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Review | The Swamp Monster Saga

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When the Swamp monster addresses his opponent with these words, we understand that the character in front of us is not a superhero. Or a monster, as he so often insists on defining himself. He's an idea. A concept. The living flora that interacts with a world that does not understand it, and that perhaps, deep down, has no place for it. What does he do then? It seeks, in hidden corners, like the small plants that are born, resist and persist between the concrete cracks of megalopolises, its place to exist.

Created in the 70's by Len Wein (comic book legend, best known for being the creator of the crowd's favorite mutant, Wolverine) and Bernie Wrightson, O Swamp monster would find its potential 10 years later in the hands of a young and avid English writer, Alan Moore. Moore would reluctantly assume the title, which had gone through several mishaps at Wein's own request. The Englishman agrees, as long as he has the freedom to reformulate, recreate and extrapolate the character. The result has been republished since 2014 by Panini Comics in Brazil in A Saga do Monstro do Pântano, which has now reached its fourth volume, where, in the 1980s, together with good designers Stephen Bissete and John Totleben, Moore reconstructs a character that had already been very successful in the horror comics of the 70's, elevating him to the condition of indispensable and classic reading of the comics.

The Swamp Thing Saga – Book 1

If you want to know more about Wein and Wrightson's initial phase, Panini also published the Roots volume last year, where the character is introduced. But if you want to go straight to Moore's brilliant phase, don't be afraid: the work the author does is reformulation, making his Monster substantially different from Wein's. This difference is clear even in the character's understanding of himself. I explain. But first, a brief synopsis about its origin.

“This is not the way of brute nature. It is not the way of green.”

Alec Holland is a scientist who, caught in an explosion, ends up thrown into a swamp in Louisiana, USA. This swamp was covered in a substance called a biorestorative formula, which merges Holland's body with the pond's plants. When he emerges, Alec Holland has become a monster covered in local flora. THE Swamp monster.

Until then, the unsuspecting reader could say: no big deal. A standard origin for a fictional character. Scientist gains bizarre powers after bizarre accident and goes around beating bizarre enemies. But if you know Alan Moore, knows that the subject is a subversive. The obvious is not part of his repertoire. From number 20 of the series, where Moore's work with the character begins, what is seen is a reinterpretation not of the man Alec Holland and his condition as a plant; it is a reinterpretation of a vegetable mass that believes it is man. In the Anatomy Lesson issue, Moore reconstructs the character in the most creative and terrifying way possible: Alec Holland is dead, and what we see walking around as Swamp Thing is the echo of life that lingers. For human beings die; nature does not.

The Swamp Thing Saga – Book 1

The most thought-provoking part of the series is perhaps precisely the perspective that Moore gives us on the narrative: it's a horror comic, but the horror isn't in the characters' actions. It is in the perspective of “nature” on the actions of the characters. This is quite clear in the Kreacher's relationship and subsequent conflict with Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man. Woodrue believes that understanding the Monster will help him understand more about himself; he too, an amalgamation of man and vegetable. But what Woodrue doesn't understand is this: he's still a man, and he thinks like one. In his attempt to understand the Monster, he makes trivial mistakes, which lead to appalling situations (if you saw the scene in which he eats the tuber and didn't feel disgusted, go get treatment).

O Floronic Man, however, is an example of Moore's ability to subvert and reconstruct characters, a hallmark of great comic book writers. Until then, a villain B in the DC Universe (as the members of the Justice League remember, he had only been beaten in all his appearances so far), he gains new contours, with a clear objective: to oppose the character of Swamp Thing. , but the idea of nature that it represents. The Monster is brute nature; patient, perennial, that grows without wanting to grow, that exists where no one believes it is possible; Woodrue presents himself as an oppressive view of nature, one that threatens the human way of life. In just a few pages, a fifth-rate villain becomes a multidimensional character.

But this is just the first part. As the 3 volumes unfold, what we see is the Monster finding his place in the world and among people being just the Monster, and no longer Alec Holland covered in vegetables and with powers. On the way, unspeakable actions, which come not only from villains and absurd and horrible situations that surround him, but also from the people around him, who are also capable of absurd and horrible acts.

Moore is part of a group of writers that revolutionized comics in the 1980s, being one of its most important representatives. Along with other geniuses like Neil Gaiman, Jaime Delano, Grant Morrison and others today well known to the general public for epic works, aimed at a more adult and mature audience. Something unthinkable at the time, since the comics were still seen as a “child thing”. Moore and other writers from this period helped elevate comics to the status of true and recognized art, and his Swamp Thing is an example of that work. As an exponent of DC's Vertigo imprint, Moore's Monster caused comics to open without knowing what to expect. What kind of horror awaited readers there.

However, Moore's Monster is still a character that transitions from this period of the comics. The more experienced reader, who may already know other works by the author such as v for Vendetta and Watchmen, may find the author's verbiage and lack of boldness strange, since the opposite characterizes him in his other works. But that shouldn't matter. Reading the Monster has to be done for what it is: a revolutionary work, which would dictate the way comics would be made for decades to come, and which would reveal one of the greatest contemporary minds not only in comics, but in the arts in general.

The Swamp Monster it's a horror comic. But it's impossible not to feel revitalized after reading it. For its perennial nature, which exists following the pulse of plant life, both surprises and calms us. If the reader allows himself to take this path, perhaps reading the Monster will take him away from his chaotic existence and connect him a little more to the consciousness of the world around him. Perhaps it shows that life is little more than what we ignorantly and hastily see in our daily lives. One way or another, if you let it, the Monster will find a way to you.

Because, just like the small plants that are born, resist and endure between the concrete cracks of megalopolises, life always finds a way.

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