The Swamp Thing #1 is published by DC Comics. Written by Ram V with art by Mike Perkins. The colourist is Mike Spicer, and the letters are from Aditya Bidikar. In Arizona’s desert, people are being murdered by something violent and unknown. An old sheriff is tasked with finding out who is responsible for the murders, alongside his young deputy Emmett. Meanwhile, Dr. Levi Kamei lands in New York from Delhi. Levi seems nervous and troubled. When he is awake, he is fine, staying with a friend in the city. But at night, he dreams of a green monster…
The plot is expertly woven, creating a structure and narrative that is beautifully mysterious. The series’s setup is slow, leaving the reader confused as to how this comic relates to the title character. The pacing of this first issue is perfectly, achingly slow but in a way that leaves you desperate to know more. There is a constant buildup and an explosion of turmoil before it snaps back to its previous pace. Even the confrontation between two supernatural beings at the climax of the issue is unconventional in its execution. The surprise comes in the middle of the comic, and parts of this horror comic start becoming clear after that, but the suspense remains throughout.
Much of this premier issue is used to build the creepy atmosphere that the series thrives on, and the bouncing between locations means not much is known about the characters’ personalities yet. The locations jump between Arizona and New York. Within both is a tension that hums on every page.
Levi originally carries a nervous, almost jumpy attitude while on his flight into New York. He is uncomfortable in the air, feeling much safer on the ground. But the protagonist of the series loses ground in character development as exposition takes over. This is necessary and well-scripted by V, but it means that Levi’s true voice remains unknown for now. Instead, the backstory that is provided creates more mysteries than just the one occurring in the desert.
On the other side of America, the sheriff is the primary human character in the murder plot. What is refreshing about him is he isn’t a stereotypical sheriff. When a forensics investigator tells him about the strange way the victim died, he actually listens instead of shrugging it off. He understands the legends of the desert and respects them. He actually has a stronger presence than Levi within this first issue, and it would be fantastic to see more of him as the series progresses.
The art is absolutely stunning. Perkins is a perfect fit to create the terrifying tension that smothers The Swamp Thing #1. The shadows are abundant, making the details outside of them unnerving. The panels overlap each other, fighting for space but not obstructing each other. They are often misshapen or with different borders as if the whole page is twisting. There is brilliant detail on the characters’ designs, but the lines are clean enough to make sense of faces. The discomfort on Levi’s face is clear while he is flying, his eyebrows furrowed as he clenches his teeth. Fear is something that Perkins etches on many faces, easily capturing that emotion.
The comic’s villain is creepy and unknown, a genuinely scary being that hints at something ancient residing in the desert. The being in the desert is horrifying but not to excess, making the readers recoil when their eyes meet it. When Swamp Thing appears, fleetingly, he looks monstrous and terrifying; the vines writhe past panel borders, the inks from Perkins making the character look as scary as possible. And in the middle of the mass of plants is a snarling mouth. There are hundreds of lines; minute detail that make up individual strands of one being.
The colours are crucial in making the comic as atmospheric as possible. There is such a difference in each location and building. In Arizona, the orange and yellows that represent the sky and surroundings are close to overpowering. The shadows, already cast by Perkins, are accentuated by Spicer. The colour palette shifts in the desert at night, orange making way for purple. This seems to hang off of everything in the panel. The only things that force this darkness aside are the lights of torches and headlights and the red of dripping blood.
The letters fit the genre fantastically. The size of the font changes repeatedly, and multiple effects are placed on the word balloons. The sheriff’s fear at one point is highlighted by the spikes of the balloon around the enlarged words. As for the monster, the balloons appear to melt, as if his words drip out of his mouth.
The Swamp Thing #1 is a tremendous horror comic. The story is deeply intriguing, setting up a series in what feels like a very different method to the other comics coming out at the same time. V’s understanding of how to introduce Swamp Thing is ingenious as he isn’t actually in the comic very much. But when he is, his presence radiates from the page in a captivating fashion. The atmosphere created by all aspects of the creative team and the art and colours truly immerses the reader within this world. Levi’s story has begun, and it will be interesting to see how he is explored further.
The Swamp Thing #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
The Swamp Thing #1
The Swamp Thing #1 is a tremendous horror comic. The story is deeply intriguing, setting up a series in what feels like a very different method to the other comics coming out at the same time. V’s understanding of how to introduce Swamp Thing is ingenious as he isn’t actually in the comic very much. But when he is, his presence radiates from the page in a captivating fashion. The atmosphere created by all aspects of the creative team and the art and colours truly immerses the reader within this world.
Screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”