Thursday, April 7, 2011

Geoff Johns vs. Swamp Thing

I don't make a habit of reading comics written by Geoff Johns.  In fact, I actively avoid comics written by Geoff Johns.  I happen to think the trend of writing comics explicitly for fans who grew up reading comics before the 1990's is just stupid- and nobody does that more than Geoff Johns.

Usually I can just ignore his stuff.  I don't care about Green Lantern or the Flash anyway, so its easy to just read what I like and not worry about Johns' latest super crossover extravaganza.

This thing though.  I'm at a loss.  Swamp Thing?  Really?

Brightest Day #23
Written By: Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art:  Scott Clark, Patrick Gleason, Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, and Ardian Syaf

I'm a big fan of the Alan Moore issues of Swamp Thing.  I even really enjoy the Mark Miller issues, and I hate almost everything he's ever written.  Its fair to say I'm a fan of the character.  But more than that, I'm a fan of how the character has been written.  Superficially, Swamp Thing is kind of ridiculous.   A man transformed into a monster with the power to manipulate nature, its straight out of 1970's horror comics.  If you think about it for five minutes, its incredibly silly.  But there is something about the character that has inspired some really interesting stories.  There have been a fair amount of misfires, sure, with Brian K. Vaughn's "teenage daughter of Swamp Thing" issues being the most recent.  But even these attempted to bring the character in new directions.

Using Swamp Thing to further a massive crossover event though?  That seems like a step back.  Johns has made a career out of building off Alan Moore's ideas, with his Green Lantern run being the most recent (and obvious) example.  This isn't necessarily a criticism, as his stuff has proven to be extraordinarily popular.  But I really don't see Swamp Thing stories written by Geoff Johns working at all.  Johns tends to write big, summer blockbuster-esque stories with lots of action and heroic characters.  The best Swamp Thing stories explore complex issues and often feature rather muted action.

DC canceled a planned Swamp Thing series by China Mieville to make this happen.  Supposedly that series would have taken the environmental aspects of the character and turned them on their head.  That sounds like a really interesting idea- and Mieville is a really interesting writer- so I really hope that the series wasn't canceled just so Swamp Thing could appear in some middle of the road crossover stories.

Maybe the story will resolve better than I expect.  In the past, stories featuring Swamp Thing interacting with major DC heroes have been interesting.  Maybe the inevitable new Swamp Thing series will be written by someone who is a better fit for the character.  Maybe the stories that come of out this will actually be good.  Maybe not.  Its too early to know.  I don't have a lot of faith in Geoff Johns (or DC Comics for that matter) in this though.


Edwin said...

"Johns has made a career out of building off Alan Moore's ideas, with his Green Lantern run being the most recent (and obvious) example."

Did you get that from Moore himself because that's not true at all. Most of the stuff Johns has done with GL comes from the stories written by Len Wein and Steve Engleheart. Dave Gibbons was the one who introduced some Moore elements in his GLC issues.

Also I feel the same about Moore as you do Johns, I find him to be one of the most overated writers ever. So I have no problem at all with Swamp Thing coming back to the DCU and being part of this event. Maybe Wein will write the character again since his original take on Swamp Thing is probably the best in the characters history.

JohnB said...

Hm. Fair point. Isn't the entire Blackest Night/Brightest Day business based on stuff from Alan Moore's Tales of Green Lantern shorts though? It seems like a fair amount of the latest run is based on throwaway lines from those stories. I haven't read the Len Wein stuff though, so I can't really comment on that.