Swamp Thing, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Swamp Thing wilsonknut.comI know I did this bass ackwards by reading Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan before reading the classic Alan Moore Saga. It just happened that way. Nothing I can do about it now, but find a copy of Moore’s take and read it. And that will happen, for sure.

I remember seeing the Swamp Thing movie as a kid. I literally don’t remember any details other than thinking it was weird, but I know my cousins and I watched it repeatedly on VHS. The fact that I can’t remember anything probably speaks to how good a movie it was. There was tough competition—E.T., Blade Runner, etc. Thankfully, Brian K. Vaughan’s Swamp Thing is better than the movie version.

Volume one focuses on Tefe (there’s an accent on the last ‘e’, but I’m struggling to make it work, so I’m leaving it off) the child of Swamp Thing and Abby Holland. The first chapter suckered me in. It’s dark and strange, and leaves you wanting more. The second chapter, which is really the backbone to the story arc , didn’t have the same effect. It took me a while to really understand where the story was headed. The third chapter delves into The Green, which is an environmentalist’s wet dream. It seems a little silly and Wizard of Oz-ish. Honestly, it was difficult to muddle through, but once the backstory is complete the volume takes off.Swamp Thing wilsonknut.comSwamp Thing wilsonknut.com

Vaughan does something interesting in the fourth chapter, which really kicks off Tefe’s journey. It’s told from the point of view of another character—one who happens to be unreliable. The plot twists here drew me back into the book.

From this point on, Tefe’s journey is driving the story. It’s a story of self-discovery, which often make the best stories. Vaughan continues to use shifting points of view to great effect, giving insight into new characters who join Tefe. All the seeds he plants along the way bear fruit later in the volume (see what I did there?) I definitley wanted to continue to volume two to see where this trip is going.

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There are a lot of artists listed in this volume. The artwork was okay. It wasn’t earth shaking, but it sufficed. My only gripe is with the depiction of the creatures in The Green. I just felt they were more childish than they should have been given the gravity of the rest of the volume. The real treasure artistically is Phil Hale’s collection cover artwork. It’s stunning.

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I would say Swamp Thing, volume one by Brian K. Vaughan takes a few chapters to get going, but after the third chapter it really begins to take root and grow into something worth reading. See there. I did it again. If you’re a fan of Vaughan or Swamp Thing, you should check it out. You can get a copy of the book here.

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The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan

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The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vincente is truly prophetic in the same way Brave New World and 1984 are prophetic. It’s a dystopian detective story set in 2076.  The cloud containing everyone’s deepest, darkest online secrets has “burst.”  Everyone’s information has been revealed over a 40 day “flood.”  People’s lives have been ruined. Naturally, society has a knee jerk reaction, as we humans are prone to do.  The internet is banned. Privacy becomes so highly valued that people start wearing masks and costumes in public.  Journalism becomes the “fourth estate,” federally regulated.  Paparazzi, unlicensed and illegal journalist, become something like underground detectives. Enter our hero.
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P.I., the main character, is a paparazzo who is investigating a woman’s background when he stumbles into a murder mystery and conspiracy.  One people are willing to kill for. The story has a great L.A. noir vibe to it while at the same time being brilliantly futuristic.  The mix of antiquated technology, like pay phones, and new tech that we wished existed, like magnetic cars, somehow creates a highly-believable world.
The Private Eye is a digital comic, and Martin and Vincente do a beautiful job with panel arrangement and coloring.  Others have written about how well they’ve done this, and what the digital format means to comics in general.  So, I will just point you to one of their articles here.  It’s good stuff.
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I said at the beginning that this book is prophetic. How?  We now live in a world where Facebook depresses people, because their real lives don’t look nearly as good as their friends’ online identities. It seems like every week the news runs a story of hackers stealing more account information from online services.  Throughout the 2016 election cycle we’ve heard about email hacks, private servers, Bleachbit, and Ken Bone’s comments on Reddit porn.  Have you listened to the Radiolab episode about Darokode? Listen to it. The Private Eye doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
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Seriously, if you haven’t read The Private Eye you need to quit what you’re doing and immediately go to Panel Syndicate and buy it. It’s name-your-price, DRM-free. You can also get a hard copy here.
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Saga, Volume 4

I haven’t written about Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to this point, because I figured there were enough people singing its praises (and rightfully so).  Also, I’m just always late to the party. It is a phenomenal series—original and beautiful. If by chance you haven’t seen it or heard about it, you should definitely check it out. Be warned. It’s not for the squeamish and earns its mature rating, but once you start reading it you’ll likely not want to put it down.

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I like to read in a longer format, so I typically wait for the collected volumes. Volume 4 prompted me to write, because it seems to be a big departure in terms of storyline and tone. Up to this point, Alana and Marko, star-crossed lovers in the vein of Romeo and Juliet, are on the run from the authorities, assassins, and tabloid journalists.  They are from separate warring planets, and knowledge of their relationship and love child would harm the war machine (or what we call the industrial military complex).  They are determined to keep their baby, Hazel, safe. This drives the story and adventure.

In volume 4, Hazel is now a toddler and speaking, but more importantly Alana and Marko have settled into family life.  There’s no fairy-tale married life in this fairy tale. Alana is working to put food on the table, but her job doesn’t give her any true satisfaction or meaning in life. In fact, it is soul sucking.  So, she starts looking for something to fill the emptiness and keep her going. Marko is a stay-at-home dad, which you don’t see often in comic land. This doesn’t give him true satisfaction, and with Alana working all the time, he starts to feel like he needs something more. Vaughan captures this shift so perfectly.

This mix of character reality with the fantasy world is what makes Vaughan’s stories so compelling. The characters and worlds are so original I can’t fathom how he comes up with the stuff, but then there’s the “here’s what really happens in relationships after the honeymoon.” It’s some of the best writing out there.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s still plenty of action and adventure in the volume.  A janitor goes off the deep end and kidnaps the newly born robo-prince. As fate would have it, his path crosses with Marko, Alana, and Prince Robot IV in what looks like it will be a wild ride in volume 5.  Don’t forget. There are assassins out there and other craziness. Keep reading.

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