Swamp Thing has always been an unlikely character: a sort-of superhero that is preposterous on the face of it. Yet this is the seventh series since the first was launched in 1972, all of them interacting with the main DC Universe to various degrees. Writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson are credited with creating the character. Over the years many illustrious creators have worked on it, including writers Alan Moore, Rick Veitch (also artist), Mark Millar, and Brian K. Vaughan. It has always been seen as primarily a writer’s book; although many fine artists have worked on it, only Wrightson is firmly associated with the art. This extended miniseries differentiates itself by adding the article “The” to the title, although even longtime fans might be surprised at the novelty (having mentally added “the” to the title all along).
The Swamp Thing Volume 1: Becoming
Ram V., writer; Mike Perkins, artist; Mike Spicer & June Chung, colorists; Aditya Bidikar, letterer
DC Comics, 2021
The first collection includes issues #1-4 of The Swamp Thing, along with Future State: Swamp Thing #1-2. Levi Kamei as the new Guardian of the Green, the result of an ecological disaster in his home country of India. So, his origin is similar to the previous Swamp Things, as well as his initial confusion about his role. In addition, he is immediately thrust into a conflict with a supernatural desert spirit (the legendary Pale Wanderer), new to the series (and representing a different kind of opposition to the Green). He has his own female partner Jen, which again relates to the original series. The story shows him dealing with all of these complications.
The Future State issues were part of a major DC Comics crossover event. The series had already introduced longtime characters like Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue…not to mention Alec Holland. But here the story centers around Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, some pretty deep DC Universe background. As such, it kind of lost me, although there was plenty of contextual context provided. The world descends into chaos, with Woodrue as the ultimate villain: he has become convinced that the world would be better off shrouded in darkness, rejecting the Green as it has rejected him. But as always, the Swamp Thing finds a way to keep the Green alive.
The Swamp Thing Volume 2: Conduit
Ram V., writer; Mike Perkins, artist; John McCrea, artist (issue #5); Mike Spicer, colorist; Aditya Bidikar, letterer
DC Comics, 2022
The second collection opens with “Survivor Bomb,” a John Constantine story with art by John McCrea. The bomb of the title is unexploded Nazi ordinance buried deep below Constantine’s beloved city of London, which carries a heavy psychic load more dangerous than the explosive one. John gets help from a reluctant Swamp Thing, which is very much in line with the prior relationship between these characters. Nice to see a Hellblazer story in this series, a relationship that goes back to early in the title.
The three-part arc “In My Infancy” finds the Swamp Thing back in India, in a trap and pursued by the Suicide Squad, who have been ordered to capture him. Lots of old-school DC action here, which would have meant a lot more to me if I had read any Suicide Squad comics. The title arc is only two issues long, but it’s full of deep history (much of it new to the mythos, I think). It focuses on the Prescott Industries heir Harper Pilgrim and his attempt to figure out the Swamp Thing’s connection to the Green, initially using a discarded body. The investigation has been going on since 1784, but Pilgrim is sure that connecting with Levi Kamei (who he knows is only the most recent incarnation of the Green) can get him to data he can only receive from a live body. Dr. Woodrue reappears as the expert who can sort everything out. Swampy is in a really bad way at the conclusion. It should be exciting to see how it turns out.
The Swamp Thing Vol. 3: The Parliament of Gears
Ram V, writer; Mike Perkins, artist; Mike Spicer, colorist
DC Comics, 2023
The final collection begins with Levi’s girlfriend Jen seeking Tefé Holland’s help in bringing him back as the Swamp Thing. Tefé refuses, pointing out that she was created to be the Green’s avatar, and does not consider it to be mankind’s friend. Meanwhile, Harper Pilgrim has agreed to Dr. Woodrue’s radical surgery, which aims to combine his human body with elements of the discarded avatar body in the possession of Prescot Industries: essentially creating an avatar through surgical means. It almost goes without saying that the resurrection of Swamp Thing is successful–hard to tell the rest of this story without him–but it is Harper’s transformation that sets up the central conflict.
But first the narrative brings in two storied DC characters. First Jack Hawksmoor, the King of Cities (from The Authority) answers Detroit’s call, discovering a mechanistic presence that Pilgrim calls the Parliament of Gears. It places the industry of man among the same elemental forces as the Green, the Red, and the Rot, arguing that industry has effected more change upon our reality than anything else in recent decades. It is such a significant new force that it triggers the appearance of an extraterrestrial botanical force: Swampy finds out about it when Green Lantern Hal Jordan requests his help (the second big DC character).
When Levi has tapped out the power of the Green, Hal Jordan lends him Green Lantern power. He seeks audience with the Parliament of Gears, but asks new character Trinity (created in the desert out of nuclear test materials, and their new avatar) to speak for humanity. She and Swamp Thing describe the calling of the Parliaments as choice, and the possibility of making better choices. So, war is averted…for now. And the new Swamp Thing is back in his human form (until called upon to again be the Green’s avatar), and is at peace.
There is a long history of each new Swamp Thing chapter ratcheting up the threat level, and this one follows that tradition by the creation of yet another Parliament. Much of the success of that invention (as well as the appearance of the classic DC characters) has to be credited to artist Mike Perkins (with the able assistance of colorist Mike Spicer). The story is full of both quiet character moments and grand battle scenes, and is a visual treat throughout.