Swamp Thing Winter Special (DC Comics)

Runners Up: VS #1 (Image Comics), Avengers #679 (Marvel Comics)

First off, I want to apologize for these picks coming in a day late. The “Snow Monster” hit my area yesterday and I wasn’t able to get to the shop until today. I also want to do something that just feels right this week, and instead of leading this post with my top pick, I’ll be ending with it. Trust me, it’ll work out just fine.

The team of Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub bring us another exciting installment of The Avengers, with art by Aaron Kim Jacinto. The weekly format has opened some new options for the storytellers, which they exploit here. This issue is as much about the villains as the heroes, and the ability to explain their motivations at length really enhances the grand, action movie plot of No Surrender. From this point on, the tale can move faster with bigger action and still maintain its heart. The book is proving to not take the Marvel Legacy tenants of re-introducing familiar characters in familiar forms to the extreme that some of the less interesting titles have, but absolutely evokes the feel of older Avengers epics. That might be reason enough to check it out.

Over at Image, Ivan Brandon works with the stellar art team of Esad Ribic, Nic Klein and Tom Muller to kick-off VS. I’m making a special note of the art team on this one, as they have gone above and beyond to take this book to a new level. Ribic handles the pencils with Klein adding absolutely gorgeous painted color to them. But what of Muller? Well, here’s something cool. Muller provides the book with its own, distinctive graphic design elements. That might seem an odd thing to highlight, but when you see this book, you’ll realize how integral to the whole experience that truly is. As this first issue is an introduction to a brand new world, I’ll avoid any plot points. What I will say is, if you’re looking for some rip-roaring action, VS might be the book for you.

My top pick this week, Swamp Thing Winter Special, is brought to us by Tom King, Jason Fabok, Kelley Jones and the late Len Wein. The latter half of the book is devoted to the presentation of Wein’s last, incomplete Swamp Thing tale, with art provided by the iconic Kelley Jones. Running without dialogue or any other scripting, it was to be the start of a new mini-series for the character. Though this story will likely never see the light off day, it is a wonderful resource for creators and historians, showcasing Wein’s outline and Jones’ expert execution thereof. I won’t bother attempting a full Len Wein tribute here, but he stands as one of the most influential creators in the history of comics. When he wasn’t creating a new legend, he was innovating a standing one. Not unlike Jack Kirby, Wein’s fingerprints can be found all over DC and Marvel. Both he and Swamp Thing Co-Creator Bernie Wrightson are sorely missed.

The first forty of this Prestige Format special’s pages are occupied by King and Fabok’s The Talk of Saints. I will refrain from the specifics of this one, but I can certainly talk about some of the themes present. Swamp Thing, not unlike Silver Surfer at Marvel, has become a unique figure in his universe. While tied to the adventures of the more prominent characters, he serves as vessel to contemplate deeper meaning in the yarns of his contemporaries. Though not conceived as such, Wein seemed to enjoy the role that his creation has taken, as evidenced in many of his interviews. What Wein and Wrightson certainly did intend was a struggle between man and monster, one that appears in even the original Swamp Thing origin, which you should absolutely check out. King and Fabok embrace both Wein and Wrightson’s original vision, and the later, nigh-transcendent, vision that continues from Alan Moore to this very day. The mere appearance of Swamp Thing in a title evokes emotion from devotees and is not something taken lightly. This story is about the monster and the man within, even when it doesn’t seem to be. It is a grueling journey, both literally and emotionally. Fabok does some of his best work here, I’m tempted to say his absolute best, but I’m still sorting out this one. I don’t know if I’m being objective or if it just hit me so hard that I can’t see flaw in it. I am sure of one thing; The Talk of Saints is the type of single issue tale that becomes legendary. As I write this, I’m still processing my emotions, both about the story and the impact Swamp Thing and his creators have had. Outside of being a perfect tribute to its late creators, it is also as close to perfect as any piece of Comic Book literature has ever been. You can quote me on that.