Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree (The New 52) Review


Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree (The New 52)
Eww... Don't touch them, Swamp Thing!
You have no idea where they've been!

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artists: Yanick Pquette and Marco Rudy

Collects: Swamp Thing #0, 8-11 and Swamp Thing Annual #1

Background Information:

Number three in Scott Snyder Week!

Okay, so if you missed my review of volume 1, Swamp Thing is the avatar and warrior king of the Green. He has control of plant life and is able to make all kinds of things from it. He fights the Rot- a force of death and decay. In essence, you’re looking at a cooler version of Plants Vs. Zombies.

In the last volume, Swamp Thing’s civilian identity, Alec Holland developed a bio-regenative formula which helped plants to grow- that’s a major factor in both this and the next volume of Swamp Thing, so don’t forget it.

Review:

When I read the first volume of Swamp Thing, I was half-expecting an eco-story that was going to point out the dangers of global warming. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a horror story that was going to live longer than whenever we find out the next way that we’re destroying the planet. Instead, Family Tree is part of a three-volume epic that definitely has the potential to outlive present-day concerns, and that’s the mark of a classic.

That said though, Family Tree is still a relatively weak middle for such a strong run. Mostly because the structure of this story is nowhere near as tight. Essentially, you’re reading two stories; the first sees Swamp Thing, having finally made the transformation from Alec Holland, setting out to rescue love interest Abigail Arcane from becoming a servant of The Rot. It features some amazing action sequences that feel brutal and terrifying. Up until now, we haven’t seen the full extent of what Swamp Thing is capable of, and this volume shows that brilliantly.

The second arc, though, is really a collection of flashbacks that connect Swamp Thing to The Rot, and, more particularly its avatar Arcane. There are some interesting origin stories told in these issues, but reading them at this late stage in the story feels like a distraction, and not a fun one. While reading you get the feeling that something much better is happening in the present that Snyders not letting us see. Even the best writers can sometimes write unsatisfying stories, and this is an example of this principle in practice.

What this volume does well, however, is set up the third volume in this series rather well. By the end of Family Tree, we are genuinely scared of Arcane, even though his motives seem to be little more than “because he’s evil”. Things are still looking hopeless for Swamp Thing, and here, it’s a very good thing, since the next volume is an amazing crossover with Animal Man.

The art here is just as good as the previous volume. Thick, ungraceful lines and chaotic panelling work fantastic here. There are some more guttered pages in the collection’s 0 issue, but it’s easily forgivable considering that this issue references an era when Swamp Thing was still Doctor Alec Holland. It’s a stage where his life was calmer, more organised and the page layouts show it well.

In both Family Tree and the last volume, Raise Them Bones, Snyder has treated his artists to some truly spectacular locations to draw- ones to match the bizarre creatures contained in the book. High foreign mountains, hellish pits and wild jungles abound in Swamp Thing, and the team of Paquette and Rudy do an excellent job of making these environments so easy to immerse yourself in.

 Family Tree is an essential read if you are intending on reading anything in the upcoming Rotworld crossover, but it’s hardly the most exciting of the series. It get three and a half out of five Plants vs. Zombies.

*** 1/2

+ Great first half that shows off Swamp Thing’s abilities

+ Amazing location art

- Second half of the book feels like it doesn’t need to be there.

Alternate Option: Animal Man: The Hunt

The Animal Man series directly ties into Swamp Thing, so reading this one is well worth it.