The New DC 52 Reviews: Swamp Thing and Justice League International

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Braak, comic books, reviews

First up, let me talk about Swamp Thing, by Scott Snyder, with art by somebody.  Yanick Paquette (art) and Nathan Fairbairn (colors) (this is what the internet tells me; be advised, DC!  You should start sending me promo copies if you want me to get names right!).  Anyway, Swamp Thing actually IS one of the comics that I’ve read a fair bit of, but mostly Alan Moore’s definitive run from the 90s.  So, I’ve got some familiarity with the character, but I don’t really care that much about him; I was mostly just reading for John Constantine and the freaky gourd sex.

Anyway, actually this one was pretty good.  A lot of stuff happens quickly, the status quo is established basically right away, we get a little bit of a notion of who Alec Holland is, and how he’s going to be struggling with the legacy of his having been the Swamp Thing (and possibly becoming the Swamp Thing again).  Swamp Thing’s relationship with the DC universe, that’s all there, and it’s good.  I wish we’d gotten a little more notion of the cast we’re going to be looking at, but this is looking like it’s going to primarily be a horror comic, and that sort of thing can easily confine itself to the inside of a guy’s head for a while.

It’s also got a spooky ending that I like, but here’s the thing about it:  it’s very, very clearly a reference to Alan Moore’s run, and it just makes the whole idea a little confusing.  Superman shows up, and talks to Alec Holland about how Holland was the Swamp Thing, and how he’d been in love with a woman with white hair (Abby Arcane), &c. — thus implying his memory of all of the events of the previous runs of Swamp Thing.

So, what’s going on here, exactly?  Was this rebooted, or not?  What is the point of “starting over” if you aren’t going to really start over?  I don’t know, but, the more I think about it, the cooler I am with it, because there’s a nice bit of symmetry:

When Alan Moore brought the Swamp Thing back, he re-created Swamp Thing’s origin:  rather than being a man who somehow fused with the plants, the Swamp Thing was actually super-fertilized plants that had somehow copied the mind (and soul[? maybe?]) of a man — so, Moore could basically start over with a new character, without disrupting anything that had come before.  He just started with the plant monster waking up with memories of his human life, and going off on a tear.

Here, Snyder’s inverted the story — Alec Holland the human wakes up with all these memories of being a plant monster.  Where had he been?  What’s going on?  I don’t know, it’s cool though, I might keep up with this one.

Justice League International

Dan Jurgens (story), Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan (art)

This is one that I’ve never read, and mostly full of characters that I do not are about at all.  Booster Gold?  Guy Gardner?  Be serious.  I only know about Booster Gold from that one Justice League Unlimited episode, and about Guy Gardner from that time Batman punched him in the face.  So, there’s no good will  DC risks by throwing this one at me.

And…it was weird.  I admire the desire (especially after reading Supergirl) the desire to get a lot of stuff in there quickly, but this one actually felt TOO dense.  I don’t know, am I crazy in thinking that the best way to do a team book with seven people on it is to do, say, three or four people at first, then add in the other three in the next book?  Like, give me a minute with some of these guys, so I know where I stand.

Jurgens has Booster Gold to introduce (which, in retrospect, I’m not even sure if it’s clear what Gold’s deal is at all — he’s a time-travelling space janitor, right?  From the future, where everyone has laser beam hands?), also:  Fire, Ice, Lady Godiva, Rocket Red, August General in Iron, Vixen, Guy Gardner, and Batman.

He’s set JLI as the United Nations’ sort of private super-hero team — unlike the Justice League, which is too independent.  So, he’s also got to introduce the head dude that’s putting this together (I can’t remember his name, so I’ve just been thinking of him as Jackson King, from Stormwatch), plus that guy’s secretary AND the members of the UN Security Council.

Consequently, there’s not a lot compelling about anyone, and a lot that’s kind of lame.  Booster Gold is insecure about his leadership abilities.  Guy Gardner is a prick.  Batman is up to something.  Lady Godiva wants to bone Booster Gold.  Also there are other people.  The UN Security Council is some kind of hilarious cognac party apparently, where everyone is just sending each other bottles of expensive brandy, and their politics consists primarily of making sure someone from their country (or continent, really) is on the team.

Also, the Russian delegate keeps saying “da” and “nyet” (even though “yes” and “no” are the first two words you ever learn in a foreign language), probably because those, along with “tovarisch” and “bozhe noi!” are — thanks to Chris Claremont — the only words in Russian that any of us know.

Anyway, yeesh, there’s a lot of stuff going on here, including something to do with the Hall of Justice that I flat out do not understand — there are protesters outside it, demanding access; was it the regular League’s headquarters?  Did they abandon it?  Was it a building meant for some other purpose?  I have no idea; I only just now realized that the whole RUN of regular Justice League takes place five years in the past (I thought it was actually starting with a flashback, but was going to catch up to “now” in the course of the comic).

It’s actually kind of fucking complicated, actually, but frankly I don’t think anyone who’s looking to get into a new comic series after not having read it in a while is going to pick up JLI.  I think this is strictly an experienced-reader-only book.

  1. Erin says:

    “So, what’s going on here, exactly? Was this rebooted, or not?”


    In fact, it was actually written as a direct sequel to Brightest Day: The Search for Swamp Thing, and (like Batwoman #1) it was finished BEFORE the relaunch was even happening and shoehorned in because it was going to be a new book anyway (they actually had to some pages to update Superman’s suit).

    Fortunately, like Batwoman, it was good. And apparently you don’t need to read Search for Swamp Thing first, because no one did and everyone likes this one.

    Also, the return of the Vertigo characters to DC proper had only just happened in Brightest Day, so it’s not like there was much to relaunch anyway (not that that stopped them from rebooting Blue Beetle, but that’s another topic).

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    You should give those JLI books a try (the first three volumes are available from the library). They’re some fun superhero books, and really even the 80’s political backdrop holds up since they’re mostly made-up DC countries that are involved.

    It will also make the whole “Max Lord is a Machiavellian schemer who’d shoot Blue Beetle in the head” thing that much more baffling.

  3. Jesse says:

    The earlier books were really fun to read, even though the comedy aspect became overbearing and slapstick. This version is weirdly the opposite: many of the same characters, similar premise, but no tone at all. It was just watching superheroes do stuff. The original series was watching characters interact with each other and face their challenges in a compelling way. I guess I want to know what happens next but, it was just a week ago and I barely remember who was in it.

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