Friday, July 04, 2014

swamp thing, volume 6

The final collection of Alan Moore's award-winning work on "Swamp Thing" finds everyone's favorite plant elemental trying to make it back home.

Volume 6 is less memorable than the previous volumes collected under writer Alan Moore's name. The first four volumes in particular focused pronouncedly were horror, environmental horror in particular. This anthology instead explores the genre of episodic science fiction as the Swamp Thing's spirit jumps from one planet to the next. As he goes Moore explores and offers up commentary on science fiction characters such as Adam Strange, Metron and a member of the Green Lantern corps.

Unlike the issues collected "American Gothic" storyline, these are essentially standalone stories and fairly straightforward fare. Loosely connected by his desire to return to the earth, the individual issues are not building up to any great conclusion, and in fact contain stories by other writers as well. Among these is Rick Veitch's issue with Metron and Darkseid, which in a few throwaway panel serves to foreshadow one of the storylines Veitch had planned for his own run on the comic.

This is not to say that the stories aren't good; Moore has always been one of the brightest lights in comic books, and in the 1980s, he was at the top of his game. It's clear from these stories that he was having fun, imagining unusual settings to place the Swamp Thing in, and along the way experimenting with the storytelling medium he was using. (There is one story told from the perspective of a sentient planet-size ship that encounters the Swamp Thing and traps him in her core for a brief time.)

But it's only after the Swamp Thing gets back to Earth that things begin engaging again, as Moore returns to his familiar environmental themes, and winds up his defining run on the series. And like every good writer does, he leaves the reader with something to consider on those themes.

While in space, the Swamp Thing discovered he could save a world from complete environmental collapse and ruin, and now on earth he is considering the possibility of doing the same here, until he realizes that humanity would simply squander the new Eden he gives them, and continue to blight it over and over again. It's better, he decides, to sit it out, and hope that humanity will wake up to its responsibilities on its own.

And on that, despite the horror we have seen over the last six volumes, Moore leaves us with the hope that we are willing to contribute, and the effort we are willing to make that hope real.

Copyright © 2014 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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