Charles Soule and Kano have large shoes to step into with "Swamp Thing" #19. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette's run ended last month, and it's safe to say that their time on the book was fairly well received. Now that Soule and Kano have stepped in, there's a lot of promise, but also some parts where the book falls down a bit.
First up is the consistent aspect of "Swamp Thing" #19, namely Kano's art. Kano's an artist who's been around the block a great deal. He's just as strong and consistent as I remember, with some especially nice touches in the page layouts. Pages 6-8 in particular stand out as especially memorable in that regard. The two-page spread on pages 6-7 works beautifully, both a single large image and also a lot of smaller ones that piece together. The roots of the Green travelling through each of the panels unifies the panels into a single cohesive spread, even as the placement of the narration boxes showing you a through-line on how to move across the page. I love the detail on the spore surfaces, the veins of the plant, and the little individual fern leaves; coupled with Matthew Wilson's colors, this feels almost like a huge stained glass window with the Swamp Thing moving through its shards. Having the panels start to shrink down towards the lower right hand side of the page looks great too, with Kano getting just the right proportion to make it feel like things are narrowing in on a specific place.
That progression then echoes onto page 8, with Swamp Thing being re-formed from a single blade of grass and the circular panels radiating out of that moment to show us first Swamp Thing, and then the entire cityscape. It's a beautiful, dramatic moment that works not only because of its layout but the actual execution of the images. Swamp Thing standing next to the iron-wrought gate looks great, but it's the overhead view of Metropolis that is especially lovely. The Metropolis Botanical Garden from above is a great little oasis of green within the skyscrapers that rise up on all sides, and it fits in well with the general ideas that Soule is covering in "Swamp Thing" #19.
It's Soule's script that doesn't quite click for me, although I feel like there are some good ideas and moments throughout. I like the idea of the mystery Seeder; it's a great concept for a "villain" where it puts Swamp Thing in the role of destroyer rather than creator, and it helps redefine the Green as not "good" in the same way that Abby's inheriting the power of the Rot reminded us that it's not necessarily evil, either. By seeing one of the Seeder's creations and hearing about another where it was that much harder for Swamp Thing to destroy, it's already created a seed of doubt.
Unfortunately, for now at least, the first third of the comic doesn't have any real connection to the latter two-thirds. Swamp Thing's shift over to Metropolis is the essence of arbitrary, and it feels like it's derailing what had started to build as something interesting. It also doesn't help that Swamp Thing comes across as very naïve when dealing with the Scarecrow, who already feels out of place in both "Swamp Thing" and Metropolis. There's also a ridiculous amount of narration on the first few pages; I appreciate that Soule is trying to re-establish the status quo for the title for any new readers that might have come on board, but it's an awful lot to push through.
"Swamp Thing" #19 feels like it's pointed in the right direction, it's just having a little trouble getting out of the gate. I'll definitely come back next month to see if Soule's script flows a little smoother, but I'm already intrigued by the creation of the Seeder and that's a real draw. Plus, of course, the gorgeous art from Kano doesn't hurt either. I've seen better debuts for a new creative team, but I've certainly seen far worse, too. There's potential.