In the most recent issue of Swamp Thing, Charles Soule set up the upcoming battle between Swamp Thing and Seeder (AKA The Floronic Man) over who gets to be the Avatar of the Green. In this issue, the build-up to that sure to be epic fight begins, as Swampy takes a journey into the heart of the Green and also into his own past.
The issue opens with a very well-written and intriguing monologue about the nature of the green, and about it’s conflict with the red being about food, about how certain beings need to eat to survive, but plants, the green, don’t. We see a strange look at an alternate world where humans live on photosynthesis, but also a look at some of the earliest Avatars of the Green, including an awesome Diplodocus Swamp Thing. It turns out that the person giving this speech is a former Avatar and member of the Parliament of Trees, and he’s a rather fat-looking jolly Swamp Thing. I like how Soule is exploring the concept of the Parliament being, well, a Parliament here, and how the different members disagree and fight. We’re seeing a similar thing with the Parliament of Limbs over in Lemire’s Animal Man at the moment, and whilst that battle for control has been a lot more violent, it’s cool to see these parallels, and that these two books are still linked, even with Rotworld over.
This previous Swamp Thing has put his support right behind Alec Holland in the upcoming fight, so he’s brought him to the Green to help him develop his strength and prepare. To do this, Swampy has to visit another former Avatar, Lady Weeds, who is pretty bad-ass. She teaches Swamp Thing that his powers are much more potent than he thinks, and that he is more than just the Swamp Thing body, the whole fucking Earth is his body. I do have some concerns about Swamp Thing becoming way too powerful, but since Lady Weeds is also teaching this same stuff to Seeder, he’s going to need it. Lady Weeds also delivers an excellent flashback, where we see her defeat a rival for the Avatar crown, and also that she caused the Great Irish Potato Famine out of spite, which is all kinds of fucked up.
After picking up Lady Weeds’ lesson, it’s time for one last former Avatar to talk to our hero, and it’s one we’re already very familiar with… it’s the original Swamp Thing! Yes, it’s the plant that thought it was Alec Holland, the character from all of those classic Len Wein and Alan Moore stories. It’s easy to forget that the current Swamp Thing is actually a different character to the classic character, so it was a lot of fun to see them meet and to see the differences, even if they are basically the same entity in a lot of ways. Alec is pissed at his predecessor, blaming his failures for the fact that he had to become Avatar, and they have a small fight, but in the end, they make peace, and classic Swamp Thing delivers an important lesson, that if Alec doesn’t want to compromise, to change who he is to win, he can just say ‘No’.
I am very excited for the fight between Swamp Thing and Seeder, and this Annual really built up that anticipation even more. Most Annuals are pretty disposable, but this one really isn’t, it’s an integral part of Soule’s ongoing story, and he uses the extra page length really well and develops the world of this character even more. The artwork was also fantastic, with Javier Pina and Kano delivering a lush depiction of The Green, as well as getting across the true power of these characters, and also imbuing them, even though they are weird plant-monsters, with a lot of humanity and personality.