Many of us bemoan the loss of the old style comics of the Sixties and Seventies, but I am grateful to Moonstone for keeping the spirit alive. I may be a bit late in coming to The Heap, the first issue shipping a couple of weeks ago, but now I am kicking myself for leaving it on the ‘unread’ pile for so very long.
The first impression of this issue I had was ‘fun’. Remember Swamp Thing before he went so very dark and spooky at the hands of Alan Moore? For instance, when the elemental was teamed with Deadman in the later issues of the Challengers of the Unknown? (#’s 84-86 if my memory serves me right.) That sort of fun.
Hardly what one would call Captain Carrot style fun; these were not happy and bouncy stories. Nor do I mean to denigrate the mighty Alan Moore; he worked wonders with the Swamp Thing title and one could easily call him one of the fathers of the Vertigo line. However, he most certainly put his own personal stamp on the character, opening up whole new layers of darkness we had not seen previously and bravely declaring a whole new style.
Which left the previous style alone, forgotten; locked in some dark dank cellar until Charles Knauf and Sami Kivela lifted it out of the depths for a whole new generation to enjoy.
No one could accuse Mr Knauf of being stingy when it comes to the basic comic ingredients. A World War I bi-plane pilot suffers a fiery death as he crashes into a Polish swamp, where the wreckage is picked over by the traditional skinny old shaman dressed in dirty rags and a very nice cloak that Doctor Strange would be envious of, (especially since it seems to be mud-repellent) and his pet troll. Nearly forty years later a young girl flees the experiments of a mad Nazi scientist and is rescued by a swamp beast before dying in his arms. The beast is then approached by Huginn, one of Odin’s fabled ravens, in human form and in a very sharp and similarly mud-repellent suit. It’s not just the black speech bubbles that make one think of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Anyway, Huginn reveals that the beast is a Landsvitter (Norse for Swamp Thing I suppose), and then we get more Nazi’s.
This not to sound critical; they say there are only seven stories in the world and the art is in how you combine them. Seriously, mad Nazi scientists, swamp beasts, talking ravens; what’s not to like? If you ever wondered what would happen if you put Swamp Thing, Thor, Sandman and Weird War Tales in a bag and just shook them up, here is your answer.
The issue has everything, an origin that at first glance is not overly convoluted but contains great storytelling potential, a simple cast of maybe five people if the shaman still lives, (which I doubt) and moody yet crisp art that manages to make itself clear even with an over abundance of browns, greys and greens. It is a true return to the older styles of comic art and more than worthy of supporting. Never mind the DCnU, here you will find shades that predate even the DC Explosion of the early Eighties, back when an issue number meant something. The larger it was, the more we knew we would be seeing a quality product.
Ah, happy days!