‘Swamp Thing: Green Hell’ #1 portrays a Hellish future in which all our predictions of environmental collapse have occurred and only a few hardy outcrops of humanity still survive. A world which the Green, the Red and the Rot feel must no be reset. A reset the requires these humans to be purged by a new and gruesome Champion of the Green. This is most definitely not a Swamp Thing any reader will recognise in both identity and actions.
In Swamp Thing: Green Hell #1 Jeff Lemire and Dough Mahnke paint a bleak apocalyptic future for humankind. A future that has gone through the kind of environmental catastrophe many leading scientists are already predicting for us all.
Of course, as this is a DC Black Label title, Lemire and Mahnke are freed of the strains of continuity, but in reading this story you do feel it could very well be set in the contemporary DCU, but one possible future timeline. Lemire returns to concepts he developed in his New 52 Animal Man run with the return of the Rot as well as the Red.
We look in on a small and resourceful community living off the land as much as they can given the environmental damage done to the Earth. Damage that has seen much of the world submerged under water if this small village is anything to go by. What looks like an island is soon revealed to be a mountaintop, illustrating the desperate times the surviving people have to contend with. And, if that isn’t bad enough, this small community is vulnerable to a band of bandits who come to take their share of whatever is salvages and scraped from the remaining land and ocean. Which isn’t much.
The situation is dire and the elemental forces have their own take on Earth’s future. A radical rethinking that binds the Green, the Red, the Rot together in a solemn pact. Where once the Green was at odds with the others, it now wishes for the remaining humanity to hurry up and shuffle off this mortal coil as quickly as possible. And so is born a new Champion of the Green. One that is no friend to humanity, but rather the harbinger of death.
The horror of a world on the brink is one Lemire has visited before in his creator-owned series Sweet Tooth, but here he has a horrific version of the Swamp Thing to unleash. And, as this is a saga of the Swamp Thing, there is the odd familiar face inserted into proceedings too. Mahnke makes a great partner on a story like this; a dark and dangerous story with a seemingly unstoppable monster to match. When he inks his own artwork he is at his best too, delivering a more gnarly style that inkers often polish up. But, a style most suited for a horror story such as this one. Adding a lot of darkness to proceedings is colour artist David Baron, who actually opens the book up with a falsely optimistic scene of golden sunset before a twilight falls and then the lingering, dominant darkness of night. A darkness reflected in the unfolding story too. And a community drenched in decaying colours with the odd hint of colour in some of the folks’ clothes.
Swamp Thing: Green Hell #1 is in keeping with the horror genre so closely associated with this character and this particular corner of the DCU, but darkened further in a world devoid of hope. Well, maybe not totally.
Swamp Thing: Green Hell #1 is out now from DC Comics/DC Dark Label.