Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular #1 – Ram V, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Vita Ayala, Julian Lyle, James Tynion IV, Writers; Mike Perkins, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Emma Rios, John Timms, Christian Ward, Artists; Andy Troy, Jeremia Skipper, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb, Colorists
Ray – 9.5//10
Ray: Horror is big business for comics, so for the first time we’re getting TWO Halloween anthologies in one month from DC. Next week is the jumbo-sized seasonal anthology, but first we get a smaller Swamp Thing-themed anthology, with two stories by Justice League Dark writer Ram V and four guest creative teams. So what horrors does the Guardian of the Green have waiting for us?
First up is “At the Heart of Trees” by Ram V and Mike Perkins. With a missing boy lost in the swamp, a pair of officers search—as one of them tries to overcome the emotional baggage from his own tragic loss in the same place years ago. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing finds an unlikely threat lurking in the swamp, and is forced to try to save one of the swamp’s oldest residents from itself. It’s a tense, creepy story that also serves as the framing device for the rest of the story, as we launch into tales of Swamp Thing from across time.
“Ring of Stones” by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Dominike “Domo” Stanton, gets the time travel off to a thrilling start. Set in ancient Rome, Caesar is inspecting a faraway British settlement when a young man returns with horrifying tales of what’s become of it. Combine a mad settlement leader, a cult of the green, and a horrific monster that resembles a proto-Swamp Thing, and you’ve got an idea of this story. This bears little resemblance to our Swamp Thing—but that makes sense. This is a Parliament from a much harsher time.
“Sleeping Giant” by Vita Ayala and Emma Rios is set in the age of colonialism, on an island in the Caribbean. Focusing on a young girl in search of her older sister who discovers a horrible lair belonging to one of the “visitors,” it recasts the Swamp Thing as a ruthless God of the natives who returns from the Green to deliver some much-needed vengeance. Brilliant, surreal art by Emma Rios and a very satisfying resolution make this story work, even if the monster does take a pretty long time to show up.
Julian Lyle is a writer I haven’t heard of before, but his story with John Timms is the best so far in the volume. A tragic tale with shades of “Castaway,” “No Sign of the Enemy” focuses on a young Japanese soldier during WWII, the sole survivor of his unit, as he carries on a lonely war—years past the end of the war—with only a remnant of the Green to keep him company. Swamp Thing tries to help his friend realize the war is over, but the soldier becomes increasingly obsessed and mad as the story builds to a tragic end. A must-read.
We shift back to the 1400s for a truly terrifying tale by James Tynion IV and Christian Ward, with “Age of Discovery” focusing on a group of Spanish explorers looking for new lands to conquer. Led by an aged explorer and narrated by a young shipmate looking for adventure, they come across a strange green land in the middle of nowhere—and find untold horrors at the hands of a vengeful spirit of the Green who has no time for invaders. The bright colors contrast incredibly well with the bleak and horrific tone, and make this one of the two true gems in this volume of stories.
Finally, we’re back with Ram V and Mike Perkins for “At the Heart of Men,” an epilogue that delivers a melancholy end to the volume. Set decades later, the boy rescued from the swamp returns and finds a much-changed Swamp Thing in need of guidance, and has only questions for him. There aren’t any easy answers here, but the story is haunting and beautifully drawn. There isn’t a weak story in this volume and a few instant classics, which makes this one-shot another must-buy from DC.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.