Absent from the DC Universe proper for some time now, the Avatar of the Green, Swamp Thing, is back! This time, our muck-encrusted mockery of a man finds himself trapped in a seemingly never-ending winter, but what is really happening? As an added and wonderful bonus, see the story that never was, the last Swamp Thing script ever written by Len Wein, co-creator of Swamp Thing, beautifully illustrated by Kelley Jones.
Swamp Thing Winter Special #1
Authors: Tom King and Len Wein
Artist: Jason Fabok and Kelley Jones
Inker: Jason Fabok and Kelley Jones
Colors: Brad Anderson and Michelle Madsen
What You Need to Know:
Swamp Thing, the godlike plant elemental created by Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein, has not had an ongoing series since 2015, or a mini-series since 2016. Thanks to Tom King, Swamp Thing is back in action. Get ready for a fresh but familiar take on Swampy, and a glimpse at the last word on the character by Len Wein.
What You’ll Find Out:
We open on a fierce blizzard rolling in out of nowhere, the game recap of the Saints beating the Gotham Knights underscoring it. The quarterback of the Knights tells the story of his collapse under pressure, blaming a metaphorical. As this finishes, a more familiar and certainly less metaphorical monster emerges from the blizzard. Carrying a boy in his arms, Swamp Thing trudges through the snow. We find that Swampy and the boy are on the run from a monster. Swamp Thing cannot remember who the monster is, or how long they’ve been running. The blizzard has severed his tie to the Green, the life force of all plants and his connection to plant life on Earth. Days pass and the boy recounts their meeting, the blizzard rolling in with the monster and separating him from his family. They walk on, and Swamp Thing tirelessly defends the boy, despite the fact that he himself is growing weaker moment by moment and his body is slowly breaking down from the cold. An unknowable amount of time passes, perhaps days, perhaps years. Exhausted and beaten, Swamp Thing finally collapses. The boy tries to get Swamp Thing to get up, claiming that he could be the boy’s new dad, he could be his pretend son. Seeing that the boy has not aged or been hurt in any way, while he has suffered and lost so much, Swamp Thing realizes the reason he can’t remember the snow monster attacks is because the boy is the snow monster. They understand they are both monsters, and Swamp Thing realizes the boy has to die for the Green to return and the never-ending winter to stop. Tearfully Swamp Thing says goodbye to the son he never had, and he dies in his arms. The snow melts, and the boy melts with it, bringing the return of the Green. We pick back up on the football coverage from the opening, and there is no way of knowing just how much Swamp Thing has endured or for how long.
The second half of this book is somewhat unusual. In tribute, they present the late Len Wein’s last Swamp Thing script and Kelley Jones finished pencils. It would have been a continuation of the 2016 miniseries that both of them had worked on prior. Though not completed, they show what would have been Solomon Grundy kidnapping a child, and Batman enlisting the aid of Swamp Thing in tracking him down. Much like the preceding story, we are left with a feeling of loss and the wonder of what might have been. Either way, the book closes as the character began, with a fun story written by Len Wein.
What Just Happened?
I must open this by saying I love Tom King. I know it’s a popular opinion, and I’m certainly not the only one who feels that way. This book has cemented his place in my heart forever. He has beautifully blended the weird horror roots of Swamp Thing sown by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson with the mind-bending storytelling of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben. To capture the feeling of two such disparate yet important eras of Swamp Thing that hasn’t been bridged much is quite a feat.
The story in this was heartbreaking and unexpected. It works even better the second time around. It gets right to the core of the character, his lost humanity and the great sadness that comes with that. No matter how powerful he becomes, or how many people he saves, Swamp Thing will never be a man again. Alec Holland died in that swamp so many years ago, and this plant that dreamed he was a man is all that remains. The boy is a stark reminder of this. He is the monster and he will eventually kill all of those who are close to him, no matter what his good intentions may be. He is the grim inversion of our hero.
The amount of depth that Jason Fabok is able to bring to essentially non stop white pages is pretty breathtaking. For a character that has always flourished in weird, wild worlds full of outlandish monsters and bright colors, Fabok has brought Swamp Thing to the flat muted world of an arctic hell, and Swampy has never looked better. It brings to mind issue 8 of the original run, one of my favorites. I think Bernie would have been proud.
Lastly, I’d like to touch on the inclusion of Len Wein’s last work. I was excited and grateful that DC decided to include it in this book. The art is fantastic, and it was very interesting to see Len’s script itself. You can really feel a lot of his personality in it. This book could have been sold on the merits of Tom King alone. The decision to include this shows that DC Comics is a company intent on innovation, but also honoring the men and women who built its foundation. As a lifelong fan of Swamp Thing, it was very touching to see Len and Bernie honored in this way.
Final Thoughts: 2017 was a rough year for Swamp Thing fans. To lose Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein in the same year was hard. This Winter Special is the core of what makes Swamp Thing work, and what has kept this shambling moss monster in people’s minds and hearts since 1971. I loved every bit of it, and I’m sure somewhere in the Green, Bernie and Len are smiling Thank you, Tom King,, Jason Fabok, and of course Kelley Jones.
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