Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Shurlo the flesh-artist glides through an adoring forest of her admirers, halfheartedly answering questions, acknowledging compliments. A stout conifer wearing an expensive feather face asks her to explain an arrangement of dyed meats.
"Shurlo tells her that it represents social interaction and the conifer seems satisfied. Merciful O, how they bore her. She wonders if this is the price exacted for critical acclaim: to be always surrounded by this fatuous, well-meaning thicket, crowded until she feels rootbound?"
In which Alan Moore shifts his emphasis from horror to science fiction, and it proves the perfect platform for him to explore fresh perspectives and themes like forced separation and reproduction. The lateral thinking employed combined with Moore's passionate love of language is little short of staggering.
Ripped from Earth in SWAMP THING VOL 5, the Swamp Thing is presumed dead and Abby is mourning. In truth a shift in his bio-electrical pattern has left the Plant Elemental incompatible with our planet, so his essence is shot into space where it seeks alternative corporeal forms using whatever plant material he can find.
Following a nuclear disaster, the planet and people of Rann are suffering from increasing world-wide sterility. It is becoming a dessert. There the Swamp Thing assumes the form of a bi-pedal brown cactus and discovers a rucksack made in Seattle. It is a cruel, false note of hope because it belongs to one Adam Strange, another human separated from his home planet but willingly so, racing desperately towards each new site of a Zeta Beam incursion on Earth which will carry him back to Rann and his beloved wife Alanna. He knows each event is temporary: that the effect will wear off and he will simply melt away, potentially in his lover's arms.
I particularly loved what looks like a fantastical domestic fountain whose jets dance into what would be physically impossible shapes if it were indeed a fountain. It transpires that it's actually a highly empathic, metamorphic liquid animal and a most effective guard dog.
The Swamp Thing too is a metamorph and you can expect some manifestations to be altogether more alien, especially when John Totleben returns for one issue as artist having - I can only assume - enjoyed a great deal of recreational self-medication. It is a phenomenal, multimedia sequence which Moore matches with a linguistic tour de force when the Swamp Thing's bio-electrical field encounters a complex, conscious cybernetic structure which has endured an eternity of loneliness while lying in wait for a mate: something to fuse and reproduce with. If the words "lying in wait" don't worry you, they should. "Forced reproduction" is rape.
The most satisfying of all chapters is the one I opened with, 'All Flesh Is Grass'. When the Swamp Thing learns of a planet whose dominant species are all sentient flora - very much like himself - he is understandably drawn to it as a haven and its people as possible aids to his incompatibility. Unfortunately he hasn't thought it through; Alan Moore has, and the results are horrific.
There's one page there in which Veitch combines Will Eisner's playful page construction with Neal Adams' trademark story-within-a-headshot. Indeed there are no slackers in the art department. Totleben returns to cover duties for Moore's farewell issue with a silhouette-at-sunset whose colours are far from obvious except in retrospect.
Moreover, Tom Yeates returns for the framing interior sequence while the great Stephen Bissette whose name is synonymous with SWAMP THING provides its heart in every sense you can conceive of. The word "organic" may not have been invented for Bissette but it was left lying in wait for when the artist agreed we would all be bloody lucky if he decided to draw roots, fruits, vines and alligators and, here, another exquisite union of flesh and mind.
Bissette also contributes one of the chapter's scripts and if you thought horror had been abandoned altogether, Bissette brings it back to the fore. Not just in the Hell scenes featuring Anton Arcane, but the very real horror of those nursing homes in which our elderly are vulnerable to their carers' unchallenged abuse.
Oh, and if you think the injustices of SWAMP THING VOL 5 have yet to be addressed, some gits in Gotham are in for a very rude awakening. You reap what you sow? You are what you eat.
Intrigued? Start at the beginning with Jonathan's all-encompassing overview of the series when he reviewed SWAMP THING VOL 1.