Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Colourist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Previously, in Swamp Thing: The Rot has won. Anton Arcane tricked both Animal Man and Swamp Thing into the Rot dimension, where time passes differently to ours. In the year that passed during their time in the Rot, its forces were able to conquer our world, killing or twisting Earth’s heroes and villains to its own nefarious purposes.
Now Animal Man and Swamp Thing have made their way to the last strongholds of the Red and Green respectively, where the last pockets of resistance remain. Swamp Thing meets Poison Ivy, Deadman, and the Parliament of Trees, who tell him that his lover, Abby Arcane, perished in the war against the Rot. Swamp Thing is understandably distraught, but the Rot’s forces are incoming, leaving little time for grief.
Rotworld is well under way, and with the new world now firmly established after last issue’s appetiser, we can head out into the meaty main course of the storyline as Swamp Thing comes to terms with what has happened and starts to try and fix it. But of course, it’s never going to be easy, as the forces of the Rot want to keep things as they are, and then there’s the matter of Abby’s apparent death to sort out too.
There’s a running flashback sequence throughout this issue that has Alec and Abby meeting in their dreams to confront Anton Arcane, and this works exceptionally well. Aiding as usual by Yanick Paquette’s perfect storytelling, this sequence is chilling and compelling, both with that air of “I want to know what happens but I’m scared to find out” that makes the ultimate reveal even creepier than it should be, especially since it’s obvious how it’s going to end.
We also get another glimpse of a fully powered Swamp Thing, which we haven’t seen much of since issue #9 when Swampy took down Sethe. With the Parliament of Trees at his back, Swampy is now super-charged, and it makes the fight scene near the beginning of this issue almost hilarious in how easily he takes down the Rot-corrupted Teen Titans, especially with the little quips he throws out at the time. Snyder has defined this new Swamp Thing nicely against the previous incarnations; gone is the slow talking, ellipsis abusing Swamp Thing, Alec Holland is his own Swampy.
Swamp Thing had an annual out last week, and that story is continued here too in the flashbacks to Abby’s struggle against the Rot before Rotworld began in earnest, as she returns to the town where she first met Alec in order to face down her uncle. The timing of the annual itself is difficult to place; it seems to take place between certain panels, even down to some identical dialogue from the annual’s framing sequence, but without an editor’s note, I couldn’t say exactly where, but the story is presented as both relevant but not to the point where not reading the annual will leave you at a loss (though I’m not sure why you’d skip the annual if you’re reading this series, but y’know).
My main criticism of this title, which isn’t really a criticism, is that it and Animal Man seem to be running on parallel story tracks. Swamp Thing fends off an attack from the Rot, decides to go after Arcane, has some flashback sequences to see how the Rot established itself, and then we get our cliffhanger, which is used in both books (though over in Animal Man it’s the cliffhanger for the flashbacks rather than the main story). The circumstances may be slightly different, but the story beats are exactly the same as Animal Man, and whilst both series are well executed, having read both this issue and Animal Man #14, it feels extremely interchangeable. I can only hope that the two series will make themselves more individual in the latter half of their Rotworld stories before coming back together for the conclusion in their respective issue #17s.
So Rotworld continues to chug along as an enjoyable mini-event book, with some clever storytelling and exceptional artwork, as per usual. Despite annoying comparisons with Animal Man, this issue is very good, finishing the set-up for the storyline and gives us two clear issues to sort out everything that’s left to deal with — and it’s a hell of a lot. But with Snyder and Paquette at the helm, you know it’s going to be well worth the ride.
GO Rating: 4/5