Has the Convergence formula worn out its welcome? I am sensing a little Convergence fatigue among you readers. Or maybe it’s just me; I’m ready to get back to our regularly scheduled programming (whatever that might be in the brave new world of DC California). But until that time comes (still weeks away), at least we’ve got some more fun books to bide our time.
If you missed last month’s Convergence: Swamp Thing no. 1 “It’s Not Easy Being Green”, you might actually want to skip it for the following reasons:
- You didn’t actually miss much: It’s a massive recap of Swamp Thing’s past history and his relationship with Abigail Arcane. The story only gets going in the last few pages and then it’s pure Convergence set-up: the dome, the voice of Telos, and the challenge.
- Anything you absolutely need to know from issue no. 1 is quickly recapped in issue no. 2.
- Finally, the big draw for readers of this site is Red Rain Batman the vampire, who doesn’t actually appear (not even in a cameo at the end) in the opening issue.
You do, however, get a very brief appearance of Batgirl and Poison Ivy.
This month’s conclusion in issue no. 2 (“The Night has a Thousand Eyes”) is, by comparison, like a jolt of pure comic book pizzazz (there’s a term that went out of style around about the time the first volume of Wein’s Swamp Thing was cut unceremoniously short).
The creative team of Len Wein and Kelley Jones sounds like a no-brainer for this two-parter and they deliver, but you’ll have to read my caveats below. The best part of this book is that it’s thematically exactly what you would expect from a Swamp Thing tale and that makes for a nice trip down memory lane. I’ve been reading Swamp Thing since before I was reading Batman, so I have a long history with the character over the years, and as I have been saddened by successive retcons and reboots (and the recent cancellation of the New 52 Swamp Thing, which was actually quite good), this was a bittersweet chance to revisit the character one more time.
And, of course, there’s Batman himself: Wonderfully vicious as a vampire, and yet still the logical-thinking World’s Greatest Detective, guardian of Gotham. Although he’s a monster, he continues to fight for his city even though it’s hopelessly overrun by a vampire horde. Really, Telos’ challenge is the least of his concerns, which is why it’s a great moment when Batman and Swamp Thing decide to chuck the competition and instead team-up to defeat Gotham’s vampire queen.
The ending is powerful and emotional even though it’s expected. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say that if there had to be a victor in the dome challenge, this was a really satisfying manner of deciding it.
Jones’ covers for this story are fantastic. With moody colors from Michelle Madsen, they capture the action beautifully and are perfect in keeping with the spirit of the event. Madsen’s colors are worth a special mention overall–she perfectly drowns the page in dark jewel-tones (predominantly green and blue) and then effectively highlights contours with flashes of maroon and orange. Like other artists in the last two months, she captures the coloring style and method of the pre-New 52 Swamp Thing series in a way that makes me want to go reread my back issues.
Some of you might be fans of near-legendary artist Kelley Jones, but I’m sorry to say that I am not. He does well with the creatures and even tends to posture Swamp Thing in a way that’s nostalgically reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson’s original renditions, but his handling of regular people (like Abby) is lamentable. They look like silly-putty concoctions with stretched expressions, weird necks, and blobby indistinct anatomy. His use of deep shadow, however, is very effective, and his Batman is nicely creepy and sinister while still maintaining just a slim shadow of humanity.
Enough to terrify anybody in the dead of night.
I have to also include here a bit of disappointment at Len Wein’s script. Here’s a writer who should know his way around Swamp Thing (he created him, after all)! And yet I don’t know what exactly he was going for with his narration and dialogue. He set this story smack-dab in the middle of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing (in terms of timelines), but the narrative voice is distinctly Swamp Thing Volume 1 (his original run which he began with Bernie Wrightson). To add further confusion, Swamp Thing’s voice sounds like neither Volume 1, nor Volume 2 of the original concurrently running series. Instead we get weird quippy lines like “Don’t worry about it” and “No harm, no foul”. Swamp Thing also spends a lot of time narrating what he’s doing while he’s doing it, which could either be seen as a fun throwback to the Bronze-Age of comics, or maybe just bad writing. I’ll let you decide.
Anyone else singing that awful tune from Beauty and the Beast after reading this panel?
Abby was brought along just for context apparently, since she serves no other function. It makes me wonder why they picked such a specific point in Swamp Thing’s timeline.
My question becomes: does this event explain the retcon of everything that followed Moore’s re-invention of the creature? Or when Swamp Thing and Abby emerge after the battle, do they go along their merry way on their alternate timeline apart from the New 52? Honestly, I don’t want to try to reconcile it, but I imagine it’s things like this that frustrate the die-hard continuity fans.
Despite the high score, this isn’t a “must read” except for maybe by fans of this genre and these particular characters. It’s a visually compelling and gratifying tale but, like many other Convergence tales it likely signifies nothing. Just read it as a bit of passing entertainment nostalgia and don’t think on it too deep.
- You enjoy your stories dark, both in terms of plot and art.
- The vampire genre is something you can’t get enough of (and you should check out Convergence: Wonder Woman while you’re at it, if that’s the case).
- You remember fondly (as I do) when Swamp Thing was a book to beat all books.
Despite a lot of quibbling with the details, I really enjoyed this story. You can skip the first issue and go straight to issue no. 2 if you’re just in it for the Batman stuff (which is where its worth lies anyway), and Wein does manage to keep the Convergence bout fresh by giving our monstrous challengers some philosophical meat to chew on. As with some of the other Convergence titles, the ramifications of the outcome of this battle are rather unclear and it doesn’t seem like it will have any lingering effects in the status quo going forward, but issue no. 2 is a fun pitched battle full of gruesome monsters and a very cool Bat-vampire. The Convergence storylines are full of defeats, but as far as comic book entertainment is concerned, this one can be counted a win.