DC Graphic Novel: It's Not Easy Being Green: Swamp Thing: The Dead Don't Sleep (2016)

Swamp Thing has always been a somewhat obscure DC character as he walks the line between creature and superhero. His co-creator, Len Wein, originally envisioned him more as a horror archetype, perhaps stemming from monster movies such as Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Though his roots were rather simplistic, in the '80s prolific writer Alan Moore took him to the next level--infusing his lore with eloquent prose and metaphysical themes. In Swamp Thing's more current iterations he has returned more to his darker side, infusing horror elements back into the narrative. It's been awhile since Len Wein has taken the reigns to Swamp Thing and he takes it back old school in the latest miniseries The Dead Don't Sleep.

The story in this arc is split into two main tales--the first concerning Swamp Thing having to fight a rampaging zombie and the second having to do with Swampy giving up his mantel as protector of the Green by becoming human again. This episodic feel definitely hearkens back to his old fashioned stories (Alan Moore was fond of spinning short stand-alone tales) and it makes the comic more diverse and interesting. Swamp Thing encounters several of DC's spookier characters to include Phantom Stranger, Zatanna, and Deadman. I have always been intrigued by the mysterious and magical underbelly of DC's universe and it's fun to see these characters interact with each other.

This version of Swamp Thing seems to be a bit more aggressive and brutal, almost animalistic. It's like a combo of Moore's poetic take and Stephen Snyder's more brutal version but with an added layer of snarky humor on top. The Dead Don't Sleep could be seen as a love letter to fans of the franchise because it doesn't really propel the overall story forward much. It's just elements that people will find fun and enjoyable. The tone reminded me of EC Comics The Vault of Horror anthologies that came out in the early '50s. It's that kinda campy scariness that can't be taken seriously. The Green, Red and Rot concept that Snyder introduced a few years back takes a back seat in this book, but it does get mentioned a bit. This is a more simplistic approach to the mythology.

I really enjoyed Kelly Jones' (Sandman, Doom Patrol) art in this run as he has this heavily shadowed and intense style that is the perfect compliment to the world of Swamp Thing. He did an excellent job depicting all the twisted ways that Swampy can manipulate his plant form and his design for the character is quite scary and menacing. His murky and sometimes horrific style also contributes to the retro feel of the atmosphere. Chris Sotomayor (Captain Marvel, Deadpool) provided the coloring and his use of deep reds and thick blacks emphasizes Jones' twisted characters.

While this volume doesn't contribute much to the overall mythology, it is refreshing to see Swampy pared down to the basics. I also dug the emphasis on horror as well. If you are craving a little more plant matter in your life this is definitely worth the read.

-Michelle Kisner