Review – Swamp Thing Winter Special #1: Len Wein Tribute

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 cover
A tribute to Len Wein, image copyright DC Comics

Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 – Tom King, Len Wein, Writers; Jason Fabok, Kelley Jones, Artists; Brad Anderson, Michelle Madsen, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Horror Without Gore

Ray: One of the most anticipated comics of January, Swamp Thing Winter Special #1, is a giant-sized one-shot issue that serves as both a done-in-one tale by one of DC’s top writer-artist teams and a farewell to the late, great Len Wein illustrated by his frequent collaborator on Swamp Thing, Kelley Jones.

The issue opens with a forty-page story by King and Fabok that finds Swamp Thing in a frozen wasteland. King likes to tell stories of survival and solitude, and this one has a distinct resemblance to the acclaimed motion picture “The Revenant”, only with a surprise hanger-on. After an opening narration that sets up a mysterious psychological enemy, we cut to Swamp Thing hiking through an endless storm, holding a little boy who keeps warning him about a mysterious snow monster. The monster is never seen, and it seems to have plunged the world into endless winter. Naturally, there’s a big twist, and I did see it coming about halfway through, but it doesn’t make it any less affecting when it hits. It’s brilliantly illustrated and almost unbearably tense at points, another classic done-in-one story for King akin to his Kamandi issue and his Darkseid War special.

Then there’s the back half of the issue, which is the last published work of iconic creator Len Wein. He died before he could turn in a dialogue script, so this story is done as a silent story, his descriptions brought to life by his previous collaborator Kelley Jones. The two worked together on a Swamp Thing miniseries during the New 52 era, and this was actually intended to be the first issue of a new series, so it ends on a cliffhanger. The story isn’t exactly clear at points because it was clearly not intended to be a silent story, but Jones’ art is brilliant and features some of the most disturbing visuals in the issue, including a great scene where Swamp Thing emerges from a bedside plant. Swamp Thing is both a superhero and a horror character, a great duality that Jones is excellent at working with. The story involves a kidnapped child, Solomon Grundy, and a Batman cameo that will sadly never be completed. It reads a lot better when accompanied by Wein’s script, printed after the artwork. All together, a fantastic issue and a great tribute to creators both present and departed.

Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 page 1
First page of King and Fabok’s tale.

Corrina: This is horror in the classic, psychological sense, in that all the fear and terror comes not from gore or the big scare but from the growing realization that the worst scares come from one’s imagination. Horror is not my genre, especially zombies, but this is the type of horror that works for me.

Fabok does the heavy lifting in the lead story. There are many panels of simply white plus the boy and Swamp Thing, and Fabok and the colorists make each one distinct, even when they’re filled with snow. Unlike Wein’s story, this one almost could have been told silently and showcases how heavily graphic stories rely on art, though many times we’re often quick to give the full credit to the writer instead. (Not that King doesn’t deserve credit but comic work is a collaboration.)

I also say this because it’s interesting to see the silent story–without captions or dialogue–that Jones produced from Wein’s incomplete script. That makes it a perfect way to compare the two stories, with and without dialogue and panels, and see how the collaboration works in graphic storytelling.

Bonus: There’s a lovely piece of artwork commissioned by DC of Wein and his various creations (Marvel and DC) at the end of the two stories.

Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 Len Wein
The first page of the last Len Wein Swamp Thing story. Art by Kelley Jones

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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