Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant #1 – Brian Azzarello, Dan DiDio, Paul Dini, Steve Niles, Mikey Way, J. Michael Straczynski, Denny O’Neil, Len Wein, writers; Greg Capullo, Ian Churchill, Dustin Nguyen, Dean Ormston, Mateus, Jesus Saiz, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, pencillers; Jonathan Glapion, Norm Rapmund, Dick Giordano, inkers; FCO Plascencia, Rod Reis, Cris Peter, Trish Mulvihill, colorists.
DC first announced its new line of 100-page giant comic anthologies exclusive to Walmart back in the summer, hoping to reach a broader audience and expose classic DC characters to shoppers who may not frequent a local comics store.
The anthologies feature all-new short stories by top writers like Tom King, Brian Michael Bendis, and Jimmy Palmiotti, and include reprints of popular stories from the recent past. The DC 100-page Giants have primarily focused on well-known DC icons including Superman, Batman, the Justice League, and the Teen Titans, but this October DC added a Halloween-themed anthology featuring Swamp Thing to the mix.
While the 100-page Giants have been tricky to track down at some stores, I managed to locate a copy of Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant #1 at my local Walmarts, just in time for Halloween.
The Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant #1 follows the same formula: an introductory new story, accompanied by reprints of several short stories from past Halloween specials and some classic spooky-themed comics. The total package is a lot of fun – you’re not getting all-original stories like the other Halloween anthology DC released this month, Cursed Comics Cavalcade, but it is only a $4.99 price tag (half of the Cursed Comics Cavalcade cost).
Swamp Thing (#1)
The opening story features a new Swamp Thing tale, “Hollow,” from two popular talents, Brian Azzarello on script and Greg Capullo on art. Azzarello has a reputation for dark and gritty stories, and he seems a good fit for Swamp Thing, a character that tends to patrol the darker corners of the DC universe.
The story focuses on a trio of sinister trick-or-treaters who encounter a mysterious lady in the woods; she essentially serves as an acolyte for Swamp Thing. Of course, the trick-or-treaters are not what they seem, and as Swamp Thing arrives to address the threat, he reveals that a bigger, more sinister menace may be on the way. Capullo draws monstrous characters well, and his art lends itself well to the eeriness of Swamp Thing’s story. The end of the story hints at a possibility that we might see more from Azzarello and Capullo on Swamp Thing, and I truly hope that is the case.
Blue Devil and the Enchantress
The second story reprints a tale called “It’s The Pumpkin Sinister, Blue Devil!” by Dan DiDio and Ian Churchill originally found in 2007’s DC Universe Infinite Halloween Special. I admittedly knew very little about either of these characters, having encountered them mostly as side notes in my years of reading DC comics. But I was surprised at how fun this quick story was. Enchantress isn’t given much to do, but Blue Devil’s battle with a “great pumpkin” monster raised by Charlie Brown and Linus knock-offs had me smiling.
This Paul Dini/Dustin Nguyen tale, “Kcirt Ro Taert,” is also a reprint from the DC Universe Infinite Halloween Special. It’s a short, disturbing story: the premise involves a group of teenagers injecting the Scarecrow’s fear toxin into candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Zatanna learns of the plot and vengefully deals with the perpetrators, even turning their own medicine against them after they had been apprehended. It was a somewhat dour tale, without many redeeming qualities other than the bad guys getting caught. But Nguyen’s slick art lent a welcome creepiness factor to the story.
Superman vs. zombies could be a fun concept, but the Steve Niles-written “Strange Cargo” didn’t resonate with me. The very quick story opens with a tease flashing back to an instance when “Superman was scared”, then takes the reader through Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane encountering zombies “imported” by Lex Luthor. Jimmy’s and Lois’ campy dialogue detracts from the eeriness of the tale. Superman is summoned to save the day, but Superman’s feeling of being “scared” lasts for all of one panel before he realizes the zombies are already dead and removes the threat. Dean Ormston’s macabre art is the highlight of this entry.
“The Ballad of Jonathan Crane”, by Mikey Way, Mateus, and Chris Peter, is almost an Elseworlds-style tale that sets Scarecrow (Jonathan Crane) as the Ichabod character in a “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” fantasy. Crane is an aspiring lothario who encounters a Batman-inspired headless horseman on his way through the woods. Reprinted from 2008’s DCU Halloween Special, it’s a whimsical story to include with this group.
Aquaman and the Demon
“Night Gods” by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz, originally featured in The Brave and the Bold #32, presents a team-up of two characters whom I typically wouldn’t consider as good complements for each other. But this pairing of Aquaman and Etrigan the Demon works. The two join forces to combat an underwater zombie force in service of a Cthulu-esque monster attempting to cross into the heroes’ world via the sea. The reason Straczynski gives for the monsters using the oceans is clever, as is Straczynski’s dialogue for an always-rhyming Etrigan. And Aquaman is actually cool in this story, which is something you don’t see often. The murky art fits this underwater monster tale perfectly.
Batman and Robin
This story was my favorite of the bunch, simply for the nostalgia factor. “Night of the Reaper,” from Batman #237 by Denny O’Neil, Neil Adams & Dick Giordano, focuses on Batman’s and Robin’s investigation of a mysterious grim reaper-like figure haunting a Halloween party. Several classic 70’s comic book elements are here, including campy dialogue (“Dig the floats!” “I’m dandy.”), Batman’s constant internal narrative, and Adams’ archetypal Batman art. Nazis too, of course. A fun story to include in this collection.
Swamp Thing (#2)
The 100-page Giant closes with a reprint of Swamp Thing’s origin and first appearance from House of Secrets #92. With a script by Len Wein and art by horror-great Bernie Wrightson, this story introduced the creepy yet complex swamp monster to the world. Murdered by his best friend who was in love with his wife (soap opera much?), Alex Olsen’s body was dumped in a nearby swamp and reincarnated as an elemental monster with the power to control plant life. This origin story is a fitting cap to this great anthology.
Almost every one of the stories included in the Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant was a great read. It’s well worth the $4.99 price tag if you’re willing to trek into a Walmart and hunt for it. 9/10.