The Vanier Report: Week 4
Swamp Thing #39
Written by: Charles Soule
Pencils and Inks by: Jesus Saiz
Colours by: June Chung
Letters by: Travis Lanham
The New 52 run of Swamp Thing has been not only a seminal chapter in the long catalogue of the character’s mythology, but it has been one of the most consistently challenging series in DC Comics’ recent memory. Its tone, its subject matter, and its incredible depth of storytelling have built on previous iconic runs of Swamp Thing, as well as within this volume from creative team to creative team.
With Swamp Thing #39, Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz are bringing this incredible title one step closer to its end next month. Swamp Thing’s enemies close in around him; the Machine Queen has joined forces with the Avatar of the Grey and Anton Arcane, the Rot has consumed the Green, and the reanimated corpse of Alec Holland mocks Swamp Thing’s very existence. Even an alliance with Abigail Arcane, the current Avatar of the Rot – has been in vain. As far as stakes are concerned, “The Machine Queen” has placed not only Swamp Thing but the fate of the entire world in the balance of this battle.
Soule’s script brilliantly plays these micro and macro threats against each other, drawing some wonderful parallels along the way. While Swamp Thing lies rotting in the swamp, the action shifts to a triumphant Machine Queen who, much like Alec Holland earlier in the run of this title, is facing the wrath of her own Parliament; the Calculi realize that their new Avatar is destroying the other kingdoms rather than subduing them. When they threaten to remove her as Avatar, the Machine Queen recalls her time as Lady Weeds (a member of the Parliament of Trees) and takes a page from the Swamp Thing’s book, destroying the Rithm and assuming full control of the Machine Kingdom.
This is but one of several ways in which Alec Holland’s past comes back to haunt him. He destroyed the Parliament of Trees when they turned on him, and now that very same act has made the Machine Queen more dangerous and more deadly than ever before. His unfinished business with Anton Arcane has allowed the Rot to pollute and corrupt the Green. Each choice made as Swamp Thing now resonates in this final battle with all of life on Earth caught in the crossfire.
Saiz’ art is as dynamic as it’s ever been. His incredible line work brings out the horror and the grotesquery of the Rot, but also the cold uniformity of the Machine Kingdom. Paired with June Chung’s inspired colours – which juggles the sombre and the vibrant with equal dexterity – this issue is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the mind.
What makes this issue work so well is not merely how the narrative and visuals complement each other; nor is it how the threats continue to mount. Rather, the success of Swamp Thing #39 is how both of the aforementioned elements suit the context of the issue itself. As the series draws toward its conclusion, this is the quintessential penultimate issue. It calls back to the most important and iconic moments of the title’s run as well as the long and storied history of the character (Abigail Arcane and John Constantine both play important roles in this issue) – all the while racing at breakneck pace towards the end.
I will sorely miss this series. Swamp Thing has been an exciting and haunting title from beginning to end; one of the greatest triumphs of the New 52. And though I know there is a resolution on the horizon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alec Holland’s story left with more than a few loose ends. That, in my opinion, would be the perfect finish to what has felt like the perfect final arc.
Feature Written By: Reid Vanier
“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”