Review: The Swamp Thing Vol. 3: The Parliament of Gears trade paperback (DC Comics)

For a book that was only meant to be 10 issues, Ram V seems to effortlessly expand The Swamp Thing to 16 issues in a way that the final stories feel natural and not tacked-on. If anything, perhaps the extra pages in The Swamp Thing Vol. 3: The Parliament of Gears afford Ram V the room for some guest stars, and Mike Perkins' gritty art keeps everything tonally appropriate for a Swamp Thing tale.

If I might quibble with the finale at all, it’s that Ram V’s gorgeous wordsmithing ramps up even further as we reach the end, to the point where I had to set the book down for a few minutes to ready myself for another page of text (or perhaps it was just the time of night I was reading or the amount of issues I was trying to digest in one sitting). As well, there is no dodging Ram V’s conception of the Green and its fellows as sentient ideas colliding with each other, so many times is the concept mentioned in these pages.

But, everything I’ve enjoyed so far about Ram V’s The Swamp Thing is present here, from Perkins truly drawing at the top of his lungs to the Swamp Thing Levi Kamei, through whom Ram V manages to deliver the horror we expect via a surprisingly angst-free monster-hero. I was hopeful this was not the end of Ram V’s tenure with Swamp Thing and it does appear there’s at least a Dark Crisis special to come; hopefully more after that, too.

[Review contains spoilers]

Though this is selling Parliament of the Gears a little too short, the final The Swamp Thing volume is the tale of two team-ups: with the Authority’s Jack Hawksmoor and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. We see here the culmination of Flashpoint’s big final splash page, the blending of DC Comics' major properties that never quite manifested in the New 52: Wildstorm, the DC Universe, and Vertigo. And in contrast to if this were something like Grifter, Batman, and John Constantine, there’s no grousing or property-marking — Hawksmoor is more than happy to accept Swamp Thing’s help, and Hal just takes for granted that Levi is the new Swamp Thing and even affords Levi his own super-suit.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It’s indeed a jolly trend in Ram V’s The Swamp Thing that despite bulbuous aliens and weird mechanized monstrosities, there’s little of the sadness that’s marked the plight of the Swamp Thing. Perhaps out of the same zeitgeist through which Superman revealed his identity, this Swamp Thing is not akin to his mutant cousins, scorned by the society he protects; rather this is an out and proud Swamp Thing who dons his monster form to fight monsters but his human form for a nature walk with his girlfriend (woe be the writer who takes away Levi’s human form. I know it’s tempting). The final pages suddenly cut away, like a jump scare, to a splash page of a triumphant Swamp Thing smiling; it is nigh unnerving if only because it’s been so long since we’ve seen Swamp Thing happy.

As in The Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Conduit, Ram V does well layering the various threats and factions here. Ostensibly Levi would want to stop the Pale Wanderer and the Parliament of Gears from industrial mutation of the Earth, but equally he has to halt the Z’etar aliens who would destroy Earth to prevent the Gear parliament’s rise.

We get a sense here perhaps why the more direct ties to humanity are important to this particular Swamp Thing. Levi’s brother Jacob, now the plant creature Hedera, chides him for not letting the aliens preserve the Green, even at the cost of all mankind. Not that Alec Holland (or the creature who thought he was Alec Holland) didn’t also often side with humanity, but Levi is uniquely situated to forge his own path, being at once both man and nature.1 I’d predict that would eventually bring Levi in conflict with the Green and its own Parliament of Trees (what might be a cliched turn), but here again, Ram V posits a renewed Parliament generally pleased with Levi’s actions.

Further, where there is blame and doubt in this book, it’s hardly convincing. Levi gives himself some grief for hesitating to stop the Pale Wanderer earlier, choosing to sit back rather than to act. But to the reader, it seems far more like Levi was grievously injured by the Prescot company (at the end of the last book) and went into the Green to heal, and hardly knew how to bring himself back until Tefe Holland and his girlfriend Jennifer came in after him. Again, I’m hardly down on this; that even the attempts at angst in this book come to naught is wildly endearing.



Mike Perkins rather outdoes himself in the final chapters of The Swamp Thing Vol. 3: The Parliament of Gears, in what’s a surprisingly rare bit of DC work. A script suggestion of the inside of a plant-like alien ship seems no small feat, and Perkins pulls off a dizzying two-page spread, cell-like and reptilian all at once. Not to mention a mandala of DNA strands or a kaiju Swamp Thing over an industrial hellscape. When next Levi Kamei emerges with Ram V, it doesn’t look like Perkins will be with them, but that’s a team-up I’m eager to see again one day.

[Includes original and variant covers (including another stunner by Brian Bolland). If any book needed a full deluxe edition …]

  1. In other iterations, we might recognize Levi as representative of both the Green and the Red, but Ram V doesn’t seem as interested in that spectrum as Scott Snyder was. Still I’d be curious to see Ram V write a Levi Kamei/Animal Man Buddy Baker team-up.  ↩︎


Post a Comment

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post