Monday, October 8, 2012


This is 'Shadowy Happenings', the (mostly) weekly column looking at DC's "The Dark" line of titles from the 'New 52'. Along with high-visibility titles like Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, and Animal Man, i'll also be covering the rest of the series included in this category: Demon Knights, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., The Phantom Stranger, Sword of Sorcery, and I, Vampire. This is the side of the DC universe even the regular superheroes tend not to tread.

Animal Man #13
"Rotworld: The Red Kingdom" Part 1 of 4
(W) Jeff Lemire
(P) Steve Pugh and Timothy Green II
(I) Steve Pugh and Joseph Silver

Swamp Thing #13
"Rotworld: The Green Kingdom" Part 1 of 4
(W) Scott Snyder
(P) Yanick Paquette
(I) Nathan Fairbairn

For the next five months, I may as well call this column 'Rotworld LIVE!' because both Animal Man and Swamp Thing will be fully entrenched in their respective Rotworld adventures at least through the first quarter of 2013. Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have both insinuated that this is bigger than their respective titles - this is bigger, this is more. And that fact comes glaringly apparent in Animal Man #13 and Swamp Thing #13, both of which feature multiple guest stars fighting against the Rot.

Back in August, the "Rotworld Prologue" told us that Buddy Baker and Alec Holland descended into the realm of the Rot hoping to eliminate the decay at it's source. Unfortunately, Anton Arcane - the avatar of the Rot - had other plans, and the Animal Man and Swamp Thing were stuck in the world of death for over a year while the Rot spread rampantly across our Earth. It was a lot to take in - Snyder and Lemire are laying this out for the long haul. Buddy and Alec come out from the Rot (for what felt like only hours to them) to a new world. The Rot has already won; this is no longer a mission of preemptive measures, this is a quest to destroy the evil slowly strangling the planet.

In Animal Man #13, Buddy is forced to fight the Rotling Hawkman before being saved by Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid (who looks to be a regular, recurring character now that she's part of the Justice League Dark). In Swamp Thing #13, it's Poison Ivy and Deadman that show up to lend a helping hand to Alec Holland. And in both titles, these guest characters begin criticizing their respective protagonists about being gone for so long. Both Buddy and Alex have to explain their situation to their newfound friends before being fully trusted.

If I have any complaint about the "Rotworld" crossover thus far, it's that Animal Man and Swamp Thing are mirroring each other too much. This month, both titles literally have the exact same set-up and pay off when Buddy and Alec reach the Red Kingdom and Green Kingdom, respectively. Both the Red and the Green - the power of the flora and fauna - have created physical strongholds on the Earthly plane to better stand against the spread of the Rot, and by the end of the issue, both the avatars have reached their kingdoms. I understand the need to cohesion, not only on a grand scale, but on a scale such as this, but this stunt takes things a bit too far. I don't feel like I read to separate comic book issues this week pertaining to "Rotworld". I mean, if Snyder and Lemire are going to stay so parallel, why not just combine the series for five month, have them travel together, and make it more exciting and high-stakes?

At the moment, "Rotworld" has been a lot of build-up. Both series have been at least foreshadowing this event since their first issues. A lot of time and effort has been put into this so far, but all into the 'prologue' part. Now is the time when we really get to see how "Rotworld" will pay off, from a narrative perspective. Unfortunately, "The Red Kingdom, Part 1" and "The Green Kingdom, Part 1" are such mirror images of each other that I wonder if all the hype has been worth it. Are these stories going to have the same narrative cues for the next five months? Because if so, I'll just read one series and get highlights from the other. It's no fun to read the same comic twice in a row (usually), but Snyder and Lemire and dancing dangerously close to the phenomenon of being uninventive, and that's not acceptable from two of DC's best writing talents.

ART: A (AM), B- (ST)

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