’s the point. V is writing about things that are larger than these comic pages can express. Swamp Thing is a walking force of nature. He cannot be captured on the page. Yet V’s commitment to this style of writing doesn’t stop him from also allowing the story to joyfully take part in comic book tropes. It’s enemy after enemy that Swamp Thing faces in this issue. He stops one foe only to have another bigger, more dangerous rival revealed. V sees the best of both worlds, his artistic writing style and the pulpy excitement of comic book fights, and says “Yes, please,” to all of it.
Perkins art similarly bounces back and forth between these two styles. We get the truly emotional moments of Swamp Thing questioning his purpose. His face is so expressive, you can see Levi’s humanity beneath the leafy exterior. But then Perkins shows he’s just as brilliant at big monster fights. One scene shows Swamp Thing and Parasite, duking it out. Behind them, there are a bunch of panels of smaller moments going on in the fight. In this background we see Swamp Thing’s eyes widen in fear, before they narrow again with resolve. Not only does Perkins manage to have his art be both intimate and full of flashy action, but he manages to do both things in a single image. It’s a fantastic balance of styles that at times feels like it ought to be impossible to achieve. But sure enough, Perkins does it!
As is true of many of the other chapters of this series, this issue has a beautiful interplay of green, orange and purple. These seem to be representative of the major themes of this comic. Swamp Thing, of course, is green. But so is the toxin that is killing the forest. Spicer shows us Swamp Thing’s feeling of responsibility. Not only does he feel like he should be protecting the trees, but he feels implicated in their deaths. And when we see Levi’s past, it is shown in orange hues. As a new character is introduced, they are surrounded by orange. Spicer gives us this visual cue that this character has been influencing Levi for longer than we could know. Spicer creates a gorgeous tapestry of colors, all ripe with a deeper meaning.
This issue feels like a license for Bidikar to go wild. Nearly every page is filled with really expressive lettering. Even when they’re simply writing caption boxes, Bidikar shows the fade from Swamp Thing’s narration to Levi’s. But it’s in the last few pages that Bidikar pulls out all the stops. The sound effects of a character contorting in pain, Swamp Thing’s cries of grief as he realizes a horrible truth, and Peacemaker’s grunts as he fights are all wildly expressive. We see a big “OOF!” of Peacemaker being thrown against a tree and a smaller “nngh!” as the pain of the moment sinks in. Bidikar shows us every beat of every fight by constantly switching up how things are lettered.
The Swamp Thing is an incredible series. It’s as much a meditation on life and humanity as it is an action comic full of thrilling fight sequences. This creative team has mastered small, intimate moments and big, bombastic ones. Pick up The Swamp Thing #8, out from DC Comics October 5th, at a comic shop near you!