Like Animal Man‘s origin issue, Swamp Thing #0 opens with our title character being destroyed by Arcane, an avatar of the Rot with some anger issues and a problem with killing DC heroes. It’s a startling first encounter – though I haven’t followed the Swamp Thing mythos very closely, I do know a thing or two about the guy, and to see him totally ripped apart in the first couple of pages of this origin issue is a little saddening to say the least – especially when it’s done by a monster disguised as a gentle little girl.
Perhaps what bothers me about this opening is that it seems too easy – would Swamp Thing really let himself succumb to Arcane by being too kind to a little girl without realizing something was amiss? And would Arcane be able to overpower him so quickly, as he does here by ripping him – literally – limb from limb? I’m not sure, but perhaps the avatar portraying Swamp Thing wasn’t the best protector to begin with.
Still, the artwork by Kano is pretty freaking awesome, and the grotesque beasts – both the Rot’s Arcane and the gnarled branches of the trees – works super well to capture the horror of this issue. There’s a lot of gore, especially when Arcane “transforms” from his human masks – meaning he rips them off in bloody fashion. And the panels where new Swamp Thing Alec is transformed into a monstrous mess of twigs, vines, and branches is easily the coolest part about this issue.
Scott Snyder goes in a different direction here than Jeff Lemire does with Animal Man; although both begin with the original avatars being killed, in Swamp Thing, the creation of the new avatar via the Green is caused by Arcane’s attempts to thwart the Green before they birth a new Swamp Thing. His interference actually works to the Green’s advantage in some way, and issue #0 ends on a hopeful note with Swamp Thing rising from the swamp five years later. There’s a lot of action in this issue, and while it does feel like an unnecessary origin for Swamp Thing, it does make for an entertaining comic.
Swamp Thing #0 is worth a look for those interested in both the original comics and the new start of this series. Snyder captures the tone rather well, but it is Kano’s artwork that really sets the comic in motion. It’s gritty, with dark lines and gory details, and it’s the main draw for readers.