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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fear in Four Colors: The Search for Swamp Thing #1

Writer: Jonathan Vankin
: Marco Castiello
Vincenzo Acunzo
Colors: Barb Ciardo
: Sal Cipriano
: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes & Ulises Arreola
Variant Cover: J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date
: June 22, 2011

Imagine occult detective John Constantine getting kicked out of the Batmobile by the world's greatest detective, Batman, for smoking. Or having an awkward moment with former flame Zatanna. These are the kinds of scenarios that will play out in DC's Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. The first issue of the three-part miniseries hit comic book stores just a few weeks ago, marking Constantine's historic return to the mainstream DC Universe for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Since the early 1990s, Constantine--best known by casual fans for the movie in which he was played by Keanu Reeves--has been exclusively featured in DC's mature-readers Vertigo line. But thanks to acclaimed writer and journalist Jonathan Vankin, who spent the past seven years as editor of Vertigo, the chain-smoking British gumshoe now gets to mix and mingle with all the bigwigs of the DCU, just as his fellow Vertigo character, Swamp Thing, has gotten to do.

And speaking of Swampy, the events of this series are tied directly to that muck-encrusted denizen of the Star City woods. The hulking elemental was named protector of the Earth at the conclusion of the Brightest Day series, but all may not be as it seems. No one knows the creature as well as Constantine, who was the one who helped him realize that he was never scientist Alec Holland to begin with, but rather a being of nature who simply rose up after the scientist's death and believed himself to be his reincarnated form.

When Constantine begins to suspect that Swamp Thing may not exactly be the right Thing for the job of Earth's guardian--that he may, in fact, be far more sinister in his current form than anyone else realizes--he decides to turn to Gotham City's Dark Knight for a little help in tracking him down. As a plot device, it's a bit forced, but it's hard to pass up any excuse for those two characters to cross paths. And it certainly lives up to expectations, thanks not only to Vankin's scripting, but also the engaging artwork of former Witchblade penciler Marco Castiello.

Judging by the cover, it is likely that the Man of Steel is soon to get involved in the goings-on, so things are sure to be looking up. I've always been a fan of crossovers like these, and I think it's great that DC is incorporating characters like Constantine and Swamp Thing into their mainstream universe (now is a little better inclusion of the Marvel Family too much to ask? I don't think so.)

Forced plotting aside, this is a promising first issue for the Search for Swamp Thing three-parter, with some really nice character rendering by Castiello. I've got to hand it to DC--in the past decade, they have completely taken the lead away from Marvel in terms of these universe-spanning crossovers, which used to be what the House of Ideas did best during the 1980s and 1990s. I'm looking forward to checking out the next two issues, the next of which is set to hit on July 27...

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