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Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 1

Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Stephen Bissette, John Totleben et al.
Published by DC/Vertigo, 2009

If I was worrying about trying too hard to sell things with my last review, I certainly shouldn’t need to sell this one. This is the comic that started it all! Alan Moore, Vertigo, and the Modern Age of comic books! Okay, that statement stretches things quite a bit, but it did introduce Moore to America, securing it an important place on must read lists.

I was just getting back into comics when this came out, having given them up during my teen years, and I wasn’t reading anything as mainstream as Swamp Thing, but a friend loaned my his copies a few years later. That was the only time I read them before re-reading them now, but I am pretty sure his collection of singles did not include .‘Loose Ends’, Moore’s very first issue. It has been collected here for the first time.

What did I think re-reading it after all these years? The art poses a problem for me, one that I often have when older comics are reprinted with modern production techniques. The colours are too much. Too bright. Garish, even. Especially when you consider how fine Bissette and Totleben’s lines are. The story? Through the actions of the vegetable villain Floronic Man, Swamp Thing learns his true origins and begins the process of reconciling himself with that knowledge. But first Moore kills, or tries to kill, just about everyone. He does kill the title character. And when he brings the Swamp Thing back, he completely retcons the character, taking him from the B movie monster he had always been and making him over completely. How often do we hear that complaint today? A new creator comes in and throws everything previous writers have done out the window? On reading this I also realized that this, and the first two or three Sandman arcs, were deeply steeped in the horror genre. A lot of people traced the darkness of the Modern era’s comics to DKR and Watchmen, but the roots are laid here and those roots grew out of monsters and nightmares. I also spotted the first appearance of Sting, a preoccupation of Bissette’s that would give rise to the character John Constantine.

Besides the addition of issue 20, this collection also boasts an informative introduction by Swamp Thing creator Len Wein, who describes both the original creation of the title and, with Wein acting as editor, the passing of the torch to Moore, whose changes he enthusiastically supported.

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