Young Monsters in Love (2018)
-The following contains spoilers-
Along with the Winter Special, Swamp Thing fans were treated to another excellent story last week. Young Monsters in Love features, “Heart Shaped Box” a beautifully crafted story by Mark Russell and Frazier Irving. Those who expected the story to follow the narrative depicted on the cover by Kelley Jones were probably surprised by what they found within the book. I was.
I’ve not seen such a crafted and stylized Swamp Thing book since Jon Muth’s “Roots”. Frazer Irving portrays Houma in a beautiful, twisted, Rockwellian, Dave McKean-like style. It’s delightful, inviting as it is mysterious, heart warming and slightly off-kilter.
Swamp Thing is in love. He’s fallen for a botanist and has worked up the nerve to give her a valentine. Houma native and friend, Guillaume helps Swampy get a card from the general store.
Unfortunately Swamp Thing isn’t impressed by the store’s silly selection.
Russell and Irving take an eight page story and make it feel like so much more. The world they’ve developed is intriguing and I wanted to see so much more of it; even before finishing the story. That’s what is magical about this short story. It’s like a good movie, you never want it to end.
Through a series of flashbacks we learn how Swamp Thing met his new love, Terri. Russell and Irving make it very easy to buy into Swampy’s new relationship. It’s sweet, awkward and a scenario that we haven’t seen Swamp Thing in for a while.
Amidst the nervous butterflies, heartfelt sentiments, and sharing of valentines, a darkness lingers within the Swamp; a darkness that casts a great shadow over this love story. Reality; it rears its ugly head and Swamp Thing is reminded that he is a monster. It appears a seedy agriculture company (similar to Sunderland Corp) has been keeping their eye out for Swamp Thing.
The writing’s on the wall, and as if in slow motion, you watch the the heartbreak coming down the pike. Meanwhile, you can’t help to fall in love with the relationship that is growing between Terri and Alec. Russel’s amazing writing tugs at your heart strings. Almost childlike, Swamp Thing tenderly reminisces, “I hadn’t given anyone a valentine in decades. I hope I did it right. Ecstasy tinged with fear. I’d forgotten… this is what it is to feel love.”
Russell and Irving do such a great job of establishing the love story, you almost feel foolish to have believed that a monster could fall in love, or that “happily ever after” was something Swamp Thing could ever obtain.
With a turn of the page, our love story dissolves into horror. A group of mercenaries, sent by the seedy agriculture corp, move in to attack.
Swampy is unaffected by the attacker’s weapons. Terri doesn’t share the same fate.
As Terri slips away, yet another fleeting moment of normality forever eludes Swamp Thing.
The wheels of revenge have already been set in motion as soon as the mercenaries arrive on the scene. “… the last petal of my humanity has fallen. A monster doesn’t concern itself with justification. It merely wants you to feel its pain.”
The warmest of love stories concludes in the most bone-chilling way. Swamp Thing’s attackers instantly find themselves imprisoned by their surroundings. The grass and trees form empentrable walls. “I will not take their lives. I can only think of one punishment that satisfies me.” “Like me, they will spend the rest of their lives trapped inside a prison without a key.”
“…they will spend the rest of their lives…”
The cover of Young Monsters in Love, by Kelley Jones