Graphic Novel Review – Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree
One would think that comic fans would receive a remake of Swamp Thing with less than open arms, so it stands to reason that the comic’s plot, artwork, and everything else about it be damn good. It’s difficult to remake something so beloved and have it appreciated by fans even if it is the bee’s knees, but Swamp Thing‘s run so far through these eleven issues and two volumes has been quite fantastic, thanks to both Scott Snyder’s excellent writing and Yanick Paquette’s amazing artwork.
Volume 2: Family Tree picks up with issue #8, as Swamp Thing battles Sethe in Rot World to save his lover Abby Arcane from being consumed by the Rot. Enter the amazing textures and artistry from Paquette, whose panels seem to go on continuously throughout each issue. The colors pop, the melding of plant, bone, and rotten vegetation sprawls across the page, and the monster designs are tremendous. They’re jagged and sharp and overall quite disgusting, whereas Swamp Thing’s vegetation feels refreshingly relatable.
That arc finishes quickly in this volume; it picks up right in the thick of things, with Swamp Thing taking down Sethe and saving Abby from her symbiotic meld with an alien-like Rot monster in the process. But things don’t really deescalate from there; the story moves right into the next enemy with the return of Anton Arcane, Abby’s uncle and ultimate bane of Swamp Thing’s existence.
There’s a few moments in between, though, where Family Tree allows some room to explore the relationship between Alec Holland (AKA Swamp Thing, but only when he’s in the protective womb of the swamp with the Parliament of Trees) and Abby. It’s not a lot, however, before the actions ramps up again – Arcane swings into action with numerous new powers, including one where his wounds become gnashing mouths. It’s all tons of fun, and that’s because Paquette’s incredible paneling brings these strange ideas to life in colorful but gruesome glory.
Also included in this volume is Swamp Thing #0 (reviewed here, so I won’t touch on this again) and the Swamp Thing Annual #1. I will admit that the Annual issue feels a bit out of place tacked on to the end of this volume; it also serves to take up space for issues that probably should have been included, like #12 and 13, since Family Tree only collects four issues. Still, the Annual takes a very close look at the genesis of the relationship between Abby and Alec: how they met during his stay with Anton Arcane, before Alec knew that he was an enemy, is actually very necessary to the story arcs of what we see collected in the serialized issues.
Family Tree comes highly recommended as one of the best series in the New 52; Snyder’s a good writer, but it’s Paquette’s artwork that makes this series blossom into a spectacular display of beauty and rot. Sow that with complexity of character (which doesn’t really make it that much into these issues but is certainly a capability for the series) and the reader is left with a perfect recipe for a solid comic series to sprout.