REVIEW: Swamp Thing 40

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The time has come: Swamp Thing ended yesterday with issue #40. My favorite of DC’s original New 52 offerings, Swamp Thing kicked off strong with Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette at the helm; Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz never let the momentum, consistency, and general excellence of the title falter. From the epic of the Arcanes to the most recent War of the Kingdoms, Swamp Thing has delivered expansions to Alec  Holland’s mythos as well as sharp character development and poignant choices. This ultimate issue pays tribute to all that has come before, and leaves a delightful open ending for future salad adventures.

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The Avatars go to war.

Machine, Rot, Green, Grey: the Kingdoms clash in a climactic battle of unlikely allies and foes…but in his final issue, Soule introduces a new, very meta creation, bookended by the final image of Swamp Thing reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Swamp Thing has often veered to the side of magical realism rather than straight fantasy, mixing earthly locations, real-life jobs and hobbies, and global concerns with strange people and fluid ideas which allow Alec to affect and even create his reality. The medium of a book, plant-based pulp, is open to the Avatar of the Green; likewise, the Avatar of Story manipulates its medium in a manner similar to Dream of the Endless. Given the option to end his story as he sees fit, Swamp Thing returns to the battle–a pragmatic and satisfyingly mundane decision, fitting to a hard-headed, stubborn, yet idealistic Avatar. Saiz renders the battle, Alec’s journey into the Kingdom of Story, and the Green in his trademark gorgeous pencils, detailed and dark and evocative, with Javi Pino and June Chung onboard for lines and colors. As the Avatar of Story says, some tales are works in two dimensions.

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The Lady, consigned to weeds.

Previous Avatars of the Green, still existing within their Kingdom as generations of Buendias exist in Macondo, join Alec’s fight against the Machine Queen, once one of their own. And though she is defeated in due gory fashion, the mantra of Swamp Thing, his belief in second chances and above all in growth, grants her mercy. Swamp Thing exists and acts on both the human and plant time scales; growth can take place in a season, or over a period of years, and his trust is in that inexorable power. Over the past five years, Alec has matured as a character, from unsure of his place to fully capable of wielding the Green. Furthermore, his story has been populated with memorable side characters such as Capucine, the Arcanes, the Sureen, and various other Avatars. Generally apart in plot and connection from the larger DC universe, Swamp Thing has utilized judicious guest appearances, including Superman and John Constantine. And here at the end, it’s not just Swamp Thing who puts things to rights, but every weapon and ally he has at his disposal. Issue #40 is a full, rounded, and juicy conclusion to one of the New 52’s longest-ranging and sprawling titles.

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The story of Swamp Thing.

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