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The New Age in Graphic Horror
on April 14, 2003
I was just a junior high school comic book freak when Alan Moore took over the writing duties on the Swamp Thing series. I can clearly remember that even back then the comics world was abuzz with the incredible new realms that Moore and his collaborators were opening up. In an unusual fashion, this new ground was broken on a tired old series, as the Swamp Thing title was moribund and probably headed for cancellation. It's quite surprising that Moore was given free rein to completely reinvent this established character, and in the process he both proved himself as one of the strongest writers in the field, and sent the comics world in new and darker directions that are still being felt today.
Moore makes use of the best methods of horror writing, and the stupendous artwork of Stephen Bissette and John Totleben accentuate the dark feel of the storylines and send the Swamp Thing series to new heights of terror. Much credit should be given to colorist Tatjana Wood as well. In this volume, check out the artists' very groundbreaking (for the time) use of frames, placement, and coloring to accentuate the psychological horror of the story. One of my favorite examples of this can be found on page 27 here, with the accented focus on the crazed eye of the villain Floronic Man. In fact, this initial volume highlights Moore's intentional connection with the standard comic universe as well, with creative reintroductions of both Floronic Man and Etrigan (Jack Kirby's Demon), who had both been little heard from previously, plus a cameo appearance by the Justice League of America.
This early in Moore's run, the gutwrenching plotlines were still building up steam, and the subsequent volumes of this series really deliver the goods. The most haunting and rewarding installments here are the trilogy that are listed as Books Five through Seven (or Swamp Thing 25-27 in their original form), which feature disturbing turns by troubled kids with connections to the dark side. This graphic novel series from DC constitutes some of the most tremendous works of art and writing in comics history, and this first volume easily shows what all the fuss was about. Whether you're new or re-experiencing the best original comics of your past, prepare to be blown away.