Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 (1984)
The Anatomy Lesson
This is the book that started me down the long, passionate (some say obsessive) path of Swamp Thing fandom. The previous issue, “Loose Ends” was Moore’s first Swampy book but this issue really kicks things off. Like many, I appreciate this time in Swamp Thing’s chronology quite a bit. The artwork and writing set Swamp Thing apart from many other books. The level of artistry, detail and effort that Totleben and Bissette put into each panel and page is extraordinary. Also, Swamp thing feels more relatable than ever before with Moore at the helm. He brings Swamp Thing back to life in an almost poetic way. it’s the greatest.
Moore starts this issue in such a wonderful way. The deed has been done and Woodrue is contemplating his actions.
Moore starts the book by immediately killing off Sunderland; the giant thorn that has been stuck in Alec Holland’s paw from day one.
Last we saw Swamp Thing, in issue 20, he had been shot and killed by Sunderland and Government goons (DDI). In the meantime, Swmapy’s body was transported back to Sunderland Corp to be exhumed under the close eye of Jason Woodrue/The Floronic Man. This is the first time we get to see Woodrue interacting with Swamp Thing.
Due to his expertise and unique form, Sunderland sprang Woodrue out of jail to conduct Swamp Thing’s autopsy and to unlock the science of the Holland’s bio-restorative formula
Woodrue stumbles upon the key to what turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing. He excitedly informs Sunderland but is met with disdain.
The pseudoscience that Alan Moore constructs is fantastic. He draws the reader in, making them believe that there just might be a realistic way for a Swamp Thing type of creature to exist. Another reason that this book stands apart from others is that Moore reveals that Alec Holland is no more; that Swamp Thing is merely sentient plant matter that holds the memories of Alec Holland. This was a great shift in continuity compared to previous notions of who/what Swamp Thing was.
Sunderland fires Woodrue after he has completed his task. Sunderland fails to listen to Woodrue’s warning that a plant can not be killed with bullets and that the Swamp Thing has the ability to defrost from his slumber.
Sunderland pays for his arogance. Before vacating his post, Woodrue accesses the security controls for the Sunderland Corp building and a plan for revenge is set in motion.
Woodrue tampers with the cryogenic chamber that houses the husk of Swamp Thing. He adjusts the security system, overriding access to the facility, creating the perfect trap forcing Sunderland to face the monster he created.
Swamp Thing emerges from his frozen slumber and doesn’t take long to discover the report that Woodrue put together. The report informs Swamp Thing that he can never return to his human form; that he will forever be Swamp Thing, the muck-encrusted mockery of a man. The only trace of humanity comes in the form of painful memories and loss and all of the misery can be credited/traced back to Sunderland.
As you can imagine, Swamp Thing is not a happy camper when he reads the report.
As Woodrue so perfectly narrates, Swmap Thing tracks down Sunderland and sends him to the grave as Sunderland did the same for Alec and Linda Holland.
This panel always makes me chuckle. I imagine Swamp Thing talking like The Tick, “that’s right Sunderland! taste the sweet, muck-encrusted teat of justice!”
I could prattle on for quite some time regarding how this book propelled comics toward a new direction of storytelling, how Moore uses Woodrue as the narrator in such a wonderful way, how poetic the panels are strung together or really any aspect of the book for that matter, but I won’t. If you’ve find your way to this website, you’re most likely aware of the greatness that this book holds and appreciate it as much as I do.
There is a considerable amount of criticism regarding Swamp Thing 14 and 15 (series 2) along with this great action figure recommendation. It would have been awesome if a Swampy figure came out around this time.