This volume collects issues 43 to 50 which conclude the American Gothic storyline that began in book three. I have to admit the last third of American Gothic is a triumphant finish to the longer Swamp Thing story arc by Moore. I was caught by surprise. The beginning of American Gothic is so difficult to read, not because it’s a challenging comic but simply because it’s not good, so when the momentum builds seemingly out of nowhere I was caught off-guard, not only by the story being told, but how well told it was. Everything culminates in issue #50 and I mean everything. The journey to that anniversary issue wasn’t such a treat though.
The momentum picks up almost from the first issue in this collection. Moore tells an interesting story staring one of the many tubers that grow and fall off of Swamp Thing. A man, Chester Williams, finds one of the tubers while in the swamp and brings it home. The tuber is cut up and sold off as a drug to different people. They all have hallucinogenic experiences but they all differ from one another. The type of person you are and the reason you’re eating the tubers will affect the time of hallucination you will get. It’s a clever, emotional one issue story and although if fits in the context of American Gothic, is works just as well on its own.
After that issue, Moore falls back into a few issues of exploring American horror and that other garbage. We also find out what Constantine has been training Swamp Thing for. We’re introduced to the Parliament of Threes, Swamp Thing continues to develop his powers and there is also the cataclysmic battle between Good and Evil in the concluding issue. Moore deftly interweaves a big philosophical question, magic and horror elements to his recently developed Swamp Thing mythology to tell what is easily one of his top three Swamp Thing issues. He also takes the time to joke around.
Moore ends issue 50 with two jokes. One of the jokes is admittedly dark humour. While Cain thinks over what he has learned from the confrontation of Good and Evil he comes to a realization that neither can nor will ever been defeated, they will continue to exist. However, Good and Evil can be refined and come to signify slightly different aspects of what they used to be. Once done his reminiscing, Cain turns to Abel and murders his brother for the nth time. Everything has changed but just slightly.
Moore also takes the time to take a jab at Steve Bissette. Bissette and John Totleben are considered to have been the primary artists on Moore’s run writing Swamp Thing. It’s not necessarily because they drew the most issues (I’m not even sure if that’s true or not). I think it’s more because they defined the look of Moore’s run more than any of the other artists who collaborated with him. Bissette had an ongoing struggle with deadlines and on the last page of issue #50 there is a tombstone with him name on it. The following is engraved beneath his name: “Here lies S. R. Bissette. He arrived late to his own funeral.” It’s great, I loved it.
This fourth volume of Saga of the Swamp Thing is a return to form for Moore and his team of artists. Not only do many plot elements all come together for a grand finish, but Moore also takes the time to set up the stories to come. It’s a bit unfortunate that not all of the issues are excellent but enough of them are to make this a worthwhile read. Things settle down a little bit in the next volume but only for about an issue or so. Review for book five coming up soon.