Saturday, April 14, 2012

Swamp Thing #8: Nothing Too Much

μηδν γαν

Solon, the poet and law reformer of Athens, is credited with stating μηδν γαν , nothing too much, or nothing in excess. Emerging from a transformative pod, Alec Holland merges human and monster into a new hybrid Swamp Thing. Usually hybrids arouse discomfort, fear, and make a poor for a party guest…unless you’re partying in a desert for the fate of humanity, then a hybrid is a good guest—especially if it’s the new Swamp Thing.

This Swamp Thing human-monster synthesis is something new among monsters. Swamp Thing isn’t a complete monster, it still retains human hopes, memories, and love, nor is it a full human, it’s able to morph its body, fly, and the internal anatomy is more vegetive than meat. This synthesis combines the best of human and monster and generates the core strength of Swamp Thing. Metamorphosis synthesizes strength.

When flying into battle, Holland-Thing thinks in mint-green thought box: “I am a man. I’m Alec Holland….But I feel my new body, too. This second me….It’s like living in a haunted body. I’m still me, still Alec, but I feel what it feels, too.” These thoughts inform readers of the duality of Swamp Thing as it adjusts to its new body, and it also fits with the organic theme of the book. Alec Holland has evolved into something new. The words of the Council of Trees to Alec Holland echo from issue 7, “You will never be human again.” Alec Holland has evolved into something post human…with really cool looking wings.

This organic factor seeps into the structure of the book with the panel design. Once we shuffle from the destruction in the desert, the panel divisions grow and tilt into wild borders. Readers will not find a straight line or right angle anywhere in the second half of the book. Like the fluid division of the panels, the synthesized Swamp Thing alters its body, able to grow a shield and giant wooden claw to swoop away the backward-looking meat things the Rot pits against the Green’s avatar. The transformative hero doesn’t keep one form too much. It changes as the need arises and adapts and moves with such adroitness that it battles through seven pages of the Rot’s henchmen without ruffling a leaf on its wing. Swamp Things advance, and shape shifting cease when it encounter Abigail Arcane’s new look.

The champion of the Rot, Alec’s old girlfriend Abigail Arcane, is transformed into a giant chitinous armored form with extended obtuse-angled teeth and disproportionate limbs, neck, and claws. This altered form of Arcane is a pure monster. The emotions, the human cares, concerns, memories, and values were shucked in the cocoon along with her human skin and hair, at least in this issue. She hisses, states “Alec needs to die!” and punches her claws through Swamp Thing’s torso. This action is not a humane way to treat present or past lovers.

The distinction between the champions of the Green and Rot is shown at the top of the second-to-last page.  Swamp Thing’s head juxtaposed with the head of Rot beast. Swamp Thing’s downward tilting eyes, the humanoid face, the spoken name “Abby.” The human aspects of the post-human Alec render themselves clearly in this panel. The monstrous nature of the dark Rot with green circular eyes, those long teeth that Snyder and Paquette exhumed from the depths some atavistic nightmare remain devoid of all humaneness. Yet Swamp Thing’s care for Abby not only remains, but still motivates this swamp-human synthesis. In issue 7, Alec Holland told the Council of Trees “—what we [humans] offer you isn’t power or strength. It’s restraint….Because it was your respect for prized human qualities that made you great. Your compassion and empathy and prudence.” All these prized traits of humanity come through the look on Swamp Thing’s face in this panel. It reigns in violence from any excesses.

The threshing of Swamp Thing at the end of issue 8 won’t end Swamp Thing (this is a comic book after all), but it does bring to question if the humanity of Abby Arcane remains cached somewhere beneath the armored form or whether it was exuded and abandoned amongst the fragmented discards of the chrysalis of her past human body. Whether Abby’s persona remains or not, it was the restraint and hope Swamp Thing exercised that provides the opportunity for its recovery. After all, like plants, even rot transforms its state.

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