I started reading Swamp Thing from the very beginning... sort of. When I was a kid, I liked superhero comics and not much else (no western, no war, etc.). I also gravitated toward Marvel, so Swamp Thing had two strikes against it right out of the gate (to mix a metaphor or two). I remember seeing titles such as Swamp Thing and Kamandi on the spinner racks but not giving them a second look (or even a first). Even when I walked into a comic book shop for the first time in my life several years later, it took some time for me to overcome my preconceived notions regarding such titles as Daredevil (Frank Miller's) and Swamp Thing (Alan Moore's). Then, in 1986, DC released the Roots of the Swamp Thing reprint series and i started at the very beginning (#1) if not exactly from the very beginning (1972). 

Skip ahead 15 years. I'm now married. My new bride is not wholly unfamiliar with comic books and is willing to read more. I recommended a list of 8 or 10 of my favorites (including the Wein/Wrightson and the Moore/Bisette/Totleben runs of Swamp Thing), most of which she read. I had tens of thousands of comics in my collection at that time, enough to keep us busy reading and discussing for years. But she became interested in comics I didn't have, such as the post-Moore Swamp Thing as well as the complete run of Fables (which I myself still have not read). We spent the next however-many-it-was months collecting backissues of Swamp Thing plus I added those two titles to my pull & hold. 

At this point Tracy has read literally hundreds more issues of Swamp Thing than I have. We don't have every issue (she finally lost interest after the "New 52"), but we have quite a few. Ironically,  it was "Brightest Day" which reignited my own interest, so some of the more recent issues she has not read. I like to "prorate" the cost of my comics by a) reading them multiple times, or b) giving them to my wife to read. We get the best value from those comic we both read multiple times. To that end, we have decided to work our way through every issue we own from 1972 to 2018.

We recently led a discussion through every issue/series in Terry Moore's "SiP-verse" but, if we complete it, this project is more than twice as long. We invite you along for the ride. 

Wein/Wrightson - p1

Nestor Redondo - p2

The "Mopee Thing" - p3

Miscellaneous - p4

Martin Pasko - p5

Alan Moore - p8

Rick Veitch - p25

Doug Wheeler - p31

Nancy Collins - p33

Grant Morrison & Mark Millar - p37

Mark Millar - p38

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#166-171 - "Trial by Fire"

I am so close to the end of Millar's run I can almost taste it. My intention had been to present "Trial by Fire" in a single entry as I did "The Parliament of Vapors" but I'm afraid the post would be too long and I wouldn't want to be accused of giving the story short shrift if I cut too many details. 

ISSUE #166: This story picks up "One Year Later." The situation has gotten so much worse that I suspect hope everything from here on out will be consigned to an "alternate future reality" as were the events of the LSH's "Five Years Later" period and the end of Dan Jurgens' Thor. This issue is Mark Millar mimicking Alan Moore again (Miracleman), but it seems to me he's trying to get to the "utopia" part the fast way, by skipping over the hard work of actually setting it up. 

Swamp Thing has built himself a palace in the middle of the swamp. The government is convinced he is planning the extermination of the human race and sends Jason Woodrue to negotiate. As it turns out, that is exactly what he is planning, but he is waiting for his "Trial by Fire" before bringing it about. Meanwhile, the Phantom Stranger, John Constantine and Timothy Raven are allied against him. Each of them has a specific task to perform: Constantine is to contact El Senor Blake, Raven is "laying the ground work for his invocation of Anton Arcane" and the Stranger is to contact The Word. Connie Sunderland is now one of the Swamp Thing's cultists; a clandestine organization contacts Abby; Maggie (introduced in #60) is in place to give virgin birth to the first of the species which will replace mankind. 

I really like Phil Hester's later work, but he's not up to par here. He has been called upon to illustrate certain things throughout the course of this run and his skills are simply not yet up to the challenge. For example, back in #161 when Abby at the tuber, well... let's just say he's no Bissette & Totleben.

I forgot to mention that Swamp thing has abandoned his human form and that he is the castle he has built.

ISSUE #167: This is a WORDY issue (talky). First there's a scene between Woodrue and Raven; then there's a scene between Abby and Chester; then there's a scene between Lady Jane and the Parliament of Trees. It has been three years since Lady Jane took Tefé away from her parents. She wants to go home to them which forces the P. of T.s to rush their mysterious plans into action. The Word requests a meeting with the P. of T.s. (I've finally figured out that "The Word" is a stand-in for the Spectre, except instead of being white and green he's grey and red.) Tefé looks to be about ten years old at this point. The Word ends up fighting and killing Lady Jane while Tefé flees (she can fly now). Elsewhere, Raven summons Arcane.

ISSUE #168: The Phantom Stranger confronts Swamp Thing and informs him that Anton Arcane has now taken over Raven's body. (I can hardly wait for Tracy's reaction.) Raven has been referred to as "the last of the Ravenwood witches" all along, giving me the impression he's another obscure DC character. In this issue it is revealed that Swamp Thing encountered him before, but I can't for the life of me remember when that was. Ever since Swamp Thing assumed this new form he has spoken without any punctuation whatsoever, even periods. Very annoying.

Abby has a plan that if "Alec's" best friends were to talk to him, they could fix things. To that end, Liz Tremayne has driven back to Louisiana from Oregon for the first time in four years to join Abby and Chester. Just as they are preparing to leave to find Alec, Tefé arrives. 

Meanwhile, the Word has destroyed the Parliament of Stones, who refused to help him. (He likewise destroyed the P. of T.s last issue, not just Lady Jane.) Later he meets with the Phantom Stranger after destroying the P. of Waves and reveals that he has also destroyed the P. of Vapors. That leaves only the P. of Flames. 

Back in the swamp, Swamp thing confronts Arcane in another WORDY conversation, the practical upshot of is that (get this) Arcane has found God. Seriously. Arcane asks a favor of Swamp Thing and he grants it; he grows a replica of Arcane's original human body. When Arcane returns Raven's body to him, he cures it of cancer because he's such a swell guy. Elsewhere, Constantine seeks the "wishing matches" (whatever the hell they are) from El Senor Blake. 

I'm assuming that this scene ends with Arcane saying, "You dimwitted bastard, I can't believe you fell for that!"  Then he runs away and Swampy chases him while Yakety Sax plays in the background.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Back in the swamp, Swamp thing confronts Arcane in another WORDY conversation, the practical upshot of is that (get this) Arcane has found God. Seriously. Arcane asks a favor of Swamp Thing and he grants it; he grows a replica of Arcane's original human body. When Arcane returns Raven's body to him, he cures it of cancer because he's such a swell guy. Elsewhere, Constantine seeks the "wishing matches" (whatever the hell they are) from El Senor Blake. 

ISSUE #169: Constantine and Woodrue have a conversation about the former's quest to find the "wishing matches" (which are matches with grant a wish when struck... duh). After that, Constantine tracks down Blake and does acquire the matches. 

Meanwhile, we learn the entire thing about Tefé being conceived to be a human/plant hybrid elemental is one huge EYKIW. She was actually created to combat The Word. (Her father didn't even know.) She confirms to Abby that, yes, her father does plan to destroy humanity (but only to make a better world!) and she's got his back, putting Abby in the position of having to choose between her daughter and Life As We Know It. 

Contantine confronts Swamp Thing (or I guess he's officially been the "Erl King" since #166) and strikes a match to light a cigarette and "wishes" him back to Alec Holland just before The Word arrives to kill him. He also reveals that "some slag"  (himself, I guess) alerted the government where to find Tefé and she is now in custody. Tracy's home now and that's a good cliffhanger to end on. I'll wrap this up tomorrow.

Cue Bob Cobert music sting.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Tracy's home now and that's a good cliffhanger to end on. 

Timothy Raven goes waaaay back.  He and his sister go back to issue #5 of the first Swamp Thing series.

Of course, he is a lot different by this point.

Oh, yeah... I remember now (discussed n page one of this thread). Thanks, Luis!

#170: In a callback to #165, Chester contemplates becoming a cop. Tefé has been consigned to Woodrue's care, at least temporarily. (She is seven years old at this point, BTW.) Constantine's wish was to remove the Swamp Thing's/Erl King's "godhood" for one hour. Constantine has disappeared, and Swamp Thing and the "Red Spectre" stand around and discuss philosophy. Constantine mysteriously appears at Abby's side in New Orleans. They both regret their actions. (It was Abby, not Constantine, who turned Tefé over to the government.) Perhaps "Alec" was speaking symbolically when he spoke of destroying humanity...?They talk for a while, and he gives her the "Magic Wishing Matches." 

"Ironically, the wishing matches were to be [Swamp Thing's] gift from the Parliament of Flames when [he] passed the final trial. They are the oldest fragments of the Sun to be found upon this Earth, each imbued with a little bit of elemental consciousness." I say it's magic and I say the hell with it. 

Abby uses her wish to set Tefé free, but she (apparently) wasn't very specific because, after Tefé escapes from her escape-proof cell, she slaughters all of her guards including Woodrue. She then appears at her father's side and kills the Red Spectre with writer's fiat jusat as he regains his true form. Then, in a surprise move, Swamp Thing murders Tefé (or destroys her human body, at least) and, with the words, "Goodbye cruel world," departs the Earth. He wasn't committing suicide, however; his destination was the Parliament of flames at the heart of the Sun. 

He is granted enough power to cleanse humanity from the Earth (and not symbolically, either). Traveling as a solar flare, he is seen by the Pegasus 7 Moon Mission astronauts who are in communication with "Houston" (but not the city in Texas, I assume). From their point of view, Swamp Thing "becomes" the Earth.

You're making me glad that I never read these comics.

#171: FINAL ISSUE:

The first seven pages detail how omnipotent Swamp Thing has become, how "one with everything." At the end of this sequence, the "Celestial Madonna" (i.e., Maggie) is befriended by the reformed Anton Arcane. Swamp Thing suddenly finds himself in what appears to be an old, tile-walled hospital (but which is actually a "four-dimensional map designed to help Alec Holland find his next incarnation") among the "Parliament of Worlds." Mars is the only one who communicates with him, but the P. of W.s must comprise more than just our solar system because Mars remarks, "If only Oa had lived to see this day." 

The planets manifest as "heads" wearing long flowing robes with elaborate and ornate shoulder pads. Swamp Thing is of a similar scale, but his body has arranged itself into the continents of Earth. Mars separates the spirit of Alec Holland from the Swamp Thing, and differentiates Holland's "shade" (which we have seen in the afterlife in previous issues) from his "spirit" (which is what inspired Swamp thing to unite the Earth and reach the Parliament of Worlds). Now that Swamp thing has become "one with everything," he no longer wishes to destroy humanity. He and Alec's "spirit" say their final farewells and take their leave of each other.

Back on Earth, Maggie's child has been born and she decides to name him "Alec." then their are call-backs to every character and event within the arc. Now that everyone in the world has experienced "universal illumination" it is supposed to unite humanity... not overnight, but here we are more than a quarter century later and I see no sign of it yet. Thematically, this arc ends on a very optimistic note. I don't buy it, though... not because I'm pessimistic but because I'm much too cynical (plus there's that matter of the last 25+ years of reality since the story was published). 

Swamp Thing gains a whole cult of followers who move into the palace he constructed in the camp. Once day, Abby arrives on foot. She watches him from afar but says nothing. He knows she's there and she knows he knows, but eventually she walks away without a word to be reunited with her Uncle Arcane. the surviving Cajuns come back (all is forgiven), but Tefé (we are told) "still holds a grudge." Various other loose ends are tied up, but that's basically where the series ends.

I had reservations about the post-Moore Swamp Thing, which I have been reading for the first time. As it turns out, I did enjoy the Rick Veitch, the Doug Miller and the Nancy Collins runs, but I think of the (Morrison)/Millar run is an out-of-continuity "Elseworlds." AFAIAC, this series ended at #138, with the end of Collins' run and Tefé and Lady Jane returning to the Parliament of Trees. 

(Nice cover, though.)

ISSUE #166 Millar has reduced Abby to a hard, cardboard character who eats ice cream for dinner while watching "Rosemary's Baby." She is a sad shell of her former glorious ST companion days. The trio of Constantine, Timothy Raven, and The Phantom Stranger are barely tolerable with their bickering and personal problems. The whole issue has a layer of muck over everything with the horrible, sharp-edged, slashing style of artwork. 

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