Advance Review: ‘The Swamp Thing’ #1 Delivers On Horror And Mystery With A New Face Behind An Old Name
by Olly MacNamee
The Swamp Thing #1 introduces a new face behind a familiar name in a great debut issue. American Gothic meets a more globally flavoured horror from Ram V, Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer.
The Swamp Thing comics have always been rooted in a firmly American gothic tradition and The Swamp Thing #1 seems to be following in this tradition with the introduction of a Civil War era ghoul believed to be haunting a local desert town. A details we learn from the gathered forces looking into a local murder and waxing lyrical about metamorphosis. A theme you feel will play a large part in this ten issue series from writer Ram V and artist Mike Perkins. A Wild West trapper turns into a local ghoul, while a new Champion of the Green emerges in this issue too. This ain’t your daddy’s Swamp Thing that’s for sure.
With a wider breadth of talent and voices in the comic book industry currently, Ram V still remains one of the few writers with Indian heritage, but writing for DC Comics certainly goes him the perfect platform to introduce new characters that reflect his own background, shared by many readers. And so we are given a new face behind an old name; step forward Levi Kamei, a man who himself is fascinating by transformation. Although, partly his trip back to India was to seek out his roots, his story before his transformation through migration and education. In tying this newest muck monster to India offers up a whole new vista to draw from, and there is the hint of Kamei’s new found role having something to do with his motherland.
Having seen how Ram V breathed new life into vampire lore with his work on Vault Comics’ These Savage Shores, which borrowed from Indian mythology, I look forward to what influences he plants and nurtures to fruition on this title. The saga of the Swamp Thing may have been an American gothic story, but something tells me that this isn’t going to be entirely the case with this new series. My Spidey-senses tell me the Swamp Thing legend may start at a familiar point of entry for most fans, but this tale is going to go through some new updates and inclusions before this series closes out. Leaving a far more richer tapestry again for future creators.
In bringing in an all-new alter ego for the Swamp Thing, Ram V breathes new life and new mystery to bear onto this character. The idea that there can be more than one champion of the Green – and across time – was successfully played with in last year’s Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular, which Ram V and Mike Perkins had a large hand in, contribution the two book end chapters of that one-shot. It looks like it was good enough a conceit to build a whole news series around. And in doing so, hopefully the two creatives have been able to distance themselves enough from the inevitable comparisons reviewers like me are going to make to Alan Moore’s idolised run on the book. Although, I will say this: because of Moore’s work (and Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s original, lest we forget), Swamp Thing has ever since benefited from some of the best writing in the industry. You can’t say that for every character at DC Comics. So, expectations were high, for this readers, and I’m glad to report they were well and truly met. And while it will no doubt borrow something from the past, The Swamp Thing #1 is definitely it’s own beast, with its own demons haunting the book.
The wonderfully dense script certainly keeps artist Mike Perkins on his toes as he flexes his artistic credentials with the depiction of the very contrasting landscapes of the American desert and the deep, lush tropical vegetation of India. As well as the more urban setting of inner city New York. All this and a host of horrifying images that are wonderfully enhanced with the colours of Mike Spicer.
Perkins seems to be incorporating pencil art with inked art to produce highly textured looking pages that only better helps convey the richness of the artwork. In leaning more towards realism than other comic book artists adds a certain sense of the cinematic about it all. That, and Perkins’ mastery over shadows and darkness that only add to the sinister mood shifts this book has to offer. And when we do get to see Swamp Thing in his full glory (or should that be “full gory”?), it’s an appropriately terrifying image worthy of the more graphic EC Comics of the 50s. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing, but with chlorophyll creepiness.
Ram V And Mike Perkins quickly and successfully introduce and establish Kamei Levi in the reader’s mind and throw enough crumbs onto the forest floor to ensure you will want to pick up the next issue.
The Swamp Thing #1 is out Tuesday 2nd March from DC Comics