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The ’80s Revisited: Swamp Thing #72


90srevisited

swampthing072Gargles in the Rat Race Choir

Writer/Penciller: Rick Veitch
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Editor: Karen Berger
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1988
Cover Price: $1.25

Way back amidst my earliest memories of having comics in my life, there was a pack of comics that included Swamp Thing #72 and ROM [SpaceKnight] #51 along with something else I can’t recall (possibly an issue of Detective Comics). I was at a friend’s birthday party, and these packs of comics were the "party favors." I was not yet particularly aware of most characters out there, and had no idea what this Swamp Thing series was–as a series or the main character, even. I may have flipped through the issue, but I do not recall actually reading it; whether I did or not my 2015 reading yielded an appreciation and enjoyment I certainly would not have had at age 10 or so when I received the comic.

Flash forward nearly a quarter-century and I saw the issue in a quarter bin and the nostalgia and curiosity hit me. For a mere twenty-five cents, I would finally read this issue and gain the conscious experience of having done so…see if I remembered the story itself from when I was a kid or if it truly was just the cover I remembered.

To say this was worth that 25-cent piece would be an understatement: even as a totally isolated, context less single issue, I quite enjoyed this issue. I have a long way to go in terms of learning about the Swamp Thing, but I’ve come to know a heckuva lot more than I did as a kid, both in the basics of the character as well as his place in the wider DC Universe, then Vertigo continuity, back to DC Universe, and so on…as well as his history with John Constantine, the Hellblazer. And that latter certainly contributed to my enjoying this, as Constantine plays no small role in this issue.

The issue is fairly dense, shifting between Swamp Thing, Constantine, and other involved parties. Swamp Thing and Constantine essentially are working different angles of the same problem–some sort of sprout involved in the succession of elementals/agents of The Green is being corrupted for lack of a proper host/soul. Swampy consults with Abby, and then we follow someone named Alden–seeing his annoyance at home as he gets around and goes to the office…where a secret that’s been cultivated lays exposed by Constantine. While this threat is dealt with, Swamp Thing spawns elsewhere (utilizing a package of potato chips to do so). Despite his efforts and Constantine’s results, the situation on Earth is not getting better, and we see that The Green has set something into motion (which we’ll have to pick up later issues to see).

This looks and feels much like an early issue of Hellblazer, which I really like. Of course, that makes sense given the issue’s date–I’m pretty sure Hellblazer started in 1987/1988. I do recognize Veitch as a name, whose work I’ve seen previously–though off the top of my head as I type this, I can’t quite place where (probably other Swamp Thing and/or Hellblazer stuff). The page layouts are interesting, and I think some of that comes from this being both written AND drawn by Veitch, allowing that much more synergy with the story and art, with both influencing the other.

This was published with DC‘s NEW FORMAT label and marked as being For Mature Readers…this pre-dates the Vertigo imprint by several years. Though the issue obviously is not aimed at kids, it’s more the subject matter and themes and violence that would make it questionable for the younger crowd…I doubt I would simply hand it to a pre-teen but it seems appropriate enough for teens and up; the Mature Readers wouldn’t seem to have to mean "18+" in this case.

By itself, this was certainly very well worth my twenty-five cents, and it rekindles my interest and curiosity in Swamp Thing as well as my appreciation in the ties between Swamp Thing and Constantine the characters, as well as Swamp Thing and Hellblazer the comic series.

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