Reflections on the Swamp (Review of Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan Vol. 1 & 2)

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Alek: I have never read Swamp Thing before.  My knowledge of the character is limited to hearing about (not reading, mind you) the ground-breaking run by Alan Moore and to watching the short-lived television show as a kid.  Brian K. Vaughan, on the other hand, was more of known commodity – I’m a big fan of Ex Machina and his current focus, Saga.  So, based on my familiarity and appreciation for his work, my expectations were set between “this is going to be an awesome story about a swamp monster” and “this is going to be a really awesome story about a plant elemental that protects the Earth.”

Sadly, the story failed to even reach the height of “this is going to be something to pass the time while I sit on the toilet.”

I’m sure we’ll run down the multitude of issues I had with the plot, pacing, characters, etc.  But the main issue that I had with the series was how underwhelming it was.  With this entire fantastic and surreal setting of “The Green” to play with, Brian K. Vaughan chooses to tell a predictable and meandering story about Swamp Thing’s daughter growing up.  Maybe my frame of reference for swamp stories was skewed by finishing The Southern Reach Trilogy (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0374261172/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_iixUub0AV31VP), a trippy and confusing story about the alien power of nature.  Regardless, I just expected more out of this story.  I wanted Brian K. Vaughan to dive into The Green and explore the hierarchies and dynamics of this floral world that underpins our animal one.

Maybe this had already been explored to death by previous Swamp Thing series, and he was attempting to write something more grounded in reality.  For me, it stripped out all of the potentially engaging story aspects though.

John – what are your thoughts?

John: That’s a very well thought out commentary, Alek.  My thoughts will not be so well structured.

I felt like the theme of teen angst and loneliness was incredibly overdone.  I think there wasn’t a page where at least one panel didn’t have some whining about being abandoned or not being understood.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think we can all relate to those feelings, but there’s a point when we stop empathizing and start getting annoyed.  I did like Tefe at first and was fascinated to read about her struggles, but it got to point where i was reading just to finish what i started.  The situations are reasonably interesting, but the inner conflict becomes a tired device.

In the end, I feel like it just fizzles and is overrated.  I like Vaughan and his work.  Y, Ex Machina, Saga…  Pretty awesome, but Swamp Thing was a let down.

Alek: It’s sad that our first review of a comic book was something that we both had to slog through.  Now, there were a myriad of issues with the book (e.g., inane plot twists, annoying characters, a lack of Swamp Thing, etc.), but the one piece of this whole series that really pissed me off was the characterization of Constantine.

Constantine is a fascinating character with a rich backstory and ample source material from which you can study and build upon his narrative – yet BKV reduced him to a guy in a trenchcoat who says “me” instead of “my”.  That’s basically his whole take on the character.  None of the conniving cleverness that outsmarted the devil…just someone with a bad British accent.  It’s just like when American actors play Brits on TV…we’re horrible at it.  We think that saying “Bollocks!” every third word constitutes acting…and in this case…constitutes writing and characterization.

I really wanted to like this book too.  I was willing to accept how annoying Tefe was, how shallow her supporting cast seemed, how pointless their journey across America was…but I just can’t accept a shitty Constantine.  (And this is coming from someone who actually didn’t mind the Keanu movie…)

So final rating on the book – two thumbs up…straight into my eyes (and I think John actually agrees with me on this one).

John: Yup, this is a series I can’t recommend to anyone.

Funny enough, I didn’t mind the Keanu movie as well and I don’t think the new Constantine show is all that bad.

Speaking about Keanu, anyone see John Wick?

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