Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rotworld: Prologue Parts One and Two

Rot the night away!
Animal Man #12 and Swamp Thing #12
Rotworld is going to be epic!
Well, maybe not, at least probably won’t be epic, at least not in the traditional literary denotation of the word.

According to the 9th edition of the Norton anthology , an epic is:

“An extended narrative poem celebrating martial heroes, invoking divine inspiration, beginning in the medias res, written in a high style and divided into long narrative sequences.”

A synonym given for epic is heroic poetry.

Rotworld foils the definition of epic at the very beginning; it’s not written in verse (even though Denny O’Neil (on page 145 of Grant Morrison’s Supergods) described comic-dialogue and captions as “headlines written by a poet.”

Still, the literary definition serves as a useful lens for noticing and appreciating elements in the two-part of Rotworld prologue.

In regards to an epic containing martial heroes, Animal Man and Swamp Thing easily fit this aspect. And like the best epic heroes their characters have a depth extending beyond fisticuffs. Each hero has loved ones (Buddy Baker has his wife, son, daughter, and mother-in-law while Swamp Thing has Abigail Arcane) immediate to them and greatly relying upon their success.

In the most touching scene in Animal Man, Buddy Baker’s mother-in-law states:

"Buddy, ever since you met my Ellen, you’ve been trouble. Chaos follows you around and overturns everything in your wake. I’ve never liked you being with my daughter.

“Shush! I have something to say you, young man!

“Despite what I might feel about you, there is one thing that even I can’t deny…

“You love them. You love them more than anything else in your life. I see it in your eyes every time you look at them.

“So you go out there and you do what you need to do. You stop this craziness. You save Cliff. Make them safe again Buddy…

“Make them safe.”

A touching scene one could perhaps imagine Hecuba saying to Hector upon the walls of Troy.  A scene that reminds readers in an epic (however one may understand the word) more than mere martial prowess and fame depends on the protagonists.

The heroes in the literary epics weren’t brutes, and neither are Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Often in superhero team-ups, a too-large portion of the storyline involves the main characters fighting each other before they realize they’re on the same side; Lemire and Snyder gracefully avoid this confrontation between Animal Man and Swamp Thing. In Animal Man 12 (Rotworld Prologue Part 1), the first words spoken to Swamp Thing are: “No Alec…We need to enter it. Animal Man and Swamp Thing together. Now.” Thus their friendship and trust is established.

The Red and The Green?
Foregoing a formal invocation of the Muse, Snyder and Lemire provide plenty of divine presence. The Green and the Red exist as fundamental entities to all of life and creation. Both the Red and the Green resurrected their avatars (both Swampy and Animal Man died, and were rebuilt stronger, better, and faster and returned to the world…Arcane, the epic villain, went through the same recreation process).

These elements of and interactions with the divine tend to cause great consequences for mundane humans. Given the future visions as witnessed by Animal Man’s daughter, of the destruction of cities and a zombie Flash, the potential affect of Animal Man and Swamp Thing’s success  seems far reaching. It seems all existence as they know it depends upon them. I hope they possess plenty of duct tape.

Along with the presence of divinity, the triangular composition of the contention includes fundamental elements of life: The Green, the Red, The Rot: Plants, Animals, Death: this triumvirate ideally remains balanced, and each element holds the other in check, except that now, The Rot holds the greatest power and the other two elements work in tandem to return the balance. This triad structure holds numerous possibilities for Lemire and Snyder to utilize.

Thus begins an epic, comic book style. Lemire and Snyder employ these elements as best fits their genre of comics and has the reader poised to begin beg of the writers, go ahead and rot my world!

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