DC Comics Presents: The Jungle Line (#85) – Alan Moore

3 out of 5

The inadvertent team-up between Superman and Swamp Thing starts out strong, but – in perhaps a very meta way – peters out once our duo resolve things.  Because it’s Alan Moore, the narrative has a nice, weighty feel to it, but because it’s Swampy, his role in the story brings in a sense of calm, and of purposeful inaction, for which the over-acting pencils of Rich Veitch aren’t necessarily catered; it follows that the first half of the book – Superman contracts a power-sapping disease from a space plant – which dramatically catalogues Supes’ struggle with his abilities turning on and off, is much more visually dynamic and exciting.

When Superman sense he’ll die from the disease, he travels “south,” to where, apparently, there are no superheroes – no one to burden with his passing – and in the fits of dimensia, he’s discovered by Swamp Thing, who uses his planty communication skills to realize what Superman needs to do to overcome this thing: nothing; stop fighting it; let the fever run its course.

This is an inspired spin on how hero battle-royales usually go, of course – and an interesting spin the other plant infection in For The Man Who Has Everything – but due to both the aforementioned lack of subtlety in Veitch’s style, as well as the issue perhaps lacking room for a few more pages to effect a better transition between Supes’ and Swampy’s narration, this resolution is less satisfying on paper than it comes across in description.  In part, I think this is due to some murkiness regarding the full effects of the plant: Superman has fitful dreams about losing his powers, which seems like the end state of things, and yet, he freaks out that he’s going to die.  This makes the Big S come across as rather shallow, not that losing his powers wouldn’t be a huge deal, psychologically, but: the appearance of Swamp Thing as a peaceful solution then seems an indulgence on Moore’s behalf.  That is: the whole issue could be about Superman losing his powers, but instead includes the big green passivist as, possibly, a statement on the rumble-ready nature of comics.

That’s a lot of analysis for a breezy read, though, so there’s certainly value in that, and regardless of my criticism, this is still quite a unique and worthwhile issue to read for its atypical structure and commentary.