What seems to be a significant development in the DCU, the new Walmart Exclusive Swamp Thing #4 revealed the full name of Swamp Thing’s current associate… Briar Woodrue! As you may know, Woodrue is the surname of Floronic Man, AKA Jason Woodrue/Plant Man/Floro/Plant Master/Seeder. This revelation creates extremely fun plot opportunities to explore.
Jason Woodrue has a rich history within the DC Universe as a B-list, plant wielding villian, first appearing in The Atom #1 (1962). Prior to adopting the name “Floronic Man” (-see The Flash #245, 1976), Woodrue went toe-to-toe with classic DC characters such as, Wonder Woman, The Atom & the Justice League. Along with being involved in the Atom’s origin story, Woodrue played an integral role in the creation of Poison Ivy. While working as a college professor in the Pacific Northwest in the ’60s, Woodrue seduced and experimented on one of his young students, Pamela Isley. These torturous experiments gave birth to one of DC’s most notable villains. Now, it seems that Woodrue’s experiments have extended his family tree.
Note: The Poison Ivy origin I am referencing is post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, not the Earth-One version.
Throughout the series, hints and allusions are made regarding Briar Woodrue’s family/origin. In Swamp Thing #1 (Walmart Exclusive, 2019), Swamp Thing explains,
“she says she’d defended herself, telling the FBI agents that her mother’s ravenous and demanding rhododendron had directed the crime. The flowers had spoken to her all her life. That mistake, she says, leads her to understand why the man we’re hunting would want to escape the psychiatric ward he was held in until very recently.”
Swamp Thing’s narration in issue #1 paired with the reveal of Briar’s full name in issue #4 leads me to believe, Jason Woodrue and Poison Ivy have a child. The methods in which the two villains created the child, I’m sure, are as sordid as it gets and hopefully more backstory comes to light. Knowing Ivy and Woodrue’s past, the two would seem more likely to throw one another under a bus before collaborating.
Below is a brief timeline of Briar Woodrue.
Briar Woodrue first appears in the Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Special #1 (2019). She acted as a harbinger for Swamp Thing, warning evil monsters of the danger that lurks in the forest. She’s depicted as being one with her surroundings, forming from a swirling pile of leaves. Swamp Thing refers to her as, Twiglet, perhaps alluding to Briar being a child of nature. The nickname is a term of endearment and the two share a familiarity/trust. The two search for a character they call, The Barren.
In Swamp Thing #1 (not to be mistaken for the Swamp Thing Halloween Horror #1) Swampy refers to Briar as a witch, explaining, “the witch is my friend… we are bound by blood and black magic…”. The two battle and negotiate with the Elemental Forces of Fire. Briar is depicted as more confident and mature than when she first appeared in the Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Special. It is revealed that Briar can use her empty, left eye socket to see visions.
Briar and Swampy’s journey to confront The Barren continues in issue #2. Briar uses her clairvoyant power once again. She inserts a blade of grass into the empty eye socket and begins seeing cryptic visions of where they need to travel. Swamp Thing helps to decipher Briar’s visions. At one point, Briar asks Swamp Thing to stop calling her, “Twiglet” and mentions that he’s able to talk to plants, not her. Briar saying she doesn’t speak with plants seems to contradict Swamp Thing’s narrative in issue #1, “The flowers had spoken to her all her life.” In Swamp Thing issue #2 she seems to look more like Poison Ivy. Briar’s long, flowing, red hair and her face make you feel as if Swampy and a young Ivy have become close friends.
Although Swamp Thing’s intentions are focused on protecting Briar in issues 1-3, she eludes danger unscathed. Unlike her “parents” (conjecture at this point), Briar uses a form of organic/elemental magic. It will be intriguing to learn more of Briar’s powers and how she’s able to protect herself. Swamp Thing however handles the brunt of the fighting, battling a different Elemental adversary each issue. Their relationship is a mutually beneficial balance, as mysteries unfurl with each path they take.
Come issue #4, Briar and Swampy find themselves underneath Portland, summoning The Confederation of Remains for information pertaining to The Barren. But, they learn more about themselves in the process. The Confederation tells Briar and Swampy that they are like the Barren, seeking to “peer beyond” and “nothing that believes it is something”, respectively. The Confederation declares Briar’s full name, “Briar Woodrue”.
As Swamp Thing issue #4 comes to an end, The Confederation of Remains declares,
“The Barren was a seeker, determined to peer beyond what can be seen, to find a vessel for the mind greater than the impermanent flesh. Like you, Briar Woodrue.” “To us you are no different than the Barren! You have all each sought to avoid payment for your term of sentience! You have all shunned our open hand! …know that no matter how long you run, you will all eventually find the path back to death.”
It becomes clear that in finding The Barren, Briar and Swampy are finding themselves. The two inadvertently set out on a journey of self discovery with the Barren as a common thread. As the series evolves, so does our understanding of Briar Woodrue. The quote above provides a great deal of insight into her history and desires. She is apparently cheating death and seeks an immortal vessel for her mind. I’ll be sure to keep you up to speed as the series progresses.
If you’re not able to find these exclusive Walmart books in your town, fear not. DC plans to lift the Walmart exclusivity, making the books available at your local comic shop later this year.