When I began the task of playing catch-up on pop culture, one of the names I was determined to investigate deeper was none other than Alan Moore; legendary comic scribe, self-proclaimed wizard and all around “don’t get too close to him” guy. I’ve read most of his more popular stories numerous times over the years (Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke and the classic “For the Man Who Has Everything…” story in Superman Annual 11, to name a few); but now it was time for something new. Well…new to me, at least.
My first choice was pretty simple actually, for when I was a wide-eyed 9 year old I had somehow gotten my hands on a couple of his Saga of the Swamp Thing issues. I remember absolutely nothing about the story, probably because at that age his style of writing may as well have been written in Arabic to a child. I only remember the images of grotesque beings prancing around in a horrifying setting.
Apparently that was enough for me, as I didn’t continue on with the series at that time. Almost thirty years later I’m pretty sure I can handle whatever Mr. Moore can throw at me, so I added the recent hardcover collections of his run to my library, waiting for the day when I could jump back into it.
First off, a note to you collectors out there regarding this run: most collections of his first volume on the series contain issues 21 through 27; but Moore’s first issue was actually the 20th. He was brought in to wrap up what had transpired before hand, and he did so while also laying down the foundation for what would become the first full story arc. In other words, if you come across a trade paperback, ensure the 20th issue is also included; or at the very least, hunt down that single issue; totally worth it and necessary.
As for the story arc itself, this is true horror mixed with what it means to be human; and why we’re so desperate to keep being human. I can’t think of another way to describe it. You won’t find a lot of gory or violent imagery in this first set (those come later); what you will find is yourself, cheering – practically pleading – for Alec Holland (aka Swamp Thing) to regain his humanity. And you’ll be surprised at how many times your heart breaks during the read. That is exactly why I wanted to read more Moore; he sucks you in without you even knowing it, and by the time you put the book down you’ll wonder what just happened. Reminds me of an Al Pacino quote from The Devil’s Advocate. Heh.
Dan Day and Stephen Bissette provide the artwork, and it’s pretty amazing. Their experimentation with panel layouts are way ahead of their time, and they bounce back and forth between different art styles – sometimes on the same page – in a way that is anything but jarring. Simply put, if Moore doesn’t hook you; they will. With a title that certainly helped launch what would become DC Comics’ Vertigo line (this was Vertigo before Vertigo existed), Alan Moore had set another tent pole in the ground, firmly establishing himself as someone to keep an eye on in 1984. I am definitely continuing on with this series, and if you haven’t ever read it, I’d recommend giving this first volume a shot; and if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!