Miracleman 16 (December 1988)

Moore bites off a lot for this final issue to the arc. It isn’t enough Miracleman and company will turn the world into a utopia, Moore has to sell it. He uses great detail–like the Warpsmiths liking the Inuit language the most–to make things process. He also throws in a lot of personality. Heavy metal gangs turning Kid Miracleman into a sensation; it’s unnecessary but perfect.

And Liz. How Moore deals with Liz is crazy good. Winter comes back, but she’s kind of comic relief. Liz figures in differently. One has to wonder if Moore always had this plan for her.

There’s a bit of joking at Thatcher’s expense. Moore is having a good time, after all.

Miracleman is not a superhero comic. Maybe Moore never intended it to be one, just let it pretend like on Gargunza’s tapes.

Fabulous work from Totleben too. The art is breathtaking.



Olympus, Chapter Six: Olympus; writer, Alan Moore; pencillers, John Totleben and Thomas Yeates; inker, Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 15 (November 1988)

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What’s incredible–and possibly singular–about how Moore approaches Miracleman is his distance. There are moments this issue where another writer might wink at superhero comics. Moore doesn’t. Even in those moments, he’s only writing this one. More so, he’s only writing this moment, even though it’s technically a flashback.

London is destroyed, decimated. There is no happiness. Moore pulls Miracleman away from humanity even more; tellingly, Totleben doesn’t do any of his “beauty of Miracleman” panels. The visual poetry is violence and blood. Even in the small panels.

Moore caps it off with Miracleman’s final shedding of his human self, possibly through the most humane act possible. It’s so sad it makes one despondent. Not the act or event itself, but how Moore and Totleben tell it.

I think there are slow parts to the issue. Maybe too much time spent on filler. But it doesn’t matter… it’s amazing.



Olympus, Chapter Five: Nemesis; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 14 (April 1988)

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As far as the art goes, it’s near perfect. Moore’s script (presumably with panel arrangement), Totleben’s art, it’s outstanding.

And most of the issue is excellent too. The stuff with the Moran family, the stuff with Miracleman and the other super-powered beings setting up their club… well, actually that decision is Moore’s second most questionable this issue. Miracleman, Miraclewoman, the other aliens, they set up a superhero club, something apparently all worlds with superheroes do. It feels too obvious.

The real problem is with how much abuse Moore throws at Billy Bates. He’s been being tortured by other kids for a number of issues now, always resisting the urge to turn into Kid Miracleman. Moore goes too far with it; it’s too much torture. Moore’s practically martyring the kid.

The bookends flow throughout the issue; during one recollection, Miracleman dances. It’s crazy, fantastic; easily makes up for the bumps.



Olympus, Chapter Four: Pantheon; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 13 (November 1987)

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It’s an awesome issue. Not just in the flashback plotting and reveals, but with how Moore structures Miracleman’s narration from the present. Even though the present day stuff is all static and all summary, Moore manages to get in an amazing finish for this issue. Moore doesn’t try to frustrate the reader with foreshadowing, he instead overwhelms.

Miracleman and Miraclewoman go to the galactic council or whatever it’s called and there’s a bunch of political stuff set to Totleben’s trippy alien designs. Miracleman often has smaller panels, so it’s impressive how much Totleben’s designs resonate even if they don’t get close-ups.

But there’s also stuff with Billy and Liz and how it will all shake out to get the story to the future bookends. Moore juggles the otherworldly and the human; he brings them together in the soft cliffhanger.

It’s an outstanding issue. Definitely the best with Totleben’s art.



Olympus, Chapter Three: Hermes; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 12 (September 1987)

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More hints at what’s to come–both in the bookends and in the present action. Moore’s pretty slick with one of the reveals–so quiet maybe it’s a typo–but the other, revealed on the last page but suggested much earlier… Well, things might just get really dramatic here in a bit.

This issue reveals Miraclewoman’s back story. It involves the evil scientist, of course, which sadly reminds one of Chuck Austen’s terrible conclusion to that story arc. This issue continues with Totleben, who does quite well. He’s really getting the idea of Miracleman as an Adonis, not just a regular superhero.

There are the surprises, some great panels–big and tiny, Moore’s got Totleben doing these practical thumbnails with great composition–and some really odd, nice moments with the supporting cast. The insect people are interesting, but Moore’s clearly saving more for later.

Excellent comic, though it ends abruptly.



Olympus, Chapter Two: Aphrodite; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Letitia Glozer; publisher, Eclipse.

Miracleman 11 (May 1987)

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Wow. Even with Moore’s overcooked prose–it’s from Miracleman’s memoirs–wow.

It opens five years later, with Miracleman somewhere above the Earth in a floating castle. I think (about the location, not the time).

Moore opens with these grandiose images and then brings things down again. New–and lovely–artist John Tolteben can do both fantastical and mundane with ease. The story Miracleman is telling is the continuation from the previous issue. This issue he has a run-in with the space aliens and Moore has a big reveal of a new character.

Except these are relatively small. The battle with the aliens is just a fight scene, Liz in danger is just a thriller scene. Totleben doesn’t let the visuals get too big, so as the bookends work better. He and Moore are off to a great start together.

Moore’s isn’t rigidly constrained; he might even be having fun.



Olympus, Chapter One: Cronos; writer, Alan Moore; artist, John Totleben; colorist, Sam Parsons; letterer, Wayne Truman; editor, Cat Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse.

Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem 2 (September 2009)

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Eh. Dang it, Bendis.

He structures the whole thing around Jonah’s obituary for Spider-Man, flashing back to Spidey’s first meeting with the Hulk. Oddly enough, back when Peter ran into the Hulk at the end of the original series, he didn’t seem like he remembered this incident. Bendis rips off the school bus scene from Superman pretty well. It’s not the problem.

The problem is when Jonah’s article becomes the cake instead of the icing. The art is then a bunch of pin-ups, mostly by Bagley, which seems inappropriate given how much work Immonen’s done. Scott Hanna’s inks seem a little off on the flashback story too, like he forgot how to do Ultimate Spider-Man.

The finale, with Immonen, takes a couple pages. It’s predictable, without personality. If Immonen had more room, he might’ve been able to make it visually matter.

Bendis strikes again. He’s dreadfully uneven.


Writer, Brian Michael Bendis; pencillers, Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen, Trevor Hairsine, Ron Randall, Bill Sienkiewicz and John Totleben; inkers, Scott Hanna, Wade von Grawbadger, Danny Miki, Randall, Sienkiewicz and Totleben; colorists, Pete Pantazis and Justin Ponsor; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Mark Paniccia and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 60 (May 1987)


Ushering in its new format status (better paper), Moore and Totleben do something quite different for Swamp Thing. Forget the comic deviating away from Swampy’s perspective… Moore’s now just using it to experiment with the (comics, not new) format.

It is a prose issue, the story boxes against Totleben’s mixed media prints. DC really should have printed the issue twice, once with story, once without.

Moore’s not taking any shortcuts by going full prose. It’s a mother telling her babies a bedtime story. Only here, the mother is a living electronic planetoid who Swamp Thing happens across. It turns out the mechanical ecosystem works with his plant consciousness. She, the planetoid, then forces herself on him and gets pregnant… before he escapes.

Moore’s prose is stronger than expected. It’s a classic, high concept sci-fi story, relatively concisely told.

It’s a special issue; Moore and Totleben succeed in their attempts.

Swamp Thing 53 (October 1986)


Sure, Moore’s got an over-sized issue, but he still fits in an amazing amount of content. In this issue, in addition to the Swamp Thing stuff, there’s pretty much an issue of Batman. Moore continues to show how well he writes that character.

But there’s also the pacing of it–Gotham is changing and Moore tells that part of the story disconnected from Swamp Thing. Swampy’s worried about Abby, but he’s also a little enthused with his new power.

The Totleben art, which still has the horror tinges, is wonderful. It’s green and full of life; he also comes up with a bunch of iconic images this issue, including one of Batman.

Other great scenes include Lex Luthor meeting with the corrupt government guys (there’s an oxymoron) and of Chester coming to Gotham. Moore also quietly brings back another character.

It’s maybe the best example of great mainstream comics.

Swamp Thing 50 (July 1986)


While touted as an anniversary issue, Swamp Thing barely figures into this story. Moore’s upfront about his limited role–the comic opens with Cain and Abel, after all. It again features guest appearances from the DC supernatural set, with a couple deaths involved.

Moore eventually does make it all about Swamp Thing, but in a relatively quiet way. His experiences and questions about himself inform the greater story, which is a really big one. It’s an all action issue, but the most important action is very quiet dialogue.

What’s strangest about the issue is the lack of intensity. Moore’s done a lot with ominous, disturbing details, but they aren’t present here. Demons are again reduced to funny looking creatures, for example. The supernatural landscape is nowhere near as disturbing as the human one Moore’s been moving through.

Moore brings the fantastical down to manageable size.

It’s excellent, if cloyingly existential.

Swamp Thing 48 (May 1986)


For an end of the world comic, this one’s sort of tame. I guess the world itself does not end here–only a serious foreshadowing of it, especially since Swamp Thing unintentionally helps the bad guys towards that end–but it’s still very dreary stuff.

Yet, the most awful thing in the comic is the cops dragging Abby out in cuffs. They arrest her for cavorting with a swamp monster.

That subplot, which only shows up in the last couple pages, shows the problem… if the world’s going to end, why is Moore spending time on Abby’s problems?

Obviously, the DC Universe isn’t going to end, but Moore’s still supposed to be convincing the reader of that possibility. By expanding Abby’s subplot, which he should be doing under normal circumstances, he draws attention away from the apocalyptic angle.

It’s a good issue, with nice Totleben art, but Moore should’ve focused.

Swamp Thing 46 (March 1986)


While I love this issue–the way Moore tells the reader the ending is going to be awful, then still manages to make it even worse (without a drop of blood), is awesome–the cover does imply something else entirely. The cover implies, between the banner and the superheroes, a Crisis tie-in.

And I suppose Moore does deliver to some extent. He does send Constantine and Swamp Thing off into regular DC superhero land where they get a mission for helping save the world. But their mission really has nothing to do with Crisis. It’s too disturbing to be mainstream; Moore thoroughly grounds it in reality.

In many ways, even though the issue shows how Swamp Thing doesn’t fit with superheroes, it shows how Moore can make anything work. He brings horror to comedy and vice versa.

It’s excellent work from Moore, Bissette and Totleben… even if it’s superfluous.

Swamp Thing 42 (November 1985)


In a strange but significant way, Moore cops outs with this issue. He concludes his possessed slave descendants story without examining any other the racial elements he brought up in the previous issue. Instead, he conveniently brings in some zombies, some hallucinations and Swamp Thing… everything ends very nicely.

Actually, it ends nicely for zombies too. It’s Alan Moore ending on a joke. It’s a creepy one… but still a joke.

What’s so inexplicable is that shift in tone. Moore set this story up to be serious and, instead, it’s a little episode in the life of Swamp Thing and Abby. Nothing to fret over.

But here’s another interesting detail… it’s utterly fantastic. Moore’s mix of horror and action works great, as does the artwork. Bissette and Totleben bring their disquieting but digestible horror art.

It’s a great issue. But it’s not special, which Moore previously implied it would be.

Swamp Thing 40 (September 1985)


This issue’s kind of a downer-in-one. Bissette and Totleben are back at full strength and do a great job. The story concerns a housewife whose lycanthropy manifests itself (seemingly for the first time) while Swamp Thing’s in town for a visit. Moore juxtaposes the woman’s problems against the history of a local Native American tribe and the sufferings of that tribe’s women.

Bissette and Totleben have the task of mixing both those elements with the visiting Swamp Thing.

Strangely, it’s not exactly a visual feast–the art isn’t exuberant as much as measured. They’re carefully telling this story and they do a great job of it.

But Moore’s also moving his Constantine story along here too, but behind the scenes. There’s only a page of Constantine and he’s only briefly mentioned before. Alec and Abby briefly talk about him.

It’s a great issue. Moore’s flexing his narrative muscles.

Swamp Thing 38 (July 1985)


This issue is a follow-up to one of the pre-Moore ones, but there’s never an editorial note about it. It’s interesting to see Moore’s approach to something he didn’t create, in this case a town of vampires. Only these vampires are living underwater.

Stan Woch is filling in on pencils (it’s unclear who’s the “regular” penciller at this point) and it shows how important Totleben is to the art. Swamp Thing looks the same, basically, thanks to Totleben. Woch does a good Bissette impersonation.

Besides Moore looking at the vampire settlement, there’s more Constantine character development and a little time for Abby. After promising a focus on Swamp Thing, Moore backs off, refocusing on the supporting players again.

The approach, seemingly to stagger the expository Swamp Thing information between issues, works. It also forces Swamp Thing into the more traditional role of hero.

It’s inventive, but not deep.

Swamp Thing 37 (June 1985)


Veitch brings an unexpected harshness to Swamp Thing. Not to the issue overall, and not even to Swamp Thing when he’s regrowing from a sprout. But when he’s fully grown, Veitch and Totleben’s lines make Swamp Thing stand out. He’s almost more monstrous than ever before. The outline reminds, oddly, of the Karloff Frankenstein monster.

In that scene is another turning point–Swamp Thing ignores Abby. His curiosity about himself turns him into a regular guy, the one who ignores what his girlfriend is saying.

It’s a one page scene but it’s sort of startling. Moore is finally making Swamp Thing about Swamp Thing, even if he’s just spent the issue introducing John Constantine.

Besides Constantine’s quest to find out about some imminent danger, the issue is mostly Abby taking care of the Swamp Thing sprout. It’s half a cute issue; Moore splits his concentration between horror and emotional depth.

Swamp Thing 36 (May 1985)


Not a happy comic, not at all. Moore plays with having multiple points of view, fragmenting the story’s timeline to give everyone a chance at a surprising moment. He opens with Swamp Thing, who doesn’t really have a story this issue. Moore’s showing his mastery; he turns what should be a filler issue into an essential one. He focuses on Abby toward the end, which reveals the most.

It’s clear Moore’s real protagonist is Abby at this point, maybe because she has to be. Moore never gives Swamp Thing as good of moments. For example, there’s a short line here about Abby living in Houma during the week and in the swamp with Alec on weekends. It’s fantastical but wholly domestic.

That one nice moment is amid all the awfulness of the rest. Moore also establishes the series isn’t going to have easy fixes, even with the new, lesser antagonists.

Swamp Thing 35 (April 1985)


The truly nightmarish quality of Moore’s Swamp Thing shows itself here in his ability to gradually peel back the layers of a small incident.

Moore frames this story around a collection of newspaper headlines (about nuclear power and, more importantly, nuclear waste) and a guy addicted to it. To nuclear waste. It’s really gross, but it takes Moore about half the issue before he lets Bissette and Totleben show the full effect.

The result is an uncomfortable reading experience. It’s not the worst thing Moore could focus on–he’s touched on worse in previous issues–but when the artists take so long to fully reveal… well, imagination gets the better of the reader.

The issue consists of a few contemporaneous conversations; its present action is mostly just Swamp Thing going for a walk.

Moore needs to get the exposition out of the way. Layering is a great device for it.

Swamp Thing 34 (March 1985)


I should have remembered this issue, but I did not. The story is pretty simple. Alec and Abby start dating. In one of Moore’s rare moments, he forgets Swamp Thing’s acceptance of “Alec” as Abby’s name for him came in a dream sequence, not in scene.

Anyway, the issue is a big crazy art fest from Bissette and Totleben. Even before Abby eats the tuber, the art spreads across pages. Bissette and Totleben capture, even without much background to start, the tranquility of Alec and Abby’s time in the swamp. It is infinitely calming.

Then the hallucinogenic pages begin. I assume Moore wrote the pages out in detail, but Bissette and Totleben’s renderings perfectly match it. Most of the experience is from Abby’s perspective, though occasionally Alec contributes.

The story is relatively small, but the team turns it into a monumental occasion.

It’s a lovely example of comics as art.

Swamp Thing Annual 2 (January 1985)


I am having a hard time deciding my favorite part of this annual. In terms of ambition and payoff, it’s probably the best annual ever. Moore, Bissette and Totleben don’t just produce a great story, but also a fun one and an emotionally devastating one. All while Swamp Thing goes to Hell.

The contestants for favorite moment are the end, which is another great Bissette full page spread emotional finish, the moment when Swamp Thing doesn’t want to meet Linda Holland in Heaven or the scene with Arcane in Hell. The first two are devastating, one quiet, one not, and the second is Moore having a lot of fun.

This story, as intense as it gets, is still fun. Moore writing Deadman, the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre and the Demon… all amazing.

It combines Moore and Bissette exploring DC’s afterlife and a great story for Swampy and Abby.

It’s amazing.

Swamp Thing 31 (December 1984)


Rick Veitch comes on–not sure if he joins here or is just filling in–for a very difficult issue.

Moore implies two challenges for Swampy this issue–the returned Arcane and Abby’s death. But it turns out there’s only one actual challenge (to Swamp Thing). So Moore has to balance Swamp Thing knowing something the reader cannot but also make its revelation organic. It can’t be a cheat.

Veitch’s style is probably better for the action-orientated nature of the issue; his figures are strong, his Swamp Thing not quite as mucky as Bissette’s has been. And, as is so important in Moore’s Swamp Thing, Veitch is able to deliver the tragic landscapes.

Moore nicely mixes various points of view–Swamp Thing in first and some different approaches to third. The variations never feel like a ruse to pull off the revelation.

It’s excellent, but clearly a bridging issue.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 29 (October 1984)


This issue isn’t really a Swamp Thing comic, more an Abby one. Moore frames it in a dream, but a dream where Abby remembers all her latest experiences with her husband. Her possessed, dead husband who’s not really her husband.

While the end revelation is incredibly disturbing on a few levels, Moore makes sure the whole issue is uncomfortable. Abby’s investigation into her husband’s condition has a lot of effective uncanny revelations.

As usual, the art from Bissette and Totleben ties it all together. They only have one nice moment, when Swamp Thing and Abby meet up. Moore does the whole “falling in love” thing great. It’s not subtle, but it’s also not obvious. The unspoken element, of course, is the giant swamp monster. Abby lights up in that scene; great expressions from the artists.

The issue is expository, positioning the series for what follows.

Even so, it’s outstanding work.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 27 (August 1984)


The issue ends on two wildly divergent notes.

First, Swamp Thing and this previously scared little boy go for a peaceful walk back to the boy’s school after a monstrous night. It’s calm and gentle. Moore doesn’t give Alec too much dialogue—there’s still something tragic and sad about Swamp Thing, even if he’s at peace.

Second, Abby finds out she had something to do with the events leading up to the evening (well, the Demon suggests it and, as Jason Blood points out, even the Demon’s occasionally honest). The issue ends with her getting into a car with Matt.

Who, a few pages earlier, seemingly sold his soul to an evil fly to stay alive.

Moore, Bissette and Totleben handle these different moods naturally. Their Swamp Thing has room for it all.

For an action-packed issue (lots of fighting), Moore’s quiet ending is the perfect touch.

It’s excellent.


..By Demons Driven!; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 26 (July 1984)


It’s a fast issue, so fast I don’t even think Alec has any dialogue (Abby reflects on the proper name for him, it’s good to know Moore’s thinking about it too). Instead it’s an Abby issue and Moore layers the whole thing, flipping between flashback and present action.

Most of the present action is Abby and Alec wordlessly running to save a bunch of children from a monster. The flashbacks reveal some of Jason Blood’s involvement, Abby’s first day at work (which also ties in to the plot) and more of Abby and Matt’s marital problems.

This issue is all horror–though the Demon, even by Bissette, is nowhere near as scary as anything else in the issue–Moore knows how to bring out the terror. It’s simple terror too; Moore and Bissette’s handling of it is what makes it so disquieting.

Still, it’s unfortunate Alec barely makes an impression.


…A Time of Running…; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 25 (June 1984)


Moore solves the problem of not having a start point (since he previously “closed” the Saga). First, he opens with Jason Blood coming to town. Moore’s Blood is one part hilarious, one part dangerous. It’s a great character (though does it foreshadow Moore too letting the supporting cast outshine the titular protagonist?).

Second, this issue is set an indeterminate period of time from the last issue. Not too long, but long enough Abby and Alec are hanging out on a regular basis. Moore’s the implication of the relationship—more about closeness than interaction—is a gentle one.

There’s still the villain of the issue, the Monkey King, which is a scary supernatural monster. Bissette and Moore turn this cute little monkey (everyone likes monkeys!) into a horrific thing.

Speaking of Bissette, he and Totleben do another fantastic issue. Lots of talking, lots of visual pacing.

It is, once again, phenomenal.


The Sleep of Reason…; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 24 (May 1984)


What’s strange about this issue isn’t so much the story or even the Justice League guest appearance (Moore writing the Justice League, with Bissette and Totleben on the art is otherworldly though). It’s the finish. Moore could use this issue for the series finale.

In dealing with an insane Jason Woodrue, Alec accepts his reality—he’s Swamp Thing—and he’s happy with it, happy with living in the natural world. It’s a joyous finish; he even, basically, says goodbye to Abby.

But it’s not the final issue and the way Moore leaves it, one wonders what can possibly come next and not feel forced.

The issue moves rather fast—it opens with the Justice League, a scene actually set during the previous issue’s events, and then there’s Alec and Woodrue fighting. It’s an action comic, something one tends to forget about Moore. He sometimes just writes really great action comics.


Roots; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 23 (April 1984)


So I should start by talking about Moore opening with Alec narrating and basically giving the reader the insight the previous issue’s exploration of his psyche didn’t have.

Or I could talk about how he, in his third issue, has cast Abby as the human conduit into the story (and retconned her attachment to Alec a bit).

I could even talk about how Alec’s dialogue and thoughts are about his lack of humanity but Bissette and Totleben give him the most human eyes in comic book history.

Instead, I’ve got to mention this one really awful page they draw. It’s the closest thing the issue has to a hero moment and they botch it. Swamp Thing looks awkward; there’s no payoff and they were going for one.

Of course, they immediately recover in a lovely sequence (with those eyes).

It’s another exceptionally strong issue and Moore’s still getting set up.


Another Green World; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 22 (March 1984)


Moore does a few things here. He skips ahead a few weeks, so we don’t get to see Alec return to the swamp. In fact, we don’t even get to understand what puts him in his initial condition this issue until the end of it. It’s not so much a layered narrative as Moore trying to linearly and visually show Alec’s mental response to discovering he’s not who he thought he was.

The loop the end creates, like the recurrences of the title in story proper, is pretty neat.

Moore splits the issue between Alec (in his dreamworld), Abby (as she discovers Alec’s new state) and Jason Woodrue. Woodrue isn’t exactly the issue’s protagonist, but he’s close. Moore spends the time establishing him so, when Woodrue has a breakdown, the transition resonates.

Bissette’s amazing composition, along with Tatjana Wood’s colors, make the whole issue dreamlike, not just Alec’s actual dreams.


Swamped; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 (February 1984)


And here’s the famous Anatomy Lesson. It’s difficult to think about Swamp Thing before this issue–Moore doesn’t so much retcon as he explains–because it immediately changes every expectation of the series.

Moore uses Jason Woodrue to narrate and it’s a nice device. It lets Moore be enthusiastic about the scientific discovery process; he even manages to make General Sunderland even worse by revealing him as willfully ignorant.

I wish I remembered the first time I read it, how it affected the reader page by page. Moore understands how comic readers work, he understands the investment and the possessiveness. He paces the revelations and the action in the issue to pay off for that committed reader. The issue doesn’t really matter to new readers; it’s just reestablishing the ground situation.

The Bissette and Totleben art is fantastic, both futuristic and horrific in the same panel.

It’s an exceptional comic.


The Anatomy Lesson; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Stephen R. Bissette; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing 20 (January 1984)


Alan Moore’s first issue is immediately different. It’s hard to explain, coming from a still untraditional comic (Pasko did a lot of surprising things with the horror angle), but Moore makes Day integrate the visual layout with how the narrative works. It’s all very cinematic, the way Moore forces the readers’ eye.

He’s wrapping up some of Pasko’s things, giving them a far different bent than Pasko did the previous issue. Arcane’s still dead (and Moore’s weakest moment is Alec realizing he and Arcane are forever linked as nemeses just because there’s so much exposition), but Dennis is turning out to be a real dick and so’s Matt. Moore’s men are deceptive and controlling. It’s particularly striking because it happens in the span of four pages. It’s too obvious, like a feminist nightmare version of gender politics.

Still, it’s a masterful revolution. From the first page, Moore’s Swamp Thing stuns.


Loose Ends; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Dan Day; inker, John Totleben; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

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