Swamp Thing 1 (March 2016)

Swamp Thing #1

Len Wein. Creator, with Bernie Wrightson, of Swamp Thing in the seventies. Len Wein. Editor of various other Swamp Thing projects in the eighties. Relaunching the book forty-four years later. Wow, right?

He writes Swamp Thing as a pro-wrestler. A bad, eighties pro-wrestler who talks trash and sells beef jerky. It’s startling. Because the rest of the comic isn’t a gag, it’s a very straightforward–if bright–callback to the mainstream chiller comics of the seventies. Only with Kelley Jones art and out of sync Kelley Jones art. Jones has done Swamp Thing before, to great effect (I think), but… here? No. The colors are wrong, but no. Still no. Jones and Wein are out of sync.

The comic isn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting much better, not Swampy talking trash to an alligator named Albert, not cruddy narration, not too cheap exploitative cliffhangers. Swamp Thing is dumb.

Plus, Wein’s got very limited imagination for what he can do in the book. Swamp Thing on a case. Who cares?

It’s a complete and utter misfire, which is simultaneously comforting and distressing.


The Dead Don’t Sleep; writer, Len Wein; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Rob Leigh; editor, Rebecca Taylor; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 100 (October 1990)


Not much of a hundredth issue celebration for Swamp Thing apparently. Unless you count Wheeler going back and retconning a lot of Moore and Veitch’s details about the Parliament of Trees and the new Earth Elemental storyline. And the time travel storyline. Lots of retconning.

But Broderick can draw trees, so at least the trip to the Parliament looks all right.

Kelley Jones handles some of the other pages, with Swamp Thing in Antarctica searching for Eden. The Jones pages are fantastic, even if he doesn’t have as interesting scenery to render.

Most of the issue’s exposition and there’s a lot of it (because it’s retconning exposition). It makes the issue drag to say the least. None of Wheeler’s new details are any good; they’re all set-up for some future storyline. And they raise the question of whether he’s corrupting the previous writers’ intentions.

The comic fails to resonate.


Tales of Eden; writer, Doug Wheeler; pencillers, Kelley Jones Pat Broderick; inkers, Jones and Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 94 (April 1990)


Wheeler’s evening out. His ambition here is constrained–some kind of monster in a different wavelength of reality is the patron to a serial killer. It likes to hear jazz while people get murdered. Alec comes across some victims and investigates. There are some other plot contrivances–Abby in danger, Chester and Liz pop in–but the main story is good.

Abby’s dialogue isn’t even bad. It’s a little too expository (Wheeler uses her to remind the reader of past events), but it isn’t bad.

Of course, the whole thing succeeds because Kelley Jones is filling on the art. His style works perfectly for Swamp Thing. He goes with the less mossy version for Alec’s body, more like Wrightson, but uses the fluid plant visuals too. And the monster is just hideously wonderful.

It’s the best issue since Wheeler took over. Too bad Jones is so integral to its success.


The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz; writer, Doug Wheeler; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 129 (February 1998)


Wow, Kelley Jones likes the phallic symbols doesn’t he? The character’s called The Hammer, but it doesn’t look like a hammer on his head… Anyway, it’s fine. Nice artwork, some decent scenes. The ending flops though.

Stilkskin continues, this issue turning its dwarf protagonist into a porn star. It’s a change from Oakley, who didn’t have a lot of events in the previous two installments, but somehow he makes it work great. Being in the city (set in the late seventies, which leads to some anachronisms) works great for the series. Gives Oakley a lot more to draw. Once again, fantastic.

Then there’s Cooper’s Dan & Larry and it’s slightly less disturbing than last time, but still incredibly strange. Cooper actually doesn’t take it over the edge, which he could have. It’s good… even with a weak last page.

Mahfood’s Zombie Kid is pop culture blather pretending to be a strip.


The Hammer, World in Which We Live; story and art by Kelley Jones; lettering by Ken Bruzenak; edited by Scott Allie. Stiltskin, Part Three, Dionysus in a Taxi; story and art by Shane Oakley; lettering by John Robbins. Dan & Larry, Part Two, Heard What I Herd; story and art by Dave Cooper; edited by Bob Schreck. Zombie Kid; story and art by Jim Mahfood. Edited by Jamie S. Rich.

The Micronauts: The New Voyages 16 (January 1986)


People actually read this comic? I mean, I couldn’t understand a single word of it. It’s got an insane continuity to follow, but you also have to be able to translate Gillis’s writing into narrative. It’s just a bunch of events, without any connecting scenes, over and over again. All in one comic book. It’s nuts.

In fact, it’s so confounding, I don’t even know how to talk about it. What do they call those issues now? “Jumping on points”? Micronauts–even with the Secret Wars II crossover–clearly did not care about new readers or even casual readers (I thought I had some idea who the Micronauts were–still don’t know if it’s correct, but was that Ambush Bug in the issue?).

But it does have Kelley Jones on–not just mainstream art–but Marvel art. It’s crazy; almost worth looking at for his contribution alone.

I said “almost.”


Economies of Scale!; writer, Peter B. Gillis; penciller, Kelley Jones; inker, Danny Bulanadi; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Janice Chiang; editors, Craig Anderson and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Batman: Unseen 5 (February 2010)


Moench leaves his Batman subplot unresolved. He still is getting less and less frightening to criminals. Soon he’ll be on cereal boxes and underwear. This inevitably is another thing Moench could have concentrated on, but did not. I like Moench and I like his writing, but the way he leaves this issue, like he’s going to turn around and continue the subplot… Unseen‘s a problematic limited series. It’s written like a (lengthy) story arc in an ongoing series. It raises expectations then lets them dangle in the wind.

Some fun elements, however, include Batman fighting in his cowl and nothing else, dangling in the wind himself, though no one ever draws attention to it. Of course, Moench’s Batman has apparently never heard of infrared goggles–the solution to “seeing” the invisible man is lame and complicated, when infrared (which Batman has, right?) would have solved the whole problem.

But decent.


Part Five, Vanished; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Harvey Richards and Michael Siglain; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: Unseen 4 (January 2010)


Moench’s all-too human Batman runs into more problems this issue, which is an all action Kelley Jones issue and needs to be seen to be believed. Moench’s invisible man character is so totally unhinged, so totally insane (I forgot to mention the issue before, when he decapitates an ex-girlfriend–DC doesn’t do age warnings?), he doesn’t really fit as a Batman villain. He’s way too dangerous. The Black Mask (didn’t he feed a woman some of her husband or something in Catwoman) comes across as less dangerous.

This approach to the villain could, potentially, offer for some good material, but Batman’s seemingly unaware of this particular criminal’s viciousness, at least as compared to Batman’s regular villains.

It’s a decent issue–some great art–but Unseen is definitely never going to rise above being a time-passer. Just like most of the Legends of the Dark Knight stories.



Part Four, Blur; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Harvey Richards and Michael Siglain; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: Unseen 3 (January 2010)


Here’s one of those “it just don’t make sense” moments. Batman versus the invisible man and Batman can’t take him in a fight. I thought Batman was a ninja and can’t ninjas fight in the dark (look at Daredevil)? Moench’s take on the character emphasizes detection over martial arts ability and, while it works in terms of providing an interesting read, it makes the Batman-oriented fight scenes awkward. Is Unseen supposed to be some kind of pre-1990s Batman Elseworlds, before all the paramilitary nonsense?

Probably not. Moench was probably just trying to it some dramatic oomph; he’s the goddamn Batman after all, he’s supposed to be able to defeat anyone.

Still, the series is hitting its stride. There is a disconnect, however, in the Bruce Wayne scene. Jones makes it excessively creepy (hulking Wayne, cowering subordinate), not matching Moench’s script at all.

Two issues left seems too many.


Part Three, Ghost-Killer; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Harvey Richards and Michael Siglain; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: Unseen 2 (December 2009)


The second issue meshes a lot better. Moench has calmed his whole, “no one’s afraid of Batman anymore” subplot (it’s still present, but he’s not drawing attention to it anymore), and he’s mostly letting Jones do an invisible man story. Batman’s all supporting in this issue, which instead concerns itself with the invisible mad scientist revolting against his gangster handlers. Both Jones and Moench seem a lot more comfortable with it, as it becomes clearer Batman really doesn’t have a place in the story. He’s an addition at this point.

However, Moench does go through the trouble of actually making Batman a detective here. I’m never impressed with Batman’s detecting skills (he seems, in the detective stories, to go through everything fist-first, like a Bogart detective, instead of actually detecting), but Moench gets close. It’s really simple stuff, but it’s a definite effort.

This issue’s better then the first.


Part Two, Translux; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Harvey Richards and Michael Siglain; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: Unseen 1 (December 2009)

Jones’s cover art is dated 2007, which has me wondering if Unseen is really just a Legends of the Dark Knight arc DC had in a drawer. It’s definitely a retro tale (even says so on the title page) as Moench tries to work out what happens when the bad guys aren’t scared of Batman anymore. Well, that element’s more of a sub-sub-plot. Mostly it’s about the art.

Jones draws Batman fight scenes here. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like them. You have this incredibly liquid, murky, malleable Batman kicking some villain. Jones’s art shouldn’t lend itself to action (creepiness is his more recognized stronger suit and the rest of the issue is mostly utilizes that talent), but it does. It’s so interesting to see.

There are some disconnects, however. Moench’s bumbling bad guys (the comic relief) look positively frightening the way Jones draws them.


Part One, Meat-Man; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Kelley Jones; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Harvey Richards and Michael Siglain; publisher, DC Comics.

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