Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 4, written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, Stan Woch, Ron Randall, Alfredo Alcala and Tom Mandrake (1985-86; collected 2011): Blessedly, DC continues to go with non-glossy-coated paper and relatively muted colours for the re-collected Swamp Thing series. I still have nightmares about the candy-coloured original collected paperback of Alan Moore’s run, from the late 1980’s.

Herein we get the second half of Alan Moore’s longest arc on the series, the “American Gothic” storyline. As Swamp Thing visits more American supernatural hotspots, John Constantine gathers his occult forces as part of his plan to stop the Patagonian sorcerers’ circle The Brujeria from unleashing the original, pre-Creation Darkness on the universe in an effort to destroy Heaven itself. In between battling serial killers and haunted houses, Swamp Thing learns more about the history of plant elementals on Earth, and why they are created periodically through the years.

Occult investigator John Constantine is already his old snarky self, though less of a magician than he’d later be in his own book. Moore’s tour of DC’s lesser-known occult characters is a lot of revisionist fun, as is the showdown between an allied army of demons, angels and mystical superheroes and the forces of the Original Darkness (or ‘O.D.’ as I like to call it!). Moore seems to delight in taking the piss out of some of DC’s more pompous supernatural heroes (Dr. Fate and the Spectre take quite an uncharacteristic pounding) so that our favourite plant elemental can finally save the day.

While a lot of different artists worked on these issues, a fair level of artistic continuity is maintained; the real stand-out, though, is long-time Swamp Thing inker John Totleben’s full-art duties on what was issue 48. It’s an astonishingly high-level debut, presaging his horrifying, beautiful work on his later collaboration with Moore, Miracleman. Highly recommended.

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