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And we come to the end of the arc "American Gothic" and the final confrontation between light and darkness. In these stories the role of Constantine grows from a mere assistant to a key partner of the Swamp Thing, responsible for his "training" to achieve a new semi-divine status. In these stories becomes even clearer the mastery of Alan Moore's writing on various perspectives, giving depth to the characters. And it is clear also that both Neil Gaiman and his Sandman owe a lot to Moore, the mood of the stories, the use of characters such as Cain and Abel and Constantine himself and the entire idea behind Doll's House. This is the last work of Bissete and Totleben in the title, and they've been absent in several stories, despite all the substitutes maintain the same style, which ensures the fluidity and uniformity of the stories. The first story "Windfall" is a moral tale about the effects of the fruit that falls from the Swamp Thing and the way it affects different people. "Bogeymen" features a serial killer which we never see his face since the story is always told by his point of view, what he sees and thinks. He mentions previous encounters with colleagues, which Gaiman used in the Doll House arc of Sandman. "Ghost Dance" is one of the best stories of Moore, taking advantage of the American love of guns to tell the story of the house of a gun manufactoring dynasty (who really existed), haunted by by those who were slaughtered over the years by their guns, endlessly repeating the deaths. Break visitors are confronted with their weaknesses and betrayals. "Revelations" is part of the crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths and Mooore will show that battle between light and darkness is much worse than the nightmare of meeting the multiple earths. In "The Parliament of Trees" Swamp Thing went to Brazil, led by Constantine, to find a board of ancestral trees that share the same origin with the creature and finally revealed his true nature. However the meeting is frustrating because the monster does not understand what it is passed to his by his mates. In "A Murder of Crows" Constantine and his allies along with Swamp Thing will try to stop a group of magicians known as Brujeria in Patagonia. Their plan is to awake the darkness that exists before the creation of the world to confront God. As we know Moore is not intimidated by metaphysical themes. All goes wrong and the mages, even defeated, can conjure the spell that will awake darkness. The next story "The Summoning," Moore vent his nerd side as a connoisseur of obscure Golden Age characters and summons all mystics DC characters like Baron Winter, Sargon the Sorcerer, Dr. Occult, Zatara and his daughter Zatana to help Constantine on Earth, while the Swamp Thing stands in the limits of hell with Edrigan, Spectre, the Stranger, Deadman and the Doctor Fate to face the darkness awakened and ready to swallow light. In the special edition we have the conclusion of the battle between light and darkness, "The End" where all the allies of Swamp are knocked out one by one and two colleagues of Constantine are incinerated. So Moore came with a disturbing final (and somewhat heretical), offering the proposition that evil and good are parts of the same spectrum, and light and darkness are complements of the same divine being.
It's amazing. Swamp Thing is written as introspective, tortured, and desperate to connect with who he thinks he's supposed to be. I was so smitten with the character and story that I actually bought Saga of the Swamp Thing #20, just to have a more tangible piece of the history. Four is probably my favorite of the six.
If you are a fan of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, or any of his other work, and have yet to read this, I highly suggest it. I had heard of Moore's Swamp Thing run but had never read it; now that I have, I am glad I did. It's amazing to me that he wrote this while he was doing Watchmen as well.
Out of all the writers who have ever handled the mystical characters of the DCU, Moore is by far the most adept. The central plot of this collection is in the latter 128 pgs. which is about an arcane tribe of witchdoctors called the Brujeria who have existed since prehistoric times and whose purpose is to align the necessary powers and elements in order to bring about the literal destruction of Heaven by summoning a force that can only be described as the LIVING force of monolithic darkness. Even many of the devils and demons of the DCU recognize this "act" as a threat to all of existence and have chosen to fight against it in order to preserve their own rights to power and stability in hell. It's a massive, epic story that Moore explores perfectly. There are also dramatic insights revealed about the Swamp Thing himself as he meets with the Parliament of trees and finds himself to be more of an anomaly than he had previously realized. Of course John Constantine is a central player in this whole event, and is as darkly humorous and cool as he's ever been portrayed in any comic. There are also appearances by just about every mystical or magical character in the DCU, and these appearances are guaranteed not to disappoint. One particularly noteworthy event takes place as several DCU human magicians come together to perform a seance-like magical rite as the battle for Heaven is taking place on the ethereal plane, and shock-waves of arcane power make their way into the mortal world of their circle. Without ruining it, let's just say it's a very intense death of Sargon and an even more dramatic death of Zatara.
One outstanding aspect that I have to mention about Moore's writing is his ability to take "B" and "Z" list characters and within a few sentences of dialogue transform them into completely fascinating and compelling personalities. Moore cuts through the peripheral stereotypes and gets right to the beating dynamics and motivations of his characters so that they feel mysteriously compelling and realistic. Among the characters that he so capably transforms are Baron Winter, Sargon, Deadman, Spectre, and Etrigan... all of whom are often poorly written by authors who don't seem to really have a handle on the more unique possibilities these characters might display. I don't mean to say that Moore thoroughly takes the time to flesh these characters out, but when he does make use of these characters, they are immersed with fascinating details as to their persona.
These particular issues of Swamp Thing were essentially written during the same period as Moore's Watchmen and Miracleman books, arguably the best and most prolific writing period for Moore. But unlike these other two titles, Moore's Swamp Thing has even more of a bent towards supernatural horror of the magical variety, and this is an area that Moore can really flex his talents and come up with mind bending results.
By today's standards the art is not heavily structured or refined, but it's very fluid and poetic, never failing to capture the dark and intense mood of the book. In fact I found the art to grow on me with time and Totleben particularly has a unique flair that deserves attention. The art may not be ideal, but it serves the story well.
This hardback version basically covers the same material as found in the old softcover Swamp Thing volume 4: A Murder of Crows, both of which collect Saga of the Swamp Thing vol. 2 issues #43-50.
There is a reason why Alan Moore has the legendary status among many comic book fans that he does. I'll be the first to admit that there is a fair amount of Moore's writing that is maybe not so conceptually appealing to your average comic book reader, but it's not likely to be the case with Moore's Swamp Thing, as it is very accessible and as much of a compelling page turner as you'll find in all of comic book literature. Also, some people have complained about the production quality of these hardbacks being printed on paper that is closer to newsprint than some higher end paper, but in one very big way this is a good thing: color. When transferring the old four-color process directly over to a high end paper, it looks absolutely horrible, and even more flat and lifeless than keeping it on newsprint. So without completely recoloring these issues, keeping the paper as close to newsprint as possible is by far the better way to go without destroying the artwork entirely.
I've heard more than one Alan Moore fan state that The Saga of the Swamp Thing is the best thing Moore has ever done, and while I maybe don't fully agree with this, this particular collection is on par with most anything Moore has done.
For the most part, the fourth installment of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing has everything that has made the run so great. It scenes of Swamp Thing in full-scale plant-morality/logic, scenes of him trying to interact with humans despite having messed up values, and scenes of super over-the-top awesome side characters like Etrigan just being themselves. The one part it falls apart though is with the final battle.
The previous book in the Swamp Thing saga set up a massive, world shattering conflict. In this book it was resolved....a little to easily. I can't get into details because spoilers, but let's just say Moore used the battle to make a symbolic point that was not as well executed as it could have been. Still, this is Alan Moore we're talking about. This guy is almost always worth reading.
What can be said of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run? Brilliant, original, masterful. I am now collecting all these editions which have been out of print for so long. The perfect gift for the Swamp Thing and Alan Moore fan. Give the gift of Swamp Thing.
A true American classic. Although written by a British man, Moore has an incredible amount of knowledge when it comes to American history and does a great job at using our countries dark past as inspiration for many of the stories. Swamp Thing deserves a space in any book or comic connoisseurs book shelf. Book four was me personal favorite because artist John Totleben added a really psychedelic aspect to swamp things jouneys, especially the scenes where swamp thing goes into the collective conscious of all plant life called "The Green". These pages have some of the most outstanding prose writing and perfectly inked and colored panels. Absolutely beautiful.