2017 was an all-round sombre year for Swamp Thing fans.
After only recently saying goodbye to co-creator/artist Bernie Wrightson in March ’17, now DC Comics presents their Swamp Thing Winter Special as a tribute to Swamp Thing and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein following his passing in September last year. The 80-page mega-issue captained by Batman writer Tom King and artist Jason Fabok included Len Wein’s final, uncompleted entry into his Swamp Thing saga, and is owed praise for presenting a fresh story that still captures the heart of Wein and Wrightson’s loveable monster.
The Talk of the Saints
King’s tribute to Wein finds Alec Holland, AKA Swamp Thing, trudging through blizzards and tundra in search of the snow monster who has frozen over his beloved Louisiana swamp. Despite himself fading in the cold, Alec endeavours to protect from the wild winter a young boy who has been separated from his family.To anyone who’s kept up to date with King’s Batman run, the universal acclaim surrounding ‘The Talk of the Saints’ should come as no surprise. Writer Tom King’s previous brush with the character in the standalone story Batman #23 (2017) was one of the highest reviewed issues of Batman last year, commended for its stylistic dip into the film-noir genre and eloquent script. Though, if I’m honest, the reappearance of Batman’s best running joke Rogue in years – the infamous Kite Man (hell yeah!) – really made the issue worth it. You can check out Batman #23 here if you’re interested.
Swamp Thing’s Winter Special is a no less engaging or moving entry into Wein and Wrightson’s legacy. Using a radio-broadcast from a football game as a framing device, King delivers a heart-felt examination of Holland’s humanity in a surprisingly fresh and exciting manner. The new setting of cold and ice as opposed to Alec’s familiar, muggy Lousiana swamp breaks the character out of comfort zones, both introspectively for Alec and for us as readers.
Why is Tom King’s writing effective?
One standout aspect from The Talk of the Saints was that Tom King didn’t spoon-feed his readers. It takes a ballsy writer to be able to run with a concept and leave the audience hanging half in suspense and perhaps confusion before certain plot revelations are made. While often writers fall into the trap of revealing too much too soon – a danger of sticking to a formulaic writing structure – breaking the cycle has it’s benefits: for one, mysteries presented in The Talk of the Saints only hook the reader more.
Though King’s script glows with rich character writing, it is no less a product of Fabok’s intricately detailed and lifelike art, complimented by Brad Anderson’s striking colours. Stark whites and detailed, marshland limbs are easy to get lost in. Enough cannot be said about Tom King’s tribute to Swamp Thing other than it is a delight and a highly recommended, heartrending treasure to read.
The Dead Don’t Sleep
“No one wrote Swamp Thing like Len Wein” – Rebecca Taylor, editor for DC comics (2017)
In the latter half of DC’s Swamp Thing Winter Special, artist Kelley Jones brings to life the final issue Len Wein penned for his miniseries Swamp Thing: The Dead Don’t Sleep. Wein’s final script was left unfinished and thus presented without text; a silent, thoughtful reflection on the man who created the loveable monster.
In Wein’s final script, we follow Swamp Thing as he wraps up loose ends from his previous ventures and Solomon Grundy, as always, sets trouble afoot. There is a certain disparity between seeing Jones’ artwork without Wein’s dialogue pencilled into the story, which makes the final pages of the Swamp Thing Winter Special all the more investing. Reading Len’s script separately afterwards, gleaning meaning and the story from the hollow panels, leaves you with a sad sort of poignancy. Though the industry has suffered a blow by saying goodbye to creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the rich legacy that they have left for future generations of creators should be something we all look forward to seeing unfold.
Swamp Thing Winter Special is a poignant and terribly sad read that anyone – both fans of Swamp Thing and otherwise – will love.