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Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch

Written by Arion on Friday, September 20 2013 and posted in Blog
Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
Stephen Bissette & John Totleben
Words are an important part of a spell, much in the same way that good writers can create real magic using only words. “The Summoning” (published in Swamp Thing # 46, June 1986), it’s all about conjurors, spells and the mighty magic of literature. 

Alan Moore summons some of the most obscure characters of the DC Universe, those who dabble with the arcane, those with wizardry enough to conquer the astral plane. John Constantine reunites Baron Winter, Sargon the Sorcerer, Dr. Occult, Steve Dayton (formerly known as Mento of the Doom Patrol), Zatara and Zatanna. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing reunites Deadman, the Phantom Stranger, Doctor Fate, the Spectre and the Demon Etrigan. The war against the primordial darkness is about to begin, and not even the creatures of hell are comfortable with this new threat (Etrigan admits “favoring the devil that we know”).

When I first read “The Summoning” I realized how Machiavellian John Constantine can be. He manipulates Baron Winter to use his mansion in Georgetown as an operations center, he lies to Steve Dayton telling him that his life won’t be in danger, and his cynicism never prevents him from smiling as he remembers his sessions of tantric sex with Zatanna, the daughter of the prestigious warlock Zatara. Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcalá capture the monstrous essence of hell, while portraying an ominous atmosphere in the real world, with a special emphasis on the twisted expressions of Constantine and his colleagues.

“I have seen… human beings… both tormentors and tormented… locked into a dismal circle… of pain and retribution… gender against gender… race against race… generations lost… in a maze of death… and guilt… and gunfire” ponders Swamp Thing, as he remembers his journey through the darkest corners of America. His days of traveling are over. “American Gothic” has ended. And that’s the beginning of “The End” (July 1986), a double-sized anniversary edition that celebrates the 50th issue of Swamp Thing. It’s here that everything gets kicked into “the high gear that whirls us remorselessly towards the cycle’s climax”, as Charles Shaar Murray affirms.

Deep in the wastelands of hell, the final battle against the primordial darkness begins. Etrigan the Demon is the first to attack, but his fatalism marks his defeat; the second one is Doctor Fate, but his contempt causes his downfall; the third one is the Spectre, the most powerful creature on Earth, Heaven and Hell, but not even his divine thirst for vengeance is enough. Finally, Swamp Thing surprises the primordial darkness with his calmness, his roots in nature, and although he won’t harm his enemy in return he receives no harm at all. His conclusions, nevertheless, deserve to be highlighted: “the black soil… is rich in foul decay… yet glorious life… springs from it […] perhaps evil… is the humus formed by virtue’s decay… and perhaps… perhaps it is from that dark, sinister loam… that virtue grows strongest”.
Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
Stan Woch & Alfredo Alcalá

Meanwhile, on Earth, the séance continues. John Constantine tries to channelize all the mystic energies at his disposal to help Swamp Thing and his allies. But they’re dealing with forces beyond human comprehension and the result is tragic: Sargon the Sorcerer burns alive, and then Zatara suffers the same agony. Finally Steve Dayton’s mind collapses. Constantine and the remaining survivors understand the high cost of victory.

As Neil Gaiman observes on the prologue “the consummation of the ‘American Gothic’ storyline was twice the length of a regular comic, it could still be longer. Armageddon comes and goes in forty pages, leaving in its wake a number of dead and shattered individuals and a philosophy that practically any religion would find heretical –or at least uncomfortable. It also marked the end of the Bissette and Totleben art team”. 

Indeed, this is the final issue illustrated by the marvelously talented Stephen Bissette and John Totleben. Their farewell is a deeply evocative, beautiful depiction of the apocalypse, of the end of all things, and they manage to create the definitive evil, something so powerful that can actually scare the demons of hell. Bissette, Veitch and Totleben bestow upon Doctor Fate, Spectre and the others a sense of dignity but also despair. The “spontaneous combustion” of Sargon and Zatara is brutal, and they apply the most delicate textures of the brush to show us how shocking can it be to see human flesh burning. 
Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
Cain and Abel look upon an horde of demons led by Swamp Thing and Deadman /
Caín y Abel miran la horda de demonios dirigida por la Cosa del Pantano y Deadman 

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Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
Doctor Fate is defeated / Doctor Fate es derrotado

Las palabras son una pieza clave de los hechizos, del mismo modo que los buenos escritores pueden crear magia de verdad usando sólo palabras. "La invocación" (publicada en "Swamp Thing" # 46, junio de 1986), es sobre conjuros, hechizos y la poderosa magia de la literatura. 

Alan Moore convoca a algunos de los personajes más oscuros del Universo DC, aquellos que experimentan con lo arcano, aquellos con hechicería suficiente para conquistar el plano astral. John Constantine reúne a Baron Winter, Sargon el hechicero, Dr. Occult, Steve Dayton (conocido en el pasado como Mento, de la Patrulla Condenada), Zatara y Zatanna. Mientras tanto, Swamp Thing reúne a Deadman, Phantom Stranger, Doctor Fate, Spectre y el demonio Etrigan. La guerra con la oscuridad primordial está por empezar, y ni siquiera las criaturas del infierno se sienten cómodas ante esta nueva amenaza (Etrigan admite “favorecer al diablo que conocemos”).

Cuando leí "La invocación" por primera vez, me di cuenta de lo maquiavélico que podía ser John Constantine. Él manipula a Baron Winter para usar su mansión en Georgetown como centro de operaciones, le miente a Steve Dayton diciéndole que su vida no correrá peligro, y su cinismo nunca le impide sonreír mientras recuerda sus sesiones de sexo tántrico con Zatanna, la hija del prestigioso brujo, Zatara. Stan Woch y Alfredo Alcalá capturan la esencia monstruosa del infierno, mientras que expresan una atmósfera ominosa en el mundo real, con énfasis especial en las expresiones retorcidas de Constantine y sus colegas.

Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
If the Spectre has fallen, can Swamp Thing prevail? /
Si Spectre ha caído, ¿podrá prevalecer la Cosa del Pantano?
"He visto... seres humanos... tanto atormentadores como atormentados... presas de un terrible círculo... de dolor y retribución... género contra género... raza contra raza... generaciones perdidas... en un laberinto de muerte... y culpa... y pólvora", reflexiona la Cosa del Pantano, mientras recuerda su viaje por los rincones más oscuros de Estados Unidos. Sus días de viaje han terminado. “American Gothic” ha terminado. Y ese es el principio de “El fin” (julio de 1986), una edición de aniversario extra grande que celebra el número 50 de "Swamp Thing". Es aquí donde todo llega "a la máxima velocidad que nos arremolina sin remordimientos hacia el clímax del ciclo", tal como afirma Charles Shaar Murray.

En lo más profundo del infierno, comienza la batalla final contra la oscuridad primordial. El demonio Etrigan es el primero en atacar, pero su fatalismo causa su derrota; el segundo es Doctor Fate, pero su desprecio marca su caída; el tercero es Spectre, la criatura más poderosa de la Tierra, del cielo y del infierno, pero ni siquiera su divina sed de venganza es suficiente. Finalmente, la Cosa del Pantano sorprende a la oscuridad primordial con su calma, sus raíces en la naturaleza, y aunque no puede dañar a su enemigo tampoco recibe ningún daño. Sus conclusiones, no obstante, merecen ser resaltadas: “la negra tierra... es rica en obscena descomposición... sin embargo, la gloriosa vida... brota de ella […] tal vez la maldad... es el humus formado por la descomposición de la virtud... y tal vez... tal vez es en ese musgo siniestro... en el que la virtud crece con más fuerza”.
Swamp Thing # 49 50 - Moore, Bissette, Totleben Woch
The primordial darkness is unleashed / la oscuridad primordial es desatada

Mientras tanto, en la Tierra, la sesión de espiritismo continúa. John Constantine intenta canalizar todas las energías místicas a su disposición para ayudar a la Cosa del Pantano y a sus aliados. Pero se enfrentan a fuerzas más allá de la comprensión humana y el resultado es trágico: Sargon el hechicero se quema vivo, y luego Zatara sufre la misma agonía. Finalmente, la mente de Steve Dayton colapsa. Constantine y los sobrevivientes restantes entienden el alto costo de la victoria.

Como observa Neil Gaiman en el prólogo “la consumación de la saga ‘American Gothic’ tenía el doble de ancho de un cómic normal, y aun así pudo ser más grande. El Armagedón llega y se va en cuarenta páginas, dejando un rastro de muertos e individuos destrozados y una filosofía que prácticamente toda religión calificaría de herética –o por lo menos incómoda. También marcó el fin del equipo artístico de Bissette y Totleben”. 

De hecho, este es el último número ilustrado por los maravillosamente talentosos Stephen Bissette y John Totleben. Su despedida es profundamente evocativa, un hermoso retrato del apocalipsis, del fin de todas las cosas, y logran crear la maldad definitiva, algo tan poderoso que puede incluso espantar a los demonios del infierno. Bissette, Veitch y Totleben le otorgan a Doctor Fate, Spectre y los demás un sentido de dignidad pero también de desesperación. La “combustión espontánea” de Sargon y Zatara es brutal, y ellos aplican las texturas más delicadas del pincel para mostrarnos lo impactante que es ver la carne humana quemándose.

Originally Published at http://artbyarion.blogspot.com/2013/09/swamp-thing-49-50-moore-bissette.html


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About the Author - Arion


Arion, who is either from Chile or New York (it’s not really clear) writes a blog that the Outhouse steals on a regular basis.  Arion is by far the nicest of all the staff writers and the most well behaved only having been banned from one country.  One thing we really appreciate about Aroin is that he writes his reviews in English and Spanish and we hope someday he’ll translate this blurb for us.  We’re not so good at languages, just look at how well we write in English if you need proof.  You should bookmark Arion’s blog -  http://artbyarion.blogspot.com – and actually look at it.  There will be a quiz at the end of every month.

 


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