My fellow reviewer Doug Zawisza reviewed “Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing” #1 last month and gave it a rare zero stars. You’ll note that, while I didn’t follow suit, my rating isn’t much of an improvement, because neither is the book’s second issue. This remains a dismally unentertaining comic with character voices that don’t come close to resembling every other portrayal, and a plot that seems contrived. The one bright spot of improvement is Renato Arlem replacing Marco Castiello on art.
Arlem’s art has a classic feel to it with smooth, soft lines and a very clean look. His Superman is streamlined and looks like he’d fit in with a version of the character you’d see in a retro book crossed a little with a Kevin Nowlan influence. Barb Ciardo’s colors complement Arlem’s style perfectly, using a duller, darker palette. Together, they make this a comic that isn’t so bad if all you do is flip through and ignore the words and the actual story.
Superman is the next hero on John Constantine’s journey to save Swamp Thing (or stop him? Wait, what does he want to do again?) and this is a Superman quite unlike any I’ve read before in modern times: a rash, judgmental, pretentious hero that all but tells Constantine that he won’t bother with this nonsense, because John’s a little selfish. That's before admitting that he envies John’s selfishness and ability to ignore the suffering of others. That’s not exactly the Superman that’s appearing anywhere else in the DCU. Has the relaunch begun already?
The problem with the ‘rebirth’ of Swamp Thing and Alec Holland is that, after two issues, exactly what any of it means isn’t clear. It’s a lot of head-scratching and conflict created over what exactly? The Swamp Thing apparently wants a host... because... why again? Where the problem stems from seems to be the problem, itself. John Constantine is just stumbling around playing the bad boy with the heart of gold. Well, not gold, but he’s still going to save the world.
A go nowhere plot predicated upon a nonsensical problem wouldn’t be so bad if not for the horrible character work. Were it not for the art of Renato Arlem, this would be a candidate for the first comic series to receives two zero star ratings in two consecutive issues. Here’s hoping he returns for issue three or it may be a ‘return to form’ next month.