Love & Death – On Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

I’m always shocked to the point of anger whenever I read any list of the greatest comics ever written and find Alan Moore’s jaw droppingly beautiful 44 issue run on Saga of the Swamp Thing sitting anywhere but comfortably near the top. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Swamp Thing? Really? That cheesy green monster? Are you &*%$ing kidding me? The answer is no, and not only do those that haven’t read it have absolutely no idea what they’ve been missing out on, I’m truly envious of that experience of reading it for the first time which is just sitting out there on store shelves, waiting for anyone willing to give it a shot.

Taking the reigns with #20, an issue that to my knowledge has never been included in a collection (thus definitely making it worth the effort to seek out), Moore immediately ties up loose ends left by the previous creative team and sets himself up to write what is arguably one of the most influential single issues ever written. “The Anatomy Lesson” is a story that signals not only a completely unashamed and triumphant return to an EC horror comic style (albeit, with a far more sophisticated approach) but also features a truly shocking re-interpretation of the the character that is impossible to forget.

I can’t lie. It’s actually a little difficult to write about Swamp Thing as I can’t bring myself to give too much away. It’s an experience that is truly something to be cherished. This is the first mainstream title to toss aside the comics code. This is the book that gave birth to the Vertigo imprint (paving the way for titles like Sandman, Preacher, and Fables). This is the comic that introduced the world to John Constantine, and for those willing to give it a shot, you will be treated to an impossibly epic tale that will take you to haunted houses, introduce you to were-women and aquatic vampires, pull you deep into the Earth itself, drag you through Hell and back, and then shoot you through the stars and across an entire universe.

Yet, the simple truth is that for all of it’s monsters, death and demons, this is a book about love and loyalty, pure and simple.

Yes, comic books can give you nightmares. Yes, comic books can make you cry. Yes, comic books can achieve a certain type of profound beauty that is simply impossible for any other medium to duplicate. Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing achieves all of those things easily.