3 out of 5
After reading through the introduction in Steve Bissette’s Taboo anthology, and then reading his lengthy introduction to this third collection of Swamp Thing issues – #s 35 – 42 – as informed and intelligent as the dude is, he also always seems on the outs with the comic industry as a whole, and worn down by it. He speaks of his failings in the intro; of falling behind on his art. Indeed, we see a couple fill-in artists here (Rick Veitch, Stan Woch), and some subs on inking for John Totleben as well, preceding his eventual move away from the book. And even when he’s there, it seems like volume 2s issue were sort of the prime for the Bissette / Totleben team, as some of the work here feels rushed, and not as pushed into the eclectic layouts with which the book started. On the writing front, Moore has absolutely grown comfortable with his non-action, horror-adjacent character, weaving some fascinating concepts and a great structure into things… but also getting rather indulgent with that comfort. Every issue starts with a lengthy, prose-y lead-in that gets a little repetitive, and feels besides the point on occasion. He also really starts stretching some stories to make a point, especially in a scene Bissette himself highlights in that intro as being rather ridiculous. It maybe doesn’t help the impact of this set that it starts of with the bane of a lot of 80s indie books – environmentalism – and while Swamp Thing’s approach to that topic is to feature a hobo nicknamed Nukeface who’s been mutated by toxic waste dumping, which is definitely a fun way to go about things, Bissette and Moore load up the art with real (I’m supposing) newspaper clippings that just clutter the narrative, and the whole fucking thing is brushed away the next issue with a “I heard the Nukeface guy died” comment. Maybe he comes back, I dunno yet, but it seems like a wasteful couple of issues.
Thereafter we move on to an important triptych of tales, as they feature the introduction of a looks-like-Sting John Constantine, and he’s an entertaining bastard right from the get go, really livening up scenes with Swampy (who’s otherwise gotten all lovey dovey mundane around Abby), and I definitely enjoyed the overall pitch, here, of two-issue monster mini-arcs – vampires, werewolves, voodoo / zombies – but this is also where Moore’s indulgences and attempts to be overly clever with his messaging come into play.
So it’s a plus / minus run – some important progression for Swamp Thing; the intro of a classic character; and a sense that our writer is now fully settling in to this as “his” book. However, our art team is meanwhile struggling to maintain their quality, and Moore’s ownership opens things up to some overwrought bits and bobs as well.