Rotworld: written by Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, and others; illustrated by Yanick Paquette, Marco Rudy, Steve Pugh, Travel Foreman, and others (2011-2013): I’d imagine that DC will eventually package the entire Rotworld run of Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and several issues of Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. into one 1000-page omnibus volume. While only a handful of issues from each title bore the Rotworld banner, the entire story actually started with the rebooted Swamp Thing and Animal Man comic books back with their first issues in September 2011, and was really only resolved with issues 18 of those books this March.
The set-up was relatively simple: there are three great living kingdoms on Earth: the Green (Vegetation Kingdom), the Red (Animal Kingdom), and the Rot (well, guess). Swamp Thing is the living avatar of the Green, Animal Man is essentially the acting regent of the Red until his daughter comes of age, and long-time Swamp Thing villain Anton Arcane is the avatar of the Rot.
Normally the three powers live in an occasionally contested balance, but over the last 200 years, Arcane’s stewardship of the Rot has led him to attempt to extinguish the other two forces in order to remake the Earth into a polluted, distorted kingdom for himself. And then he’ll reach out for other planets.
So, over about 800 story pages, Swamp Thing and Animal Man and a number of allies battle the Rot in the past, present, and future of the Earth. Yes, time travel is involved. And as this is part of the ‘soft’ reboot of the DC Universe, Swamp Thing himself has been born again: it turns out he was never really Alec Holland, but he will be Alec Holland again. Animal Man also learns an assortment of things that fall squarely into the category of Everything You Knew Was Wrong. Long-time Swamp Thing paramour Abigail Arcane gets the biggest conceptual makeover, however: she, and not her evil Uncle, is supposed to be the avatar of the Rot.
Did this story need to cover so many issues? Well, no. The reversals of fortune become frustrating at points, and there are times throughout where one wishes they’d just get on with it. But Snyder and Lemire also do some nice word-smithing and character-building.
Animal Man and Swamp Thing really shine in the art department, especially in those issues drawn by Yanick Paquette or Steve Pugh. Paquette really goes all-out depicting the verdant yet often horrifying world of Swamp Thing: it’s the best art Paquette has ever done. Pugh, who’s been around the Animal Man book before, has a rare flair for the grotesque and the cloachal. Frankly, they could have gone off-schedule a bit more (or made both books 8-times-a-year, like in the oldey-timey days of comic books) so that Pugh and Paquette could have handled all the art chores. Oh, well.
As both books present new origins for their avatars, the whole storyline isn’t a bad jumping-on point for new readers. Long-time readers will of course wonder where the Hell the Fungus Kingdom — the Grey — is for the duration. Matango! Recommended.