Writers: Ram V, James Tynion IV, Julian Lytle, Vita Ayala, Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artists: Mike Perkins, John Timms, Christian Ward, Dominike Stanton, Emma Rios
It’s October and you all know what that means….HALLOWEEN! It also means Halloween specials from the numerous comic companies. One such example is this. “The Legend of Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular”. An anthology book containing six spooky tales involving the guardian of the green. Will it fulfill that desire for the horror that so many of us feel during this month though? Let’s have a look and see.
There are six stories in this giant-sized issue. Two are written by Ram V with Mike Perkins on art. The rest are all handled by different creative teams. Some of these names are ones I’d been previously unfamiliar with so it was a nice treat. I’ve always believed that these multi-story specials should be used as a way to highlight new creators. This does that while using the bigger names to draw you in so that’s a good point for this comic. You might expect a series of horror stories based on the title of this comic. A good scare may even be the main selling point for you. Swamp Thing doesn’t really do that with this Halloween special though. Each story contained in this issue is a brief tale of the numerous past lives of the Swamp Thing. They’re mostly good stories but they’re not scary stories.
“At the Heart of Trees”
This is the first story in this compilation and acts as the setup for the others. A child has gone missing in a Virginia swamp and the police are searching for him. Swamp Thing finds the child and ends up chatting to a tree who asks him about his past lives. It’s a well-written story. There are some nice touches throughout it. One I particularly liked was the mention of a child who had gone missing in the swamp previously. We’re shown that a member of the search party has a tattoo in remembrance of that child. When Swamp Thing comes across a skeleton we’re shown the same panel. It’s a nice little implication that helps satisfy the audience’s curiosity about what may have happened to the child. The artwork is very nice too. Realistic and similar to what you’d see in issues of Justice League Dark.
Ring of Stones
In the second story of the book, Julius Ceasar is shown writing in a tent. Suddenly his men call on him as a messenger arrives. This messenger had been part of a group sent to meet a fellow Roman to assist in Ceasar’s conquests. That fellow Roman has joined an odd group though. After inviting his fellow Romans to witness a special ceremony it’s revealed this man is the Swamp Thing. This is the most horror-focused story in the book. Others have light horror themes but this one has the blood and guts most would expect from the genre. Again, it’s a well-written story. It’s fun seeing a real-life historical figure involved and the art is solid. I particularly loved the depiction of this version of Swamp Thing.
Our Third story revolves around a young girl. After a relative disappears she investigates, coming across the lair of a man who seems to be murdering people. The young girl eventually manages to call on the guardian of the green to help her against this man. Another simple yet solid story with some stunning artwork, particularly on the guardian of the green. The creature looks like something out of a fairy tale.
No Sign of the Enemy
This story is a bit of a heartbreaker and my vote for the best-written story in this special. A Japanese soldier is lost in the jungle during World War 2. He’s alone and unaware that Japan has surrendered. Even when presented with proof he believes it’s untrue due to the pride he has in his country. The Swamp Thing follows this man, trying to talk sense into the soldier. Across the decades that this soldier spends in the jungle, we see him slowly lose his mind. It’s a great read and there’s a lovely display of realistic yet slightly cartoonish artwork here.
Age of Discovery
This is the artistic standout of the Halloween special. Most of these stories try to stick to a somewhat realistic art style. Here, Christian Ward delves right into fantasy. Everything he draws in this tale looks stunning. The story itself is of a young man writing in his diary after joining a crew to explore the world. He writes about how he believes his life will end soon and that his shipmate has gone mad. Eventually, they stumble across a mysterious, uncharted island and set out to explore. This is a less blatant horror story. It doesn’t have the blood and guts but it’s more of creepy horror. These men getting picked off one by one by a mysterious force. I’d recommend this book based on this story alone.
At the Heart of Man
This is the finale for the special and it’s set decades after the first story in the book. We see an old version of the child the Swamp Thing had saved out camping with the family. After wandering off on his own he encounters a new Swamp Thing. This new Swamp Thing sees everything the man accomplished throughout his life just as the man is about to die. Suddenly the tree from that first story appears to impart a message to this new guardian of the green. All things wither and die eventually. In terms of art, it’s the same artist from the first story and they do similar work. The flashback of the man’s life is beautifully done and I can’t praise that enough. A solid ending to a solid book.
Overall, this is a really good comic book that’s well worth picking up. It’s not going to give you any big scares so don’t expect that. What you can expect is six extremely well-written short stories focusing on the Swamp Thing and its history. There’s great art, subtle horror themes, and some nice use of lettering throughout. Each story also represents different cultures too. America is represented through the first and last stories. Roman, Japanese, and Spanish cultures are all given at least one story. It’s quite a good comic in terms of the number of cultures it represents. I definitely recommend grabbing a copy if you’re a fan of the character. It may not be all-out horror but this is a brilliant Swamp Thing comic.
Legend of the Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular #1
This is a well-made compilation of Swamp Thing tales. The characters are mostly well-written and easy to understand despite the brevity of each story. The art from each creator looks fantastic throughout the book and the lettering is solid. The stories themselves are good too, although some of them could've done with a few more pages. They each get their point across to the reader well though so I can't complain. Not a scary book like the title would imply but one that's definitely worth having.