So I went into this New 52 Era of Swamp Thing under the presumption that, well, everything that had gone before, all that Vertigo stuff and Challengers of the Unknown team-ups and Alec’s brother Edward and so on, was still part of the Swamp Thing back story. Okay, maybe not Edward, but what I figured was going to happen was that, as part of this new direction, the focus would be more on “moving ahead” and not so much “worryin’ about all that old stuff.” You know, not going too out of the way to just throw out all those old stories, but, hey, we’ve got new stories to tell, let’s all just jump in with this fresh start and let’s go, gang!
I thought that about Swamp Thing, simply because there wasn’t really too much that directly contradicted anything that had gone before…well, sure, there’s some small measure of retconning, and tying in Arcane to the whole “Rotworld” business, which is all well and good. But it wasn’t like, say, Fury of Firestorm, which explicitly reboots the entire concept of the character, ignoring anything that happened before. It’s more like the Green Lantern books, where, aside from some minor continuity tweaks, they continued on pretty much business-as-usual in this brave new New 52 world.
Well, Swamp Thing #0, part of DC’s Zero Month, where we get a peek at the backstories of their various characters, sorta did away with that preconceived notion of mine. We get an altered version of Swamp Thing’s origin as well as a drastically altered Arcane. Arcane had been tied to the Rotworld concept before, but I figured it was one of those minor “retconnings” I’d mentioned before…that he was still a mad scientist whose search for immortality put him at odds with our mossy hero, but now, in the New 52, we were going to learn the real truth behind all of his previous shenanigans.
Nope (and here comes the SPOILER part)…turns out he’s an evil monster who can disguise himself in the flesh of other humans, has served the Rot for centuries, and hunts and kills Earth elementals like our pal Swampy. Also, he was directly responsible for Alec Holland’s death and (presumably) the rise of the human host-lacking Swamp Thing that we all were familiar with from previous series.
You may be surprised to hear that I’m cool with these changes…Swamp Thing exists under the long shadow of what Alan Moore had done with the character, and the New 52 reboot gives this new creative team the opportunity to retool basic concepts of the series in order to do new and hopefully interesting things. And so far, it has kept my interest. I’m okay with Arcane’s new status quo, making him a sort of “anti-elemental,” and doing away with his horror movie “mad scientist” origins, though…I can imagine the plot permutations possible to keep those original Arcane stories sort-of in continuity. I mean, Abby Arcane has to come from somewhere, right?
Besides, to make a point that has been made many times over…it’s not as if those previous Swamp Thing comics stopped existing or anything. I can always reread those if I want.
A couple of other points: another change that bumps up against my preconceptions of the character is the specific reference to Alec Holland’s death being “five years ago,” which I need to wrap my head around given the kinda real-time progression of Swamp Thing’s previous adventures. I always thought Swamp Thing’s timeline was more along the lines of twenty-something years, which was a problem when there were stronger ties to the regular DC Universe, but less of a problem once it was moved into the DCU-free Vertigo line. Now that it’s back in the DCU as of the New 52 relaunch, “five years” is the new across-the-board paradigm for this Age of Heroes, and I guess Swampy’s got to fit in there somehow.
Another thing is Arcane’s appearance, which originally was the result of being poorly-repaired by his Un-Men following his fall at the end of his debut story. Now, post-New 52, I guessed he always looked like that (or his appearance has a different origin, or the same origin recontextualized, or…well, I certainly nailed that down). Not a complaint or a criticism, just an observation.
One thing I’m sure we can all agree on, however, that of all the details regarding the New 52 version for Swamp Thing, this is the most important thing: Cranius is still around:
So remember friends…even if you’re put out by Swamp Thing’s recent changes, at the very least the return of Cranius offers us all some hope.