Existential, Ambiguous, Amazing: Reviewing ‘The Swamp Thing’ #16
by Olly MacNamee
The Swamp Thing #16 marks the end to the latest chapter in the saga of the Swamp Thing with a note of both hope and dread. Another existential adventure comes to a conclusion, but not necessarily a definitive conclusion. This series bows out, much as it was birthed, thought provoking from start to finish.
And so we come to the concluding issue in this existential saga, and it down’t get much more existential than this final issue either. An issue that seems ambiguous in its ending offering both hope and dread as the battle between the Parliament of Trees and the Parliament of Gears reaches a form of conclusion. The naively optimistic and more realistically pessimistic both have their place in this book. And leaving me somewhat perplexed as a reader too. But then, I don’t think a writer of Ram V’s calibre ever intended this story to be neatly wrapped up and cleanly concluded.
Much of this series has inhabited the realms of the mind and the spirit with Levi Kamei’s Swamp Thing traversing these planes often in a dream-like state, thanks to the careful wording of Ram V’s narrative, lyrical flourishes. There is both the real and the ethereal and this issue feels like a combination of both in its summation. Almost giving the reader the final word on what is now real and what is not. And, thereby allowing Levi’s rendition as the Champion of the Green to be either ignored or embraced by new creators in the years to come.
Mike Perkins art flourishes one last time, depicting an ever-changing habitat of greenery and machinery, both sublime and monstrous in its scale. Once more he channels the past greats in his art, no more so than in a knowing homage to Steve Bissette’s iconic scene of Swamp Thing, arms spread wide, with a glorious sunset bathing him in the background (The Saga of the Swamp Thing #24). And all the while serving up his own version of the much monster ver the past sixteen issues too. A creature teeming with flora and fauna, teeming with life, as he is here at the end too.
What Ram V And Perkins have done, with or without Kamei’s involvement in the DCU in the future, is greatly expand the Swamp Thing mythos. Building on what has come before and adding more depth, more rich layers and, in a character like Trinity who represents the dual opposite reactions considered in this issue, including new characters and concepts into the sand box. I think it is safe to say that all involved in this saga of the Swamp Thing have certainly left their mark on the character and its legacy.
The Swamp Thing is at its best when it challenges the reader and steps out of the comfort zone that so many superhero comics must tread. He is a creature that can transcend reality and provoke thought. That is a legacy that Alan Moore may well have laid the foundations for, but it’s certainly a legacy and form of storytelling Ram V and Mike Perkins totally understood and embraced. An ambiguous and thereby thought-provoking ending, maybe, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The Swamp Thing #16 is out now from DC Comics