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.

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 1

This is a review of Swamp Thing: Bronze Age Vol. 1. I have a confession to make. This is the very first graphic novel I read, back in 2022. Right now I’m eight issues into the first Moon Knight Epic Anthology, with no end in sight, so it’s a good thing I never wrote a review!

Swamp Thing is a comic with an interesting history. Alan Moore remade the character in the 1980’s, but it had a storied history before then. Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson created Swamp Thing back in the early 70’s, which makes sense, because that was the age of the superhero/horror mashup. Think Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, Creature Commandos, etc., etc., etc.

My feelings about this graphic novel did a 180 as I read it. Swamp Thing’s origin story – let’s put it nicely, here – has as many holes as Swiss Cheese. The plot: Alec and Linda Holland are working on their wondrous Bio-Restorative Formula. Apparently the only place they can do their experiments is in the middle of the Louisiana swamps, despite the fact that unsavory characters have an unsavory interest in their formula.

You’d think the government – which is very interested in the formula, also – could build them a lab, but apparently not. Instead, they send Matt Cable, the most incompetent security guard on earth, to watchdog them. All the bad guys have to do is watch the lab and wait until Cable leaves to patrol the area, which is what they do.

They blow up Alec’s lab. Unfortunately, Alec is in the lab when it’s blown up. He falls into the swamp waters, which combine with his Bio-Restorative Formula to somehow rejuvenate him – into a MOSS ENCRUSTED MOCKERY OF A MAN. After the thugs kill Swamp Thing’s wife, using the SAME EXACT METHOD, Swamp Thing takes his vengeance. Cable blames Swamp Thing instead of his own incompetence, and we have a series.

So yeah, the writing of the first issue isn’t exactly stellar. But the series finds its legs in the very next issue with the arrival of Swamp Thing’s greatest enemy, Arcane and his Un-Men. Other monsters follow – werewolves, stitched-together monsters, Lovecraftian creatures, zombies, mechanical men. There’s also a trip to Gotham City, where we get to see Swamp Thing punch out Batman in a single panel. This was 1970’s Batman, not the invincible crimefighting demigod we’ve all come to know and love.

The writing doesn’t get a lot better. Random shit happens. In a few instances, I got the impression the writer had his tongue firmly planted in cheek. There’s an issue later in the run that can kindly be called politically incorrect. The thing that sets this graphic novel apart and makes it special is Bernie Wrightson’s art, which is truly awesome.

Worth it for horror lovers, Swamp Thing groupies, and freaky art enthusiasts.