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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Today I'm going to try to get through...

#160-164: "The Parliament of Vapors"

ISSUE #160: A barbarian named Tark and a peasant named Boz have come to the city to find Jim Rook. Tark picks a fight with an 18-wheeler and loses. Rook is an ex-rock star whose past is basically a blank between 1968-1980. Boz and his now-dead partner were sent from Myrra by the Traveler to enlist his aid against the Warlocks. Boz finds Rook and Rook invites him back to his apartment. Rook has no idea what he's talking about, but Boz finds Nightmaster's sword in a kitchen cabinet. When Rook touches it, it bursts into flames and he regains his memories. I have no idea what's going on, but I suspect it ties in to...

Meanwhile, "Gotham City's crocodile man" has taken up residence in the swamp. Swamp Thing keeps Alec Holland's "humanity" in a box (the first I'm hearing about this), and Killer Croc wants it. They fight, Swamp Thing gets help from "The Blue" (which he learned about from The Parliament of Waves) and Croc loses. Inside the box is a button that fell from Abby's blouse after the first time they kissed. Suddenly, Abby herself appears and says, "Shh. Don't say anything. Please don't ask me why I'm here."

ISSUE #161: Broichan the Druid crosses over from Myrra and the slow boil begins.

Abby has a new haircut and a new job (in psycho-geriatric nursing) out of state. She and Don have broken up, so she has returned to the swamp to resume her old life, but Swamp thing refuses. Their old house in in decay, and he shows her the remains of the Cajun village he destroyed. She eats one of the tubers growing from Swamp Thing's back but has a bad trip.

Meanwhile, Millar introduces us, one by one, to a few new characters and beats us over the head with the foreshadowing of their deaths. (This is Mark Millar trying to be Alan Moore.) They are all small, sad, unhappy people whose lives converge that afternoon at the Houma police station. Broichan the Druid cause a giant "wicker man" to overgrow the station with the intention of setting it afire. 

ISSUE #162: Broichan has the Swamp thing trapped within his mind (Broichan's) with no access to the Green. The "wicker man" is the Swamp Thing's own body being manipulated by Broichan. His plan is to wait until the "stars align" (or whatever) before stetting it ablaze, destroying the Swamp thing, the building and everyone in it in order to claim the elemental powers for himself. Inside, each of the new characters makes his or her last phone call. Another obscure DC character, Tim Trench, is on the way to help, but is caught in traffic.

Back in the swamp and paranoid, Abby encounters on of Swamp Thing's semi-sentient doppelgangers who talks her down and saves her from some alligators. 

With the police station now in flames, Swamp Thing uses his water-elemental powers to put out the fire. He also brings "total dehydration" to Broichan by removing every bit of water from his body then shattering the dry husk. He then causes a thunderstorm to douse the flames engulfing the town. All of the characters in the police station survive, making the heavy-handed foreshadowing of their deaths total misdirection. Tim Trench arrives long after the threat is over.

Back in the swamp, the doppelganger explains how he talked Abby down from her bad high and listened to her pour out all her problems, then he helped her find her car so she could leave. Her final message to "Alec" is that he becoming more of a monster every single day.

ISSUE #163: This issue reintroduces El Senor Blake,Don Roberto and The Traveler (Odin). Maggie, a young girl who met Rook in New York City in #160 is now in Peru. Blake predicts that one day soon she's going to give birth to a "special little boy," but confirms that she's not pregnant yet. Odin appears before Swamp thing and makes some arcane predictions (no pun intended), then he returns to Peru and performs a ritual which puts the Rook's ex-wife, Janet, under some kind of spell  which causes her to leave her current husband and seek him out. Meanwhile, the Rook is in NYC decked out in full Nightmaster costume.

There were some survivors of the Cajun village Swamp Thing destroyed. They have settled a little further up the river. The original villagers are not quite dead; they have been turned into trees and some of them can talk. A young boy named Jules visits them frequently. In this issue, he meets Swamp Thing. Jules is surprisingly forgiving, and suggests that Swamp Thing visit the spot to explain his version of events. The meeting doesn't go well. They accuse Swamp Thing of being the harbinger of humanity's doom. Later, Swamp Thing stares the the button which represents his humanity and symbolically casts it into the swamp.

ISSUE #164: The fantasy world of Myrra is spilling over into reality. Stalker is there, too (last issue as well).

Swamp Thing and his doppelganger philosophize. Janet fights her way to Nightmaster's side. (I should point out that Maggie wasn't in Peru last issue; the others were in NYC.) A bookstore seems to be the crux of the invasion. Swamp Thing "communes" with the books (or something). It turns out the whole chain of events was a test, and intellectual test, set in motion by the Parliament of Vapors. Swamp Thing has passed their test and has been granted their powers as well. His will change to reflect the tasks ahead; we are told "it will be terrifying." 

I have to wonder what Mark Millar was shooting at. 

Perhaps he wanted to evoke an atmosphere of widespread chaos and weighty events happening behind the scenes.  But to me it feels just random and aimless.  Maybe DC asked if he could include cameos of otherwise unused characters (Nightmaster, Tim Trench, Stalker) in order to secure trademarks and there was no reason not to.  They do not seem to serve much of a purpose beyond panel use and momentary cannon fodder for Swamp Thing.

"I have to wonder what Mark Millar was shooting at."

Good question. "Random and aimless" sounds about right.

I agree. Abby's appearance is worthless. She says she has a good job and is happy but wants to return to the swamp because people are boring and working all day is rough. Swamp Thing does not want her back so she cries. She thought it would be easy, just snap her fingers, and all would be forgiven. She has a rude awakening and leaves a mean little parting shot, having only mentioning their daughter once. 

It's hard for me to read stories that treat Swamp Thing like a puppet on strings. Millar's dark, sick twists have reduced a hero to a cardboard cutout. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"I have to wonder what Mark Millar was shooting at."

Good question. "Random and aimless" sounds about right.

ISSUE #165: After a faux apology for the all of "sick and evil" comics he has written in the past, Millar writes some biting sicial satire in his imaginary story "Chester Williams: American Cop" (appropriately illustrated by Curt Swan). I think it's the best thing he's written so far, but I'm not sure it belongs in Swamp Thing (a special, maybe?). Tracy was repulsed by it, but that's the mark of good satire.

Good satire? Is that what that garbage was? 

What if that vile comic was the first issue to a young mind? 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #165: After a faux apology for the all of "sick and evil" comics he has written in the past, Millar writes some biting sicial satire in his imaginary story "Chester Williams: American Cop" (appropriately illustrated by Curt Swan). I think it's the best thing he's written so far, but I'm not sure it belongs in Swamp Thing (a special, maybe?). Tracy was repulsed by it, but that's the mark of good satire.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ISSUE #165: After a faux apology for the all of "sick and evil" comics he has written in the past, Millar writes some biting sicial satire in his imaginary story "Chester Williams: American Cop" (appropriately illustrated by Curt Swan). I think it's the best thing he's written so far, but I'm not sure it belongs in Swamp Thing (a special, maybe?). Tracy was repulsed by it, but that's the mark of good satire.

Tracy of Moon-T said:

Good satire? Is that what that garbage was? 

I was repulsed by it, too, but I don't understand the notion that "that's the mark of good satire." Please explain.

That strikes me like one of those dubious bromides about journalism that if all sides are complaining about it you must be doing something right, which willfully overlooks that all sides may be complaining about it because you're doing it all wrong.

Tracy of Moon-T said:

What if that vile comic was the first issue to a young mind? 

Hence Jim Shooter's famous bromide that every comic is someone's first. Certainly as a (then) regular reader of the title, I was put off by it; if that one had been my first, I might never have read it again. Maybe that story would have been better placed in an annual or a special or an anthology or something that made it obvious it is not representative of the run.

"I don't understand the notion that 'that's the mark of good satire.' Please explain."

I was thinking of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." Perhaps I should have said, "That can be the mark of good satire."

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