A Bittersweet Tribute to Len Wein
The 80-page behemoth that is Swamp Thing: Winter Special #1 is a bittersweet experience that will leave you in wonder. According to the Editor’s Notes and DC’s database, included in this issue, is the last Swamp Thing story that the late Len Wein created. Wein envisioned “Spring Awakening!” to be a continuation of a previous miniseries and the start of a brand-new series. Prior to the final story is a tribute to Len Wein written by Tom King. The tribute is called “The Talk of the Saints.” Both offer new and intriguing possibilities for the future of Swamp Thing.
“The Talk of the Saints” is an emotional roller-coaster in which there is very little dialogue. “The Talk of the Saints” opens with Swamp Thing carrying a small boy through a frozen wasteland. The world, it seems, is dead and dying. Swamp Thing has lost his connection to the Green and thus, cannot rely on his powers or his mind until winter ends. However, Swamp Thing and the boy are being chased by a vicious snow monster that threatens to keep the world encased in ice forever. It’s a seemingly post-apocalyptic story that reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Considering the circumstances surrounding this one-shot, “The Talk of the Saints” is loaded with symbolism and a few continuous metaphors that are rather haunting.
As stated previously, “Spring Awakening!” is an incomplete story that sees Swamp Thing potentially becoming part of the search for a baby girl kidnapped by Solomon Grundy. While the lettering is incomplete, included in the fully illustrated issue is the original script. Viewing the illustrations alone and trying to piece together the story without the script is fascinating. The script itself is very cool and it left me with a twinge of sadness because I wanted to see what happens next. Sadly, it appears as though fans may never see the rest of this new series.
Though the majority of “The Talk of the Saints” takes place in an icy wasteland, the landscape and characters drawn by Jason Fabok are vibrant and clearly defined. Brad Anderson’s colors further enhance every scene. Objects and shapes are complex in terms of line work and shading. Character expressions are evident by the shimmer in their eyes and/or the apparent tightness of their jaws. Every panel is just as superb as the last and just as somber to the very end.
Kelley Jones’s artwork in “Spring Awakening!” is very different from that of Fabok, but still great in its own right. What struck me about Jones’s artwork is that it looks like classic Bronze Age artwork, similar to that of Superman and Spider-Man during the 70s and 80s. Michelle Madsen’s colors enhance and compliment Jones’s artwork and further the nostalgic look of this story.
Swamp Thing: Winter Special #1 is a bittersweet, nostalgic treat for both new and old fans of Len Wein and Swamp Thing. The Winter Special offers something new and special in its own way. King’s story and Fabok’s art pay homage to both Wein and Bernie Wrightson in the best way possible. King created a somber story that reflects the impact that Wrightson and Wein’s deaths have on the comic industry. However, King’s story includes images of what readers should remember Wrightson and Wein brought to the industry: life!
Wein’s final story allows readers to glimpse what could have been. Additionally, the original script gives readers an insight into Wein’s writing process. Furthermore, I found it appropriate “Spring Awakens!” has no featured dialogue. It is almost as if those twenty-two pages act as a moment of silence for the late Wein.