Just because “Brightest Day” wasn’t long enough or didn’t have enough room to tell the story, DC offers up this little book. In all seriousness, the sharp turn that “Brightest Day” took with the last two issues left the story of the freshly-returned Swamp Thing wide open and in desperate need of some attention. Swamp Thing’s appearance in “Brightest Day” felt shoe-horned in and to spend more time over the course of the series would definitely have short-changed the adventures of the heroes who truly carried that series.
After my first read of this book, I was determined to give it a half star. A second pass through brought me to the current rating. Zero.
This book is better as a premise than it is in execution. The title “Search for Swamp Thing” indicates that the story might, at some point, involve the Swamp Thing as something more than a delusion, recollection, or abstraction of power. Instead, this book seems to be tasked with re-integrating John Constantine into the DC Universe. It has a strong go at that, but the dialogue, characterization, motivation, and execution are all jumbled, half-baked, and faulty. Constantine’s dialog bounces all over the place from slang to British slang to gibberish and maybe even gibberish slang. I’m sure Jonathan Vankin didn’t intend it to seem so sloppy, but it does.
To add insult to injury, Constantine goes from on his back in one panel with plants descending upon him as he appears to be trapped in a greenhouse of death, to yards away from the greenhouse in a dead sprint in the next panel. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s suspension of coherence, the latter of which applies more than aptly to this book. Marco Castiello never really has a chance to find his groove in this book as the pages are burdened with blathering monologue boxes that attempt to advance a story that shouldn’t be any more difficult than Constantine apparating himself into the Batmobile. Yes, Constantine mystically appears in the passenger seat next to Batman and quickly gets a lesson in manners from the Dark Knight, providing the only semblance of a cool moment in this feeble attempt to bolster interest in a dusty license months before it receives proper treatment.
The cover – the “standard issue” one – is one of the most bizarre pieces of hijinks and near bait-and-switchery I’ve seen lately. The first version, depicting Superman, Batman, and two shadowy figures left fans wondering who would be involved in the search and who was being searched for. Speculation ran rampant as fans hoped to see everyone from Martian Manhunter to Ted Kord fill the shadows out.
The in-house ads and in-book preview for the series revealed the shadowy characters to be John Constantine in the foreground and Hawkman in the background. Hawkman has since been replaced by Zatanna for the final piece. Honestly, with Swamp Thing’s apparent involvement in the disappearance of Hawkgirl, Hawkman appearing in this series had a great deal more conflict to offer and more than a bit more appeal to me to read this book. I understand the appeal (and after reading this book, Hawkman is nowhere to be found) of adding Zatanna to the cover especially given her history with Constantine, but, honestly, it doesn’t much matter if George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were revealed as the shadowy figures. It simply isn’t that good of a book.
With this issue, DC has done a great job of assembling a book and crafting a story that makes me look forward to September’s relaunch by convincing me that this current universe is something I really shouldn’t waste time (or money) caring about. I’ll be skipping the rest of this series (someone please let me know if Hawkman shows up and kicks any moss-covered ass). Bring on September and Scott Snyder, a writer who gets horror stories and adventure comics.