Swamp Thing has a storied history at DC Comics. Originally created by horror maestros Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, he was given to Alan Moore, adapted to film by Wes Craven, and has become one of the more unusual superheroes in the DC universe, a noble monster who anchors horror stories that are more often about emotional failure and our broken relationship with nature than blood and guts. Sadly, over the last year, both his creators passed away, Wein as he was preparing a new story with his beloved monster. So Swamp Thing Winter Special is a fond tribute to Wein and Wrightson in two parts.
The first, an original story from Tom King, Jason Fabok, and Brad Anderson, is a tribute to the psychological horror that defines the character. “The Talk Of The Saints” follows Swamp Thing as he tries to protect a child from a monster. It’s ultimately a story about pain, about the fight between logic and your instincts, and how doing what’s right doesn’t feel right, more often than not. The other half features Wein’s final script, without dialogue as he hadn’t written it at the time of his passing, elegantly drawn by Kelley Jones, it’s a tribute to Wein’s skill with visual storytelling.
It’s bittersweet, in part because Jones, whose distorted anatomy and sense of the grotesque is perfect for a horror book, plays off Wein so well, and you learn that this was supposed to be the beginning of a miniseries. It serves instead as a capstone to Wein’s work with his most beloved character and a reminder that comics, even comics starring plant monsters, can do far more than thrill.
Incognegro: Renaissance #1, Dark Horse
Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece, ten years after their original groundbreaking mystery novel, are back with a prequel. Drawing a cue or two from noir writer Chester Himes, the book centers around Zane Pinchback, a reporter whose light skin leaves him sitting on a razor’s edge even on his best day. Pinchback finds himself investigating a murder in Harlem, but what’s really compelling about this book is how it uses the setting to bring out Pinchback’s struggle. Most noir heroes only feel the world turning against them as they tease apart the case; for Pinchback, that’s daily life. Pleece’s heavily researched art only intensifies both the sense of place and the sense of dread, and it’s great to see this character back after a decade away.
She-Hulk #162, Marvel
Mariko Tamaki and Jahnoy Lindsay, with one more issue to their run, take on a classic Hulk trope, as Jen Walters goes to the center of her mind to confront what she’s afraid of, angry about, and generally in bad shape over. Tamaki’s writing has been dealing with trauma, this entire time, and it seems an appropriate cap to the work she’s laid out. But if it sounds grim, it often isn’t, thanks to both the witty dialogue and Lindsay offering shout-outs to everyone from Chuck Jones to C.S. Lewis. This book is done next month, but it’s going out on a high note.
Twisted Romance #1, Image Comics
Alex de Campi and Katie Skelly kick off a four-week series of romance comics. De Campi, best known for her “grindhouse” comics and the brilliant exploration of privilege and geopolitics No Mercy gives Skelly a, well, twisted story of a seducer deployed to ruin relationships. So what’s with this jerk, anyway? Skelly’s unique art style — which resembles a Fleischer cartoon, but far more ominous — is perfect for this story, which is a nice balance to all the sugar you’ll get this Valentine’s.
Giant Days #35, BOOM! Studios
Right after the worst bender (and then worst injury) of one of their number’s lives, the gang now have to deal with the little sister of drama queen Esther. Who, like all precocious young children in fiction, can’t stop asking pesky questions that don’t have good answers. John Allison and Max Sarin are always great at deft, witty comedy, but this issue in particular stands out, not least for the final twist at the end.