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Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing [Review]

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing

Writer: Jonathan Vankin
Pencils: Marco Castiello
Inks: Vincenzo Acunzo
Art (Issue #2): Renato Arlem
Colors: Barb Ciardo
Letters: Sal Cipriano, (Issue #3) Dave Sharpe
Cover: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

I haven’t finished Brightest Day yet, but I know that the big hubbub over the final issue was the return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine–after a lengthy absence–to the mainstream DCU. And waiting for the collected volumes of Brightest Day, I opted to pass on this series. But this weekend, I found myself looking for something “extra” to pick up, and the comic shop I was at had all three issues, so I decided that rather than spend only $3.99 for a one-shot, at “only” $2.99/issue, I’d snag this entire 3-issue mini.

John Constantine finds himself the butt of his pal Chaz’s jokes for having bought a newspaper–though this particular newspaper had literally called out to him, the Swamp Thing’s attempt to make contact with him through the plant fibers in the paper. The trouble apparently caused by the Swamp Thing draws Constantine into a quest for his old acquaintance. After all, John saw the Swamp Thing through a couple other major events, so only fitting to be part of whatever this latest go-round is. Constantine makes contact with Batman to enlist the detective’s aid. When this doesn’t go as planned, he finds himself in Metropolis seeking the Man of Steel’s brand of assistance. Upon realizing what may actually be going on, John finds himself on a path that neither Superman nor Batman can condone as he seeks to set things right in a way that only he–John Constantine–can do.

It’s been ages since I’ve read any Hellblazer stuff–at least a year and a half, maybe 2+ years–so this was a welcome reading experience. Vankin has a good feel for the character, I felt like I was reading Hellblazer…except this is set within the DCU, with John interacting once more with a world that includes Superman, Batman, and other super-powered people, unlike the world the character’s Vertigo counterpart inhabits. This version of Constantine is younger, though still quite recognizeable as the character he is. There’s plenty of reference to the past to establish the character’s roots, to remind those familiar with the characters past of what they are. And if one is unfamiliar, it serves to establish that this character has a past in the DCU, though he’s not cropped up in a DCU book in quite a few years.

Though the series’ title emphasizes the Swamp Thing, this feels fully like a DCU-based John Constantine/Hellblazer story, and does so far more than I’d anticipated, expecting there to be a lot more focus on Swamp Thing (especially with Swamp Thing being one of the “New 52” in DC’s relaunch in September). Of course, I’ve long been more a fan of Constantine than Swamp Thing, so this focus didn’t bother me and I think my enjoyment of this series was higher than it would have been if it actually did focus more on Swamp Thing).

The story itself felt pretty basic, and even a bit choppy, almost as if it should have been stretched to at least another issue. Given its timing at the very end of this version of the DCU, though, there seems to have been a need to compress it into only three issues. The first two issues had a nice build, reintroducing us to Constantine, as well as putting him back on the map for Batman and Superman. The third issue held a good bit of promise to it, but after 2 1/2 issues’ build, the end seemed to be anticlimactic, almost negating the purpose of having this series to begin with. This could change depending on the status quo in the new Swamp Thing ongoing, but that would almost make this series seem a prologue and worthy of an altered title.

The art was a sort of mixed experience going through the three issues. Offhand, I’m not familiar with the art team(s) behind this series. The style was not unattractive, and seemed to fit the characters involved. Batman and Superman, if only for the amount of Vertigo Hellblazer that I’ve read seemed a bit out of place by existing, though the artists had a good blend that allowed them to visually work with Constantine and Swamp Thing (or vice-versa). Though the second issue had a different artist, the style’s similar enough to the first and third that I honestly didn’t even notice until pulling the credits to write this review.

As I have not yet finished reading Brightest Day, this doesn’t honestly seem or feel connected to that, except that it would sort of explain an apparent resurrection that lies at the core of this story (even as it reminds me a bit of The Spectre’s character shortly after Green Lantern: Rebirth). If this ties to the new Swamp Thing series as I think it might, I’d hope to see this collected either as a Swamp Thing vol. 1 or 0, or somehow simply not as just a Brightest Day companion volume. If you’re a fan of Hellblazer, this series presents a chance to see a younger Constantine interacting with the DC Universe he came from, and get away from the intricate mythology that’s built up over the last 200+ issues of Hellblazer. If you’re interested in Swamp Thing, this wouldn’t seem a horrible story, but Swamp Thing seems a bit player at best, though you’ll find plenty with Constantine, a character with some key ties to Swamp Thing’s past.

Recommended.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Action Comics #900 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Green Lantern Corps #50 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman/Batman #68 [Review]

The Big Noise, part one: Rumble Face

Writer: Joe Casey
Pencils: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Vicente Cifuentes & David Enebral
Color: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Syaf, Cifuentes and Arreola
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Eddie Berganza

I wanted to like this issue. I was even looking forward to it, on hearing the book would come back into continuity with stories revisiting previous events. In this case, Summer 2001’s “Our Worlds at War” crossover event. I couldn’t remember which issue would begin this new “format” or “focus” of the series, but when I saw the Our Worlds at War banner across the top, I was excited. A bit of nostalgia flooded in seeing the tag “Casualties of War!” included–several of those Casualties of War issues back in 2001 were among the most powerful comics I read that year. So to say that I had high hopes for this issue would probably be an understatement.

And as one might expect from my phrasing…this issue was extremely disappointing in its execution. Other than the time-frame it’s supposed to be set in, and references to the world having just been through a war, there’s not much that seems to solidly place this issue’s events as coming on the heels of Our Worlds at War itself.

I suspect this is another “standard” story arc…that is, six-issues and well-paced for the eventual “graphic novel,” which might even have some sales crossover with the 2-volume collected edition of the event, or the large “omnibus” TPB. As a single issue, though…this is entirely forgettable.

The story doesn’t even begin to hook me–the “hook” was the OWAW tie-in. The hope that I’d see something that would make this feel like a long-lost chapter of that story. That expectation never did deliver. I’m confident that once all 6 issues are assembled, and read in one-go, possibly following a re-reading of the original event…the OVERALL story is likely to come across much better.

The art is very solid throughout, and not at all a bad depiction of Superman nor Batman. I really have no complaint with the visuals…they’re actually quite good overall. Nothing memorable, exactly…just good, clean work.

Unless you don’t mind a slow build, and an issue that’s nothing more than introduction to a standardized-arc format, I’m highly disinclined to recommend this issue.

Story: 4/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 5/10

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