When you think of Swamp Thing, “captivating” and “best-selling” wouldn’t necessarily be the first choice of words to describe the series, especially past runs and story arcs. However, the New 52’s Swamp Thing (in tandem with Animal Man) have surprisingly been the highlights of the DC rebirth. The series, written by DC’s go-to-man, Scott Snyder, follows botanist Alec Holland in a post-apocalyptic world in which all superheroes have been overrun by an evil force of nature known as the Rot. Only two forces can combat the Rot: the Green (which connects all plant-life) and the Red (which connects all animal-life). Swamp Thing is the avatar of the Green and teamed up with Animal Man, the two must save the world before the Rot’s diabolical leader, Anton Arcane, permanently rules it. The Swamp Thing Annual continues the story line left off from Swamp Thing #13 by providing even more insight into Holland’s past.
The Swamp Thing Annual starts off in the present with Swamp Thing (Holland) wondering what has happened to his lost love, Abby Arcane. The Parliament of the Green proceeds to tell Holland of his past. This issue delves deep into Holland’s past during his college years, as he is slowly becoming a renowned botanist. One of Holland’s first missions is to travel to the Carpathian Mountains in order to restore some plant life in an otherwise dead town. The whole town is dressed in decay with a dark and gloomy feel. Even the people are dealing with a deadly sickness due to some unknown radiation exposure. Holland arrives in town and is being hosted by none other than Mr. Anton Arcane. Arcane at first doesn’t show himself, and instead has his servant Sergio escort Holland around. What is shown behind the scenes is that Arcane is mutilating a freshly murdered body in his basement so he can wear the flesh of his victim. Holland is in his room when he begins documenting what he sees through his window. He stumbles across what appears to be some kind of flower off in the distance. He leaves his room to go discover what he saw. He comes across a beautiful young woman, who introduces herself as Abby Arcane, Anton’s niece. She then ends up taking Holland on a tour of the town. While showing Holland around, the woman expresses her love for the town and the hope that her people will recover. At the end of the tour, both Holland and Abby feel such a strong connection, like they may have known each other in a past life. Holland departs Abby with a kiss and he returns to meet up with Anton. Anton discusses briefly that he doesn’t want change in his town and then entraps Holland with the same flowers Holland discovered before. Holland quickly becomes incapacitated and a different Swamp Thing comes in to save him. The story then settles back in the present with Holland on a personal mission to kill Anton Arcane with the help of Poison Ivy and Deadman.
I really fell in love with this issue quickly. The connection between Alec and Abby are portrayed so strongly through the book, that I became emotionally invested in what happens between them. I also felt that the scenes with Anton were so dark and twisted, that it added a creepy air to the book, which is hard to do with just a comic. The downside to this annual is that the normal artist Yanick Paquette isn’t present on this issue. The only thing that he draws is the cover, which is magnificent, if not the most beautiful Swamp Thing cover to date. However, the artist for this issue is Becky Cloonan, who did a fine job, but the artist switch up for the annual is just a major throw off for consistent readers. Another thing I wasn’t fond of at first was that the annual went into Alec Holland’s past. Two issues ago, Swamp Thing #0 discovered Holland’s past. Why do the readers need another background issue? They don’t. Although this issue was a filler issue, it still was an enjoyable story. I would recommend picking it up, but it isn’t necessary for the continuity of the Swamp Thing “Rot World” arc.