Welcome back to Graphic Content‘s “Just Swamp Things,” where this week we cover Swamp Thing #4, released May of 1973.

Swamp Thing #4 (May 1973)

Cover of Swamp Thing #4
Not my favorite of the covers, but Swampy rising from the muck is a classic image.

The Swamp Thing finds himself in the moors of Scotland having survived a plane crash in a somewhat disposable and uneven issue of Swamp Thing. It’s like The Hound of the Baskervilles, but with a lot less mystery and a waste of a perfectly good werewolf.

This issue, like most in our run, is credited to Len Wein as the author, Bernie Wrightson on the art, and Joe Orlando with the lettering. You can, as always, find this issue in the collection Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis. Please order it through your local comic shop!

Issue Impressions

Not every issue of Swamp Thing is going to be a major driver of story. While continuity had been important in comics for a while, event through the 1970s Marvel and DC Comics were still very much caught in a cycle of loose serialization and single issues. This issue of Swamp Thing happens to be of the latter. It continues the journey back to the US from Bavaria, the setting of the previous two issues. Matt Cable and Abigail Arcane unknowingly had Swamp Thing on the wing of the plane, and the issue begins post-crash, with Swampy piecing together the situation and seeking survivors.

Again, the issue creates an anachronistic 1970s Europe that shares more in common with the 1870s and introduces the survivors of the crash, Matt, Abigial, Mutt (the dog) and their pilot, Paul, to a local family and their spooky manor. The family,the MacCobbs – two parents and a son who pops in briefly – seem sketchy. There is talk of a menace on the moors and predictably, Paul, the pilot meets an unfortunate end after wandering off, not heeding the warning.

With this set up in mind, the plot plays out how you would think. Nothing here is surprising.

Panels from Swamp Thing #4
Eternal Swamp Thing Sad Boy Hours.

There is something I love about the old-fashionedness of the simultaneous narration as to what we see on the page. At one point, Swamp Thing sinks into quicksand over the course of three panels, but each panel has a written description of what is occurring. Additionally, Swamp Thing’s own inner-monologue works into the panels as well.

Panels from Swamp Thing #4
The extra narration really draws the reader in, almost like… quicksand.

It seems rather silly and antiquated at first. Three panels depict something quite clear, each featuring the narration of what is occurring, with the character’s internal monologue regarding the situation he is in. It works for Swamp Thing, however, as the comic has that sort of gothic tendency, but even a fan such as myself can roll my eyes at a bit at this. Wein is a good writer, but the tendency feels just a bit much here.

That being said, these moments reflect a certain rhythm that you do not see in some comics these days. Each panel has a beat that is measured out by the narration, and it’s one of those touches in Wein’s writing I can appreciate. The werewolf transformation, for example, uses dialogue to pace the panels quite well.

Panels from Swamp Thing #4
Man, Scotland has some trippy landscapes.

Wrightson’s art, as always, is gorgeous. I especially like the almost alien landscape of his interpretation of the moors of Scotland. The mist is so pervasive that some panels are merely ribbons of colors with only the vaguest suggestions of landscape. It can be quite creepy. There are also some incredible panels using Swamp Thing’s posing to frame objects and points of interest as well.

The usage of limited color in a key flashback is also quite impressive and I would love to see a more limited palet version of these early issues. Some of the color choices are a bit bright and garish, an artifact on 1970s comic print. Then again, with Wrightson’s art you wouldn’t even really need color at all.

Swamp Seeds

Not a whole lot to Swamp Seeds this time around. That’s how inconsuiquential this Swamp Thing #4 is to the overarching story.

  • Mutt, the dog, continues his unwitting betrayal of Matt Cable. Nobody is the wiser regarding the dog. Speaking of which, was in in issue three at all? I don’t recall seeing him.
  • We get a solid moment of Abigail Arcane pointing out the heroic actions of Swamp Thing, while Matt continues to be a petty, vengeance-obsessed asshole.
  • Agian, not a lot to say this time around. This is about a middle-of-the-road as Swamp Thing gets.
  • Also, can you believe these issues used to cost 20 cents?

And with that, we’ll return to the regular world of Graphic Content comic reviews next. Thanks for checking out this installment of “Just Swamp Things.” Please let me know what you think. I would love to hear from other Swamp Thing fans about my impressions of the issue.

About the Author

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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