(DC Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
Written by Charles Soule
Artwork by Jesus Saiz
Color Artwork by Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Travis Lanham
When I first heard that Charles Soule was going to be following Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing I wasn’t very familiar with his work and being a huge fan of Snyder’s, I maintained a wait and see attitude. I honestly didn’t expect the relative newcomer, Soule to be up to such a lofty task as the one that lay before him. .. Boy was I wrong! Not only has Charles Soule upheld the level of story quality set by Snyder on the series but in my opinion he has surpassed it with this issue and without so much as a single panel containing the image of Swamp Thing, I might add. The story is narrated by the newly ousted avatar of The Green, Alec Holland aka Swamp Thing but not once does he appear on any page of this issue. In fact this is a story focused on Jason Woodrue, a man from Holland’s past now going by the name Seeder, the new avatar who obtained the position in a rather duplicitous manner. Soule’s narrative gets to the heart of the motivation behind Woodrue’s desire to be the avatar of The Green, going back to his days as a student at Reed University where he expressed a deep interest in the avatar concept and follows him on a dark path of violence, crime and introspection that ultimately leads him to become the twisted and villainous Seeder.
Soule takes a very organic approach to constructing his narrative, building upon what Snyder has written and in some cases going back to pre-New 52 material which gives his stories a feeling of being deeply rooted in continuity. In this issue, the story can be viewed from multiple angles; from one vantage point we get Alec’s overview of the narrative complete with the insights afforded to a former avatar and hero of The Green, from Woodrue’s viewpoint we see the visceral, gut level view as he commits heinous acts of brutality on the path to becoming Seeder effectively serving as the villain and finally from a reader’s outlook we can put all the perspectives Soule has masterfully combined together and derive a completely nuanced and detailed account of events with an emotional component that is tempered by all of them yet exists completely outside of them as a separate overarching element. Even the action serves to more fully explain who Seeder is, for instance his ill-advised and unprovoked brawl with Animal Man shows just how misguided and inaccurate his beliefs about The Green actually are. In Woodrue’s clouded mind the best way for The Green to triumph is to vanquish The Red, which he perceives as the enemy. So his intentions are not so much villainous as they are irrational.
Soule does a fabulous job showing the transformation of Jason Woodrue to Seeder in so doing he allows a little ambiguity of intent to overshadow his villainous actions, making Seeder at least somewhat pitiable in his brash stance for The Green. Aren’t the best intentions in the heart of every good eco-terrorist? Don’t you secretly want to cheer every time some fur-wearing fashion disaster gets a bucket of red paint to the face from a noble PETA member? I know I do and that’s what I’ve always loved about both Swamp Thing and Animal Man they remind us that we are sharing this planet with The Green and The Red and like Alec Holland, Buddy Baker and even Jason Woodrue, we are the stewards of those without a voice. It’s just how far we are willing to go in our beliefs and how society views our resulting actions that make us either heroes or villains. Charles Soule imbues Seeder with the kind of myopic passion and desire that makes him capable of killing for what he believes in.
Jesus Saiz’s art is gorgeous and he is at the top of his game on this issue. His innovative approach to page design and panel placement lend an added dimension of urgency to the narrative. Saiz has such a solid understanding of anatomy that his action sequences and overall choreography really come across as believable. His dynamic action is set amid some of the most elaborately detailed backgrounds and lushly rendered environments in any comic book on the racks today. Saiz’s Seeder avatar design is especially beautiful; the amount of detail in the face is stunning giving him an extremely wide range of expression. This book is visually exquisite as well as completely entertaining; Soule and Saiz are as good as any creative team currently in the upper echelon of the industry.
I’m a huge fan of Charles Soule’s work on Swamp Thing as well as his Superman/ Wonder Woman book and Red Lanterns also at DC, Thunderbolts at Marvel and Letter 44 at Oni. He is one heck of a nice guy and more than accommodating to fans as I was fortunate enough to learn when I met him at Baltimore Comic-Con this year. He has become one of those writers whose name is all I need to see to give a new book a try; his track record is just that good. His versatility and adept storytelling ability make Soule’s stories work equally well individually as they do as chapters in an on-going narrative. I look forward to a very long Soule/ Saiz run on Swamp Thing, I have a feeling the best is yet to come. So until next time, see you at the comic book store. (4.75/5)
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629