After a year of lead-up, the long awaited crossover between "Animal Man" and "Swamp Thing" begins this month. "Animal Man" #12 has Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Steve Pugh tackle the first meeting between the two title characters and while it's good, there's also a fair chunk of exposition.
The presence of exposition makes sense. As much as I would like to think that everyone who reads "Animal Man" also reads "Swamp Thing" (and vice versa), it's an assumption that almost certainly isn't true. The first half of the "Rotworld Prologue" needs to bring people quickly up to speed in just how both books have approached the Green and the Red's fight against the Rot up until now and introduce all the major characters. While it does slow down the book initially, Lemire and Snyder perform a needed function here and do so at a reasonable level.
The rest of the issue will hold existing readers' interest a bit more, though. The page where Buddy learns how to find the Green through its connection with the Red is fantastic all across the board; a great narration explaining the steps from Lemire and Snyder, and Pugh and Lovern Kindzierski bring the idea to life perfectly. The veins-as-panel-borders motif works well without being overly done, and something as simple as a bird being eaten by an alligator ends up interesting
Pugh's art is great for the misshapen, mutated forms of the Rot; everything ends up looking disturbing under his pen, and both sides of the portal to the world of the Rot end up coming across horrific. Less impressive this month is Pugh's depiction of the new Swamp Thing form, although I'm starting to wonder if the bigger problem is the redesign of the character. Swamp Thing in "Animal Man" #12 feels more bulky and somehow stone-like rather than a personification of all things plant-like; it's a bit off-putting, unfortunately.
"Rotworld" is off to a solid start here, and knowing that "Swamp Thing" #12 (wrapping up the prologue) is also published the same week makes the chunk of exposition here feel a bit more reasonable. At this point, my biggest complaint is only that next month's issue #0s means that we'll have to wait an extra month for "Rotworld" to kick in to high gear. All in all, not a bad opening.