Swamp Thing: Twin Branches – Maggie Stiefvater, Writer; Morgan Beem, Artist; Jeremy Lawson, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: As DC’s growing OGN line expands, we’re getting more and more unique takes on DC heroes reinvented for a modern teenage audience. And they don’t get more unlikely than Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem. Coming on the heels of the all-ages Secret Spiral of Swamp Thing by Kirk Scroggs, this is an environmental thriller that reinvents Alec Holland as a modern teenager with one big twist—he has a twin brother, Walker, who is a new addition to the comic book mythos.
The twins couldn’t be more different. While Alec is a quiet, awkward diabetic with an obsession with plants, Walker is a rambunctious social butterfly who loves committing petty crimes and dragging his brother into his antics. But when they come home and find their father cheating on their mother, the fallout leads to them being exiled from suburban life and sent to live with their aunt and cousins in unfamiliar territory—the Louisiana bayou, where the differences between the brothers become more pronounced than ever.
Much of the story centers around a long-term science project Alec is obsessed with, as he studies the life of plants and how they transmit information even after death. This has led to a formula, subtitled “Boris” that contains the history of a specific plant he’s kept alive longer than any other—until it gets damaged by his cousins upon his arrival in the bayou. He tries to salvage it with the help of a kindly science teacher from the local school, but it seems to be for nothing—until he starts noticing strange effects on local flora and fauna that came into contact with the formula.
This is a highly character-driven story, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well without Alec at its center. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but I definitely read him as being on the spectrum, and this may be one of the most in-depth explorations of a neuroatypical mind I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic book. His inner thoughts are highly compelling, but I can’t say the same about many of the other players. Walker is likeable but a bit one-note, and the other locals are mostly just generic redneck bullies.
The one exception is Abby Arcane, a local girl who Alec develops a strong connection with. She’s one of the few townspeople who has her own interest in plant history—namely, the town’s oldest tree with a dark history—and that allows Alec to start opening up slightly. This is a very different Abby Arcane—no mention of her father Anton or a big supernatural conspiracy here. She reminds me a bit of Ivy from Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass—two classic DC antiheroes who are completely revamped, and are compelling characters in their own right but bear very little similarity to their original version.
While the story is strong, it’s Morgan Beem’s art that brings it to stunning life. He’s a surreal artist who draws strong human characters and phenomenal monsters. The slow transformation of two dogs over the course of the book is incredible, but it’s nothing compared to the monster horror show that ensues in the last act. I do wish this story had a stronger central villain and more ties to the classic Swamp Thing mythology, but it’s a fascinating tale of social misfits who find connections based around another world. It’s another winner in the DC line with the most promise for the future.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.