The Swamp Thing

Alan Moore, Steve R. Bissette and John Totleben, Saga of the Swamp Thing (Vertigo 2009)

I’m not a horror aficionado, but my younger son knew I enjoyed and admired other Alan Moore comics. He gave me From Hell for my birthday, and this for Father’s Day.

Having read it, I’m still not a horror fan. Demons and monsters aren’t my bag unless they’re funny like Bartimaeus, theological like Milton’s Satan, or … actually, there are quite a lot of exceptions. Still, I respond too literally to things like children becoming autistic as a result of major trauma and then institutionalised and preyed on by stray demons, and when a plot hinges on some plants speeding up their production of oxygen at night, I want to give a lecture on the difference between plant respiration and photosynthesis. Maybe pedantry protects me from the horrors of the unconscious mind.

Still, Alan Moore is a story-telling genius. In 1982, he – and illustrators Bissette and Totleben – took over the Swamp Thing comic series created ten years earlier by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. They collaborated on something like 45 issues – this book collects the first eight of them, of which the very first busies itself tying up loose ends from the previous 19 issues, and the second redefines the nature of the eponymous monster. So we are plunged in medias res, but know we won’t be given the detail of what went before. We can tell something is being rebuilt, not quite from the ground up, and forward impetus is well established.

This book interested me as early work by the creator of Watchmen which, like Neil Gaiman’s  Sandman, won my engagement by sheer brilliance. I don’t feel compelled to read on here, though anyone with a love of horror would certainly be hooked.

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