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The ’80s Revisited: Swamp Thing #72


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.

Air #5 [Review]

The Engine Room

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assoc. Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

Having been unexpectedly rescued from an unplanned predicament, Blythe finds herself discovering a whole world she’d never known was present, right within the world we all know. After several issues of curious elements cropping up, some secrets are finally revealed–including a last-page doozy that promises plenty of fun potential for this series as it continues.

The story has been a bit of a slow build–with perhaps an extra issue’s worth of context being laid out that probably would have benefited from coming later in the sequence to get us to this point. So far, this isn’t something I’d consider the greatest story I’ve ever read–but while I can’t put my finger on it, there’s something to this that has brought me back four issues more than I’d intended when I decided to check out the first issue.

The art has a certain realism to it without getting so realistic that you forget this IS a comic. The detail is nice and clean, with a soft color pallet complementing it without overwhelming it. No complaints from me on the visuals.

On the whole, this is a fairly interesting new series that started out simply as a premise, but is quickly showing its potential to have a rich, deep mythology about it. It’s certainly worth checking out, though it’s probably not for everyone.

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

Air #4 [Review]

Masks and Other Memories

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
AIR created by: Wilson & Perker
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

This has been an interesting series so far. I’m not terribly familiar with the characters–they are new, after all…and haven’t yet been fleshed out all that much. The idea of a disappearing/forgotten country is intriguing, and seems to fit the somewhat surreal aspect of this series.

This issue sees Blythe and her companions returning from their trip to this forgotten country as she searches for Zayn, the man she seems to love. As explanations for a days-long disappearance are explained, Blythe finds herself in another unfamiliar situation as she goes to a special meeting with her boss.

The art seems the most notable thing to me with this issue–especially the bird-snake appearing from behind the panels to interact with Blythe. Blythe herself is given a distinct look, often shown with a detail that lends an extra bit of realism on the page. The characters are all distinct and nicely drawn, which is a definite plus-point for any book; There’s a certain lightness in these pages that captures the (forgive any pun) “open-air” of the environments, even when enclosed inside a plane.

The story is at once familiar and unique. There’s been an element of surrealness in the first few issues…the ending of this issue continues to throw things on their head a bit, as we realize this is more than what it appears.

I’m suitably interested…I’ve made a point of reading the first issue of most new Vertigo books, and something about this series has had me picking up these later issues, and while I’m a bit bored with the Blythe-is-trying-to-find-Zayne-who-isn’t-who-she-thought-he-was, the final page of this issue grabbed me, and I want to know more.

As with most Vertigo series, this will probably read better in the collected volumes…I’m certain there are details I’ve missed or forgotten that would be much more noticeable reading the chapters in close succession without months between.

Assuming the usual Vertigo style of 5-issue premiere arcs, the next issue should conclude the immediate arc, and presumably set us up for where the series looks to go. If you’re into the singles, this is worthwhile; if you prefer the collected volumes, I’d suggest holding off–this lacks a spectacular nature with an urgency to the singles.

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

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