Monday, February 23, 2009

Swamp Thing #50 - July 1986

"The End" by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, and Tom Mandrake.

The previous couple of issues of Swamp Thing weren't drawn by the regular team of Bissette and Totleben, so they could have enough time to draw this extra-long anniversary issue.

It opens with Cain and Abel, who from their safe perch can watch the battle between good and evil unfold.

Swamp Thing, Deadman, and a legion of various demonic-looking beings march their way toward the darkness, But where are The Demon and The Phantom Stranger?:
...I like the running gag, starting way back in The Phantom Stranger #33, that Boston Brand just doesn't like the Stranger all that much. Considering how few people Deadman has to talk to, the Stranger must truly, as Boston puts it, "Burn his dead butt."

The battle unfolds in two places--one involving Swamp Thing, Deadman, et al, and also in Winter's creepy house, where DC's supernatural heroes begin to perform a sort of seance to take on the evil on the less physical plane. We see that in addition to Constantine, Mento, Zatanna, and Sargon, Madame Xanadu and Zatara are in attendance. Zatara is none too pleased about his daughter's relationship with Constantine.

Back with Swamp Thing, we see Dr. Fate arrive, and The Phantom Stranger reappears:
We see The Demon try and face the giant black mass that the Evil is in, and after asking Etrigan what "it" is, it spits The Demon out after it doesn't like his answer.

In an issue filled with great moments (the seance scenes are good enough to be their own story), this one with Dr. Fate has always stood out to me: Fate encounters the evil tricksters Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast, who are all too happy to help this Evil take over everything.

Before the battle officially starts, the Demons Three warn Fate of the rules. Fate doesn't give them the answer they thought they'd get:

Reading this comic as fifteen year old, this moment blew me away. The way ech side establishes the rules, and then Fate lets one of the demons have it, was stunning. It immediately told you how high the stakes were, and that guys like Dr. Fate were maybe only using a sliver of their real power when they were hanging out with the Justice Society fighting Brainwave.

Various other heroes encounter Evil, who asks them all the same question. None of them give a satisfying answer, and even a being as powerful as The Spectre proves to be no match for it.

It is Swamp Thing that enters the Evil, and gives it what its looking for. Deadman and The Phantom Stranger are shocked to see Swampy walk out of the Evil the same way he went in:
...a remarkably sweet ending for an Alan Moore Swamp Thing story--glorious sunset and all.

Of course, there is one last bit to get to: Cain and Abel have been watching all this, and Cain can't help himself killing his brother one more time before the last panel.


Jacob T. Levy said...

We must be about the same age-- I was a mid-teenager when this came out, too-- and it blew me away. In my heart I may still consider this along with Swamp Thing Annual #2 to be the ultimate DC comics-- Moore-Bissette-Totleben at the top of their games, the in-continuity DC superheroic and mystical worlds coexisting and colliding and getting redefined, the groundwork for Vertigo getting laid down, etc etc. Almost every page here had lasting ramifications in the DCU/Vertigo.

One minor point: the seance is in Baron Winter's house, not Mento's.

rob! said...

Oops, duly corrected!

Anonymous said...

I think I'm a bit younger, because this issue is the one I remember going through the most when I was very young, not understanding all of what was happening but really taking in the art and atmosphere of the book. Probably no surprise I wound up a longtime DC/Vertigo fan (and a fan of those properties that sort of exist on the border between the two, like the Stranger and the Spectre).

Nice write-up on the issue, Rob. I think you're able to accurately summarize the awe most of us felt when we read this comic :)

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