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Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 1 Paperback – April 10, 2012
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"An influential fantasy author for almost a quarter century." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Alan Moore is perhaps the most acclaimed writer in the graphic story medium, having garnered countless awards for works such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing and Miracleman. He is also the mastermind behind the America's Best Comics line, through which he has created (along with many talented illustrators) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Tom Strong, Tomorrow Stories and Top Ten.
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I know it sounds bizarre, but as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. You can read about it elsewhere on the web, including the blog of artist Stephen Bissette and the DC message boards.
Having said that, yes these are absolutely great stories. (The dream sequence in one of the chapters brought tears to my eyes.) I wouldn't tell you not to buy the book because of those missing words...especially now that you can put them in mentally yourself. But you might want to wait until they do a second (hopefully corrected!) printing...or look for one of those first paperback editions (which won't have issue #20, though).
Although the body contains crude approximations of human organs, they were actually non-functioning, vegetable-based imitations of their human counterparts, indicating that the Swamp Thing had in fact never been human. The Swamp Thing was not Alec Holland; it only believed itself to be so. Alec Holland was killed in the explosion at his lab, but the swamp vegetation had absorbed his knowledge, memories and emotions and created a new sentient being that believed itself to be Alec Holland. This was the essential tragedy at the heart of the series: the Swamp Thing could never become human again because it had never actually been human in the first place. At the end of his autopsy, the Floronic Man realised that the Swamp Thing was not actually dead but merely in a coma and so the Corporation attempted to imprison the Swamp Thing in cold storage. The Swamp Thing quickly regained consciousness, however, and after partially recovering from the shock of finding out what, rather than who, it actually was, escaped back to the swamps of Louisiana. This reimagining of the mythology of the Swamp Thing took place in the comics that were collected together in Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One, the first volume of Vertigo's deluxe hardback collections of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run.
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Two picks up directly from where the first volume left off and collects together issues 28 to 34 of The Saga of the Swamp Thing and Swamp Thing Annual #2.
The first story in Book Two is "The Burial" and it offers a recapping of Swamp Thing's origins. It is also the story in which Alec Holland is finally laid to rest. However, Holland is not the only thing that is buried in this story; "The Burial" is Alan Moore's final marker of the changing of the Swamp Thing guard. In an homage to the work of Wein and Wrightson, Swamp Thing is shown staring out across the swamp as the vegetation that comprises its skin turns brown with the approach of Autumn; staring back is the fresh, green incarnation of Swamp Thing that was envisioned by its original creators. "The Burial" is an acknowledgement of how far the Swamp Thing series has come and a reminder that progress must continue.
And what progress Moore makes. While the Swamp Thing stories of Wein and Wrightson were remarkable for their time, Swamp Thing under the control of Alan Moore was truly groundbreaking. The next story in Book Two is "Love and Death" and it is the first part in a sequence most commonly known as the Arcane trilogy. "Love and Death" is an extremely shocking story that opens with the disturbing image of Abigail Cable (previously Abigail Arcane) naked and bleeding after a hopeless attempt at cleansing. It becomes apparent that Abigail's uncle, former Swamp Thing nemesis, Anton Arcane had possessed the body of her husband Matthew Cable in order to trick her into engaging in an incestuous relationship. Given the subject matter, it's easy to see why Swamp Thing was the first DC monthly title to be distributed without the Comics Code Authority's seal of approval. The trilogy continues with "A Halo of Flies" and "The Brimstone Ballet" as Moore provides an unsettling perspective of evil, of an approaching Armageddon, and of how it affects Abigail and her love.
In reality, referring to it as the Arcane trilogy is misleading, however, since the ultimate resolution is not arrived upon until "Down Amongst the Dead Men". Here, in Moore's interpretation of Dante's The Divine Comedy, Swamp Thing travels to hell to try and save Abigail's soul. While Dante had Virgil and Beatrice as his guides, Swamp Thing has four of DC's classic otherworldly characters - Deadman, The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre and The Demon. The horrific torture that is inflicted on Anton Arcane in hell is grimly unnerving; the villain's body is stuffed with constantly hatching insect eggs. Steve Bissette's artwork captures the dark spectacle perfectly.
After the nightmares that have gone before, the next two stories in Book Two provide some very welcome light relief. With "Pog" Alan Moore offers a tribute to Pogo Possum, Walt Kelly's anthropomorphic animal adventure series set in the Okefenokee Swamp. "Abandoned Houses" is also a tribute, this time to the long-standing tradition in horror anthology comics (dating back to the early 1950s titles put out by EC Comics) of having a host as a unifying theme. DC's two main horror titles, The House of Secrets where Swamp Thing first appeared and The House of Mystery were hosted respectively by the fat demon Cain and his slightly thinner brother Abel. By the time Alan Moore took over on Swamp Thing both of the House series had disappeared but "Abandoned Houses" is a fitting tribute to them.
"Rite of Spring", the final story in Book Two and the one which Neil Gaiman refers to in his introduction as the "vegetable sex chapter", may well be the most controversial in the whole volume. By the time of this story, the relationship between Swamp Thing and Abigail has deepened to the level where they have admitted their love and then have gone on to make love through an hallucinogenic experience after Abigail ate a tuber produced by Swamp Thing's body. Pretty freaky stuff.
Taken all together, the stories that make up Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Two are landmarks in comics history. There is a lot of craziness and darkness involved and so Alan Moore's work might not be to everyone's taste, but the pioneering direction in which he took Swamp Thing paved the way for horror and paranormal comic storylines and series that were to come from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano. The entire Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing is a must-have of comics fans and I for one can't wait for Vertigo to bring out Book Three.
Imagine my disappointment when I took the plastic wrapping off the volume.
First, the pages are printed on the same paper stock as the tradepaperback editions. I know the price of the volume reflects this low-quality paper, but I would have been happy to pay extra to get a high-quality product. Isn't that the point in buying a hardback of something you can get in a paperback for significantly less cost?
Second, the dustjacket was obviously designed by someone unfamiliar with the limitations of offset printing. As I know from my profession, you do NOT print on wax paper type paper. The ink will never completely dry on this type of paper. Unfortunately, that's the material they decided to use for this volume's dustjacket. It's sticky because of the wet ink, and a moderately-pressured wipe of the dustjacket will result in a black smudged finger or cloth. I have yet to risk placing it in my bookshelf with the rest of my volumes, for fear of it leaving ink on the volumes that sandwich.
All that said, would I buy future volumes of this hardback series? Absolutely...but only because I'm such a hardcore fan. And these issues ARE completely amazing. However, unless you're also a hardcore fan, I would have to recommend the tradepaperbacks as a more reasonable option for the money-versus-quality rationale.