REVIEW: ‘Swamp Thing: Twin Branches’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches - The silhouettes of two boys are back to back. One is colored in with a pale yellow, one is filled in with plants.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is written by Maggie Stiefvater, illustrated by Morgan Beem, colored by Jeremy Lawson, and lettered by Ariana Maher, and published by DC. Swamp Thing: Twin Branches follows twins Alec and Walker Holland during their last summer before college with their extended family, trying to reconnect with each other.

Alec is shy and socially awkward, struggling to connect with his human peers the way he connects with plants. Walker is the complete opposite. He’s the friendly, outgoing life of the party. While Walker easily finds his way into a friend group, Alec spends most of his time working on his experiments in a lab, surrounding himself with the comfort of plants. And while Alec does eventually find a kindred spirit in Abby, another incredibly smart, somewhat socially awkward student, he’s never quite as comfortable as he is with his plants. 

Throughout Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, Alec’s experiment centers around a plant that he’s named Boris. Boris is a Mimosa pudica, a real plant with common names including “shame plant” and “touch me not” plant. This is a clever detail because it fits perfectly with Alec’s character. In addition to Boris’s common names fitting with Alec, there are moments when he takes over as a narrator to explain a concept about plants, or a specific plant, that relates to how he’s feeling at the moment. 

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches feels like peak Stiefvater. Though the plot is extremely different than her bestselling Raven Cycle Quartet, both stories are character-driven and mix elements of fantasy with realism. Stiefvater blurs the line between the mundane and the surreal,  even embracing elements of horror when Alec’s cousin’s dogs eat some of his plants and transform into strange plant-like creatures.

At times it feels like Stiefvater sidelines the plot in order to dig deeper into the relationships between characters. Unfortunately, this drags the book down in these places. Had this development been more intertwined with the plot rather than feeling separate from it, the story would have felt much stronger.

The art in Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is stunning. It’s easily the best part of the book. The way Beem uses loose, sketchy lines creates a soft feeling which fits perfectly with the story because Alec is never fully connected to humanity, and the story itself is never quite connected to reality.

Beem’s art is also very expressive; not only with just the facial expressions of the characters but the entirety of their body language. When Alec is around groups of people, with the exception of Walker and Abby, he withdraws, becoming stiff and awkward. He doesn’t look comfortable in his skin. But when he’s alone with his plants he opens up, becoming comfortable and happy.

In addition to the illustrations, Lawson’s colors are gorgeous. Most of Swamp Thing: Twin Branches has a green tint as if plants are always part of the story- and really they are. Even when he’s with other humans, Alec is thinking about interactions in terms of plants. Plants are the basis of his entire way of interacting with the world.

Throughout Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, Maher uses multiple styles of lettering to great effect. The lettering when Alec is narrating the story is completely different from the normal dialogue, which is completely different from the lettering of the “dialogue” from the plants. Visually, this helps each different style of dialogue stand out.

With its atmospheric writing and aesthetically pleasing art style, this is a captivating read. But it may not hold up for diehard Swamp Thing fans because Swamp Thing: Twin Branches ends up feeling like a science fiction/fantasy story with very little connection to the character Swamp Thing.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches will be available wherever books are sold.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches
3.5

TL;DR

With its atmospheric writing and aesthetically pleasing art style, this is a captivating read. But it may not hold up for diehard Swamp Thing fans because Swamp Thing: Twin Branches ends up feeling like a science fiction/fantasy story with very little connection to the character Swamp Thing.