By Tom Shapira
In Swamp Thing #53 Swamp Thing dies. By issue #54 he’s still not around. Which makes #54 into a Abby Holland story. It’s a pickle of an issue, the main point of it is that Abby is a person in her own right, someone with her own desires and targets in life. Someone who can overcome obstacles by herself. Someone who is not defined solely by her relationship with the titular protagonist.
But, at the same time, it has the problem that, well… this is Swamp Thing’s series. It’s his name right there on the title. Abby ‘getting over’ his demise could be seen as pointless considering the fact the he’s bound to return (and we learn that he’s alive by the end of next issue). There’s a need to balance things out, between letting the character go through the tragedy, it would be very tragic from her point of view, and not making tragedy the sole dividing feature of her existence.
In fact, Moore and co. had already laid down enough work in previous issues of the series to let us know that Abby is a person in own right – she had other romantic relations before, even if they did not end up so well; she had job and friends; she had a life. As the series progressed, however, she became more entangled (forgive the pun) with Swamp Thing, their love became this grand, almost, cosmic thing. When the love become this larger than life, the actual lovers become forgotten.
So, this is about re-establishing something, a sense of personal space and existence. In that the issue is only semi-successful, the story is very good at establishing the sense of personal loss, while also finding a way for Abby to be active, and thus – powering her way through the grief process. It’s one of these things that should take more time, but in order for the single issue to work as a storytelling unit we need to accept it. We need a sense of resolution. At the same time it’s notable that the issue needs to bring an outside figure, Liz Tremayne, just so Abby could have a normal human friend. It’s an admission the series basically left her stranded before, that she had no life outside of Swamp Thing.
When the issue closes we understand part of her salvation exists in this regular friendship, between the two women. We also understand, sadly, that the series isn’t going to let this status quo last. This is Swamp Thing’s world – Abby’s only living in it. She has to ‘get over’ his death in order to be her own person; but the series, the very structure of the comic book, wouldn’t let her. There’s joy to be had at Abby’s personal triumph, the sense of elation that comes after a long stay in the pit of personal sorrow, but understand the sorrow that comes with understanding – she will never get to be her own person.
Saga of the Swamp Thing #54
Written by Alan Moore
Drawn by Rick Veitch
Inked by Alfredo Alcala
Coloured by Tatjana Wood
Lettered by John Constanza
Tom Shapira’s writing has been featured on many different websites, ranging from PanelXPanel and The MNT right through to The Comics Journal. The best place to find him online is on Twitter, right here!
This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!