Swamp Thing Bronze Age Volume 3

This is a review of Swamp Thing Bronze Age Volume 3. Yes, there is a Swamp Thing Vol. 2, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Give me a break, huh? I started with Volume 3 because I read many of these comics as a kid. They are B.A.M. – Before Alan Moore, the writer who remade Swamp Thing in his godlike image. I wanted to see how good these comics were, because my recollections were mixed. So far I’ve read fifteen issues. What’s the verdict?

This version of Swamp Thing has no trouble finding its legs and comes roaring out of the gate. This is a horror comic, with a certain look and written in a certain style. I’d say these comics are for older readers than the Swamp Thing issues from the early 70’s, but I think it’s more that the country aged – and not in a good way. People may not know it, but the late 70’s, early 80’s were a pretty nihilistic time period. You had to be there.

The plot: Swamp Thing rescues a little blonde girl from her father, who is about to shoot her. The girl might look like Carol Anne from Poltergeist, but it turns out she’s more Rhoda Penmark from the Bad Seed. FYI, this graphic novel also has a cameo by a Rondo Hatton lookalike. But the Swampster has other problems. The Sunderland Corporation is after him, because reasons, and he’s slowly dying. 

This leads to another Swamp Thing road trip, ala the original series. There’s the vampire colony in Illinois started by nihilistic teenagers. The cruise ship shanghaied by a mutant tentacle monster, which turns out to be a mutated herpes virus instead of a Lovecraftian monster. The island populated by disaffected Vietnam vets with reality-bending powers.

Soon the Swamp Thing’s young friend begins to manifest psychic abilities. Turns out she’s the herald of the Antichrist. This is the point when this series jumps the shark, and I got lost in a sea of plot points. The densely plotted issues are interesting, because I wouldn’t call plot one of the writers’ strong points (this is not meant as an insult), but whatever.

There are parts of this graphic novel that are in poor taste, but effective horror often is in bad taste. Case in point: there is a story based on the Atlanta child murders, which occurred between 1979 and 1981. In the story the killer is possessed by a demon,  which delivers a bizarre monologue on why it prefers to kill non-white children.

The truth is far worse, because the monster is a human being. The worst monsters are always human beings. The graphic novel dances around this truth, but it does grapples with more grown-up issues and is way more realistic than the earlier issues of horror comics I’ve read, most of which feature classic monsters divorced from present-day reality. This graphic novel is firmly rooted in the early Reagan years in America.

Recommended for fans of Swamp Thing and horror comics.

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