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Alan Moore’s ‘Swamp Thing’: Volume One | COMIC BOOK SPOTLIGHT

It’s kind of hard to imagine the modern day comic book medium without Alan Moore. From his work on V for Vendetta to the landscape redefining Watchmen, Alan Moore has probably had a bigger influence on the medium than any other writer in modern time. Yet for all of his work he’s only ever done one relatively mainstream reoccurring series where he wasn’t the creator. And since the show recently began and was sadly canceled on the DC Universe streaming service, what better time is there to take a look at said series? This is Comic Book Spotlight shining a spotlight on the first volume of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.

Published from 1984-1987, Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing is often cited as the reason why anyone cares about Len Wein’s 1971 creation. What makes his run on the book particularly interesting, however, is that it’s an Alan Moore comic that doesn’t really feel like an Alan Moore comic while still absolutely being an Alan Moore comic. Confused? Well, it’ll become clear soon enough.

You see the thing about Alan Moore stories is that they’re distinctly his stories where he controls the beginning, middle, and end. Sure, he’s worked on other mainstream superheroes like Superman and Batman but typically speaking those stories were written on his own terms. Unlike many other contemporary comics, they were stories that felt like their own self-contained tales as opposed to being just another arc of an ongoing series. Take Batman: The Killing Joke for example. By modern standards, it’s very much a typical Batman vs Joker story but it tells a story that was wrapped up by the time the book reached its end. We had the Joker break out of Arkham, his kidnapping of Jim Gordon, and the final confrontation between the two that came to a rather conclusive ending. Sure, you have to be familiar with the relationship between the two to really get what is going on, but it’s not a story that is led into from a previous arc nor does it try to build up to any future stories. See also Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Superman: For the Man Who Has Everything for further examples of this. This, however, is where Swamp Thing is profoundly different.

When Alan Moore jumped onto the series it was well into its initial run with the first 19 issues having been handled by another creative team that had already established and/or created the main supporting cast of the series. By the time he wrote his first issues in the series the majority of the plot points that we normally associate with Swamp Thing, (mainly his conflict with Anton Arcane), had already been resolved with Alec Holland emerged triumphant over his arch nemesis. So, it begs the question as to what can Alan Moore do with such a story that was more or less already finished. Well, for a lack of better words, he Alan Moored it up!

The volume in question starts right after the apparent final battle with Anton Arcane. As he looks through the wreckage of Arcane’s machines another organization goes after Swamp Thing and apparently kills him and this is where things get interesting. When tasked with performing the autopsy, a relatively unknown DC villain named Doctor Jason Woodrue makes a troubling discovery. You see up until this point, Swamp Thing had been going on the assumption that he was his alter ego, Alec Holland who had been transformed into a plant creature. The truth, however, was a little more unsettling.

As it had turned out Alec had in fact been doused with an experimental chemical that was meant to help plant growth. When Alec ran out into the swamp while he was on fire he did, in fact, die. The plant life within the swamp, however, affected by the chemicals, ended up consuming Alec’s body and how took on his conscience as well giving this plant creature, or Swamp Thing, the impression that he was, in fact, Alec Holland. From then on, the story is all about Swamp Thing deciding what this actually means for him and how he will go forward with his life.

In this Alan Moore does what he always does with almost every property he touches. He completely reinvents said character and, in the process, recontextualize all of their stories since their inception. See also Miracle Man, The Joker in The Killing Joke and the classical literature characters in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for more examples of this. In this case, it takes Alec Holland’s previous struggles and hopes to reclaim his humanity and says that they were, in fact, all for not and takes away any hopes for the future that he and the readers may have had for that. It’s a fairly dark twist that subverts our expectations of stories like these that either make or break one’s perception of it. It’s just a shame that they don’t go anywhere particularly interesting with it in this volume.

Now to be clear the first volume is not bad. When all is said and done Alan Moore very rarely writes objectively bad books. But unlike his most underwhelming or offensive books, there is something that feels relatively generic with this volume. You, of course, have the big reveal involving Alec’s identity but the subversion sadly doesn’t go any further than that. The way Swamp Thing goes about deciding what he wants to do involves a supervillain and him fighting him off to reaffirm his identity. Again, it’s not bad but it almost feels like the story is a bit beneath him; almost like he had to do something a bit more traditional in order to get his more interesting stuff approved.

For example, Alan Moore had done these kinds of stories before but there is usually more to it. In Watchmen, for example, this kind of arc was there with Night Owl but it also tied into his feelings of impotence in the current world that directly contributed to his erectile dysfunction. It’s only after he puts his cape and cowl back on and, in a sense, takes control of his life back, can he actually get it up again. In Miracle Man, flawed as the series was, the midlife crisis metaphors were obvious and showed just how destructive they could be to those around you. Unfortunately, Swamp Thing lacks any kind of subtext that comes close to this level making the titular character’s arc feel rather by the numbers. Once again, it’s not bad but it feels extremely underwhelming when compared to his other works like Watchmen or V For Vendetta.

In the end, the first volume of Swamp Thing is just fine. It has the mechanical qualities you come from a writer like Alan Moore but sadly lacks the depth that he is otherwise associated with. Is it the best place to start with Swamp Thing? Probably not. By it is an otherwise decent read that you’ll go through quickly and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time. Perhaps the later volumes are better but, as it stands, volume one is a perfectly adequate book.

Verdict

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Monday Night Raw Rants: The Club Reunites Edition

The Nerd Hub celebrates as The Club reunites this week with our WWE Monday Night Raw rants. We also celebrate the return of anything substantial actually happening on the show for the first time in weeks. Sure, Ricochet held off another challenge from AJ Styles in a repeat main event from last week. However, the big news emanating from American Airlines Center in Dallas involved Big Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and Styles turning heel together.

 

HEADLINE NEWS: AJ TURNS HEEL, REUNITES THE CLUB

WWE threw all kinds of swerves at us in the United States Championship title match main event. First, Styles appeared to have won the belt in the early going. He socked Ricochet with the Phenomenal Forearm and pinned his shoulders for the three count. However, replay and official John Cone informed the other referee that the champ got his foot under the rope. Therefore, the title change got negated and the two wrestled on.

What ensued became a seesaw affair between Ricochet and Styles. Ultimately, Ricochet came out on top as the athleticism of both took center stage during the match.

Enter The Club.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came to ringside, where they gave mock applause to the defending champ. Styles positioned himself in between his old running buddies and The One and Only, seemingly in a protective stance. However, Styles then suckerpunched Ricochet out of nowhere and announced his heel turn. Gallows and Anderson joined in for good, old-fashioned beatdown from The Club.

Don’t look now, but perhaps WWE may actually book guys we like being heel to challenge their babyfaces. You know, NOT Shane McMahon. The Club can band together and put fear into Universal Champ Seth Rollins, WWE Champ Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns, Ricochet or Intercontinental Champ Finn Balor. Literally, any champion (besides Drake Maverick) WWE chooses to throw these guys up against would create a story likely to engage viewers.

 

BEST OF THE REST: BRAUN STROWMAN DESTROYING THINGS

WWE finally decided to end the weird contests between two of its biggest monsters. It let them do what monsters do at the box office each summer – destroy things. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley ended the silly thread of arm wrestling and tug of war with a Falls Count Anywhere match.

The Almighty took it to The Monster Among Men a good portion of the match. Lashley whipped Strowman into the ring post before spearing him through the timekeeper’s area. Then, they took the action to the crowd. However, the assault on Braun continued as Bob smacked him liberally with a steel chair.

The babyface monster battled back with a huge running shoulder tackle. Then, he lobbed Bob onto the stage where he commenced to spearing him through a video board. It drew sparks from the board and an expletive from Corey Graves at the announce table. It also got a no-contest result as medics had to tend to both men.

You can tell Paul Heyman runs the show now on Monday Night Raw. This show smacked of Heyman if ever any show smacked of the “Paulrus” as The King calls him. Nobody knows how to cater to our inner big kid with violence and destruction more than Heyman.  The only criticism of this extension of the Strowman-Lashley feud I have is that it came out of left field. These guys went from tugging rope to blowing up sets in a week. However, that’s a huge improvement, so I’m not complaining.

 

BIG WINNER: MIKE & MARIA KANELLIS

When I previewed Stomping Grounds, I posited that WWE’s new contract extensions with Mike and Maria Kanellis likely meant an impending Cruiserweight Championship run. Little did I know, the couple would go from a near total non-factor on TV to a feud with the Universal Champ and Raw Women’s Champ.

Welcome back to the big leagues, Mike and Maria Kanellis. They set up a mixed tag match with Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch backstage. So, those of you cringing at WWE exploiting the relationship between Rollins and Lynch for entertainment purposes likely didn’t enjoy this. However, it certainly created an unexpected and entertaining twist to the storylines of the champs. They’ve both had unending rivalries with Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans lately.

However, the drama just began to unfold at the start of the match. When Becky Lynch tagged into the match, Maria dropped to the floor and grabbed a mic. She began berating her husband, Mike. She also claimed she couldn’t compete due to being pregnant. As Maria continued to lambaste her man, The Man made Mike tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her in the ring.

This led Maria to continue her rantings, saying that Becky Lynch represented the only man in the ring. Maria added that she’d ask Becky to impregnate her next time. Mike got left speechless as she walked off.

In addition to the Strowman-Lashley destruction content, this proved to me Heyman took charge this week. He’s stated in the past that Maria represents one of the most creative people with whom he’s ever worked. Apparently, he’s so confident in her abilities he didn’t care too much about pulling them from nowhere into this confrontation. Yet, many people tired of endless Lynch-Lacey Evans and Rollins-Baron Corbin content. So, this gave us something different for a change.

 

BIG LOSER: THE UNDERTAKER

Consider it part of my Shane McMahon fatigue. The Undertaker delivered a promo along with Shane-O-Mac and Drew McIntyre. The Dead Man vowed Shane and the Scottish Psychopath would rest in peace at Extreme Rules. In addition, Undertaker brought up their WrestleMania 32 tussle and claimed “The Best in the World” amounts to nothing but another lost soul among many.

Don’t get me wrong. The Undertaker is what he is at this point. He’s a nostalgia act trotted out to grab attention every now and again. However, this promo represents a cut-and-paste of any Undertaker promo you’ve seen for decades. It gets the job done, but it’s hardly unexpected or exciting.

 

HIGH FIVE

Street Profits – The NXT Tag Team Champs appeared on Raw in a meeting with Heyman. As always, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins gave an energetic hype job of their impending main roster debut. These guys bring an electricity and energy to matches in a way that’s kind of lacking in the tag division right now. They will instantly help either show they appear on.

24/7 Championship Race – Drake Maverick outsmarted R-Truth to win his coveted title back as he also tries to save his storyline marriage. The champ came out as part of No Way Jose’s Conga Line. Truth couldn’t resist rubbing it in while Maverick sat ringside with his wife who told him he’d have to choose between her or the title. However, the 205 Live GM got the last laugh by smashing Truth with a briefcase and pinning him during some of the last moments of Raw.

Carmella – The former SmackDown Women’s Champion rarely gets to wrestle on the Blue Brand these days. However, she successfully defeated SmackDown Women’s title contender Alexa Bliss on Raw. Mella did wind up losing to Nikki Cross in an ensuing match. Yet, the Staten Island Princess had to get excited about being involved in something other than being R-Truth’s sidekick.

The Viking Raiders – Erik and Ivar teamed up with Samoa Joe to hand The New Day a beating. Don’t look now, but the former NXT Champs just keep winning. So, they can  make a big impact on Raw going forward. They just need the time and commitment from the WWE creative team to do it.

Cesaro – The Swiss Cyborg ruthlessly beat WWE sparring dummy No Way Jose to a no contest. The character reboot continues for the former member of The Bar. He’s a no-nonsense, physical villain out to smack the teeth out of any babyface. It’s the type of role he’s perfectly suited to pull off. He could easily work into any feuds involving faces the WWE wants to help get over.

 

LOW FIVE

Lacey Evans/Baron Corbin – The Lady of the WWE needed to play the numbers game to beat Natalya. Yes, the same Natalya who has virtually gone into the WWE Superstar Protection Program since Ronda Rousey jetted. Kudos for getting Evans involved with someone other than Lynch. However, she lacks teeth as a credible championship contender. This booking doesn’t exactly convince anyone she’s got the goods to take down The Man.

The Miz – The A-Lister defeated Elias in a Best-of-3 Falls match. He took advantage of The Walking Truth smashing his knee into the ring post with a decisive Figure Four. However, this feud just represents two guys whose career have stalled recently in the wake of Shane McMahon’s heel push. These guys turned in some of the best content for their shows in 2018. Now, they’re involved in a pedestrian, mid-card beef.

Nikki Cross – The WWE seemed to skip ahead in their to-this-point, well-paced storyline with Cross and Bliss. Carmella calling out just how reliant The Goddess is on Cross and then beating her gave us something fantastic. However, they should’ve cut the show for these three there. Instead, they gave us a rushed match to create doubt as to whether it should be Bliss or Cross facing Bayley at Extreme Rules. Sure, we knew we were headed there. However, this seemed like fast-tracking the story a bit too much.

Bray Wyatt – The Firefly Fun House segments grew to become one of the best things on Raw the past few months. So, we notice when Bray or The Fiend goes silent. Hopefully, this carries no significance in the plans for him.

The Revival/The Usos – Extreme Rules sits only a few weeks away, but the champs and their big rivals provided nothing further. Maybe WWE just wanted to give Street Profits time on the mic by themselves. However, their appearance possibly could’ve hit another level with involvement from either of these teams. In my opinion, even a staring match as they walk past each other could’ve generated some excitement.

 

RELATED: MONDAY NIGHT RAW RANTS: RICOCHET EDITION

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Laying the Smack Down: Kofi Sweeps Edition

Welcome to The Nerd Hub’s weekly smack talk about WWE SmackDown Live. Kofi Kingston finished his three-match sweep of Dolph Ziggler in the main event. Their best-of-3 falls match actually bested previous battles at both Super ShowDown and Stomping Grounds. However, the fans at Moda Center in Portland had little great content to watch prior to the main event. Let’s break down Kofi sweeps week and more.

 

HEADLINE NEWS: KOFI-ZIGGLER III AN INSTANT CLASSIC

SmackDown Live opened with an impassioned promo from the WWE Champion. He said he’s enjoyed the best height of his career over the past few months. However, Samoa Joe attempted to eat him alive on Monday Night Raw. Kofi said he wouldn’t take that lying down. That’s when Ziggler interrupted, refusing to allow anyone to leapfrog him for another shot at the WWE Championship. The #Heel revealed that he arranged a best-of-3 falls match with Kofi for the main event.

Ziggler dominated the early moments of the main event. A turning point came when The Showoff sat down on a Sunset Flip attempt and grabbed the rope for leverage. The referee caught him cheating and interrupted his count on the fall. As a result, Kofi got the opening he needed. He rolled up Dolph for fall #1.

Unfortunately, Ziggler got worked up into a frenzy and took his brutality up a notch after the first fall. Then, he devastated Kingston with a Zig Zag. The resilient champ nearly scored the decisive fall on another roll-up attempt. Yet, Ziggler escaped this time and hit a superkick to even the falls.

The closing sequence turned into a sprint of reversals, counters and roll-up attempts. However, Kofi closed things out with Trouble in Paradise for the victory. This one far exceeded either of the pay-per-view matches. So, Kofi put a fitting cap on the rivalry if it is indeed an end to their program.

 

BEST OF THE REST: NIKKI CROSS EARNS ALEXA BLISS REMATCH

Nikki Cross came out as a woman on a mission against SmackDown Women’s Champ Bayley. The desperation and determination of the Scot came across as she passionately fought for her friend’s rematch. Cross gained the early edge on her frenetic energy.

However, The Hugger worked her way back into the match and gained control with an armbar. Nikki rallied and hit a neckbreaker for a two count. Then, Cross and Bayley engaged in a number of roll-ups and counters. However, Nikki ended the seesaw struggle by shifting her weight to keep the champ’s shoulders pinned for the 1-2-3.

As a result, Cross earned The Goddess a rematch for the blue belt at Extreme Rules on July 14. Furthermore, Nikki winning the match and title shot for Bliss takes their story to the next stage. Cross wins the match and beats the champion, but the selfish Twisted Sister reaps the rewards because that’s so Alexa. These three continued to work well off each other.

 

BIG WINNER: SONYA DEVILLE/MANDY ROSE

The War Goddess attempted to retaliate after weeks of being bullied by Deville & Rose. However, Fire & Desire used the dreaded numbers game to come out on top like we knew they would.

Yet, Ember Moon brought the fire and fury early on. She took it to Deville with a series of dropkicks, pounding her around the squared circle. But Mandy Rose picked an opportune time to provide a distraction. Deville capitalized, shoving her into the ring post and stacking her up for a pinfall victory.

These three suffered from the lack of ring time devoted to them. However, the story they needed to present got over. First and foremost, it served to continue the ongoing beef between Moon and Rose. Most importantly, Deville picked up a win to continue building her credibility for the inevitable Fire & Desire split. In my opinion, WWE can build a legitimate main-event star out of Deville if they’re interested in doing so. She can pull off the heel personality well and contains a wide arsenal of ground-and-pound, MMA moves.

 

BIG LOSER: THE MIZ

Through no fault of his own, The A-Lister ended up the big loser on both Monday and Tuesday. This time, he fell to Elias in a best-of-3 falls match. The dreaded numbers game came into play at the end. “The Best in the World” Shane McMahon teamed up with Elias to put a hurting on Miz.

Shane-O-Mac sent a message to Roman Reigns with a spear. Then, Elias piled on with a top-rope elbow drop for the decisive fall. Adding insult, Shane then ascended the top rope and delivered his patented Coast-to-Coast.

Unfortunately, Miz remained McMahon’s personal torture instrument. He’s served as a punching bag for “The Best in the World” since WrestleMania 35. Not only can’t he beat his former tag team partner, he always gets served a humbling butt-kicking by McMahon and his minions. Fans continue to openly wonder why McMahon continues to ride the monstrous heel push at the expense of big-name Superstars each week.

HIGH FIVE

Shinsuka Nakamura/Finn Balor – Two of the greatest NXT Champions collided in a backstage segment. “The Artist” confronted the Intercontinental Champion, perhaps signaling an end to his tag team days with Rusev. Since Balor spent several weeks off TV, fans of the champ delighted in the teasing of a new storyline. However, the use of Nakamura with Balor seems puzzling considering things with Andrade didn’t feel completely settled.

New Day – We told you they would not skip a beat with that loss to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Xavier Woods broke up the LeBell Lock and combined with Big E to hit Midnight Hour on Daniel Bryan. They didn’t get much time to celebrate the non-title match victory over the SmackDown Tag Team Champs. The Pancakes & Unicorns Crew found themselves victims of an attack from KO and Zayn. However, Heavy Machinery came out to aid New Day. Then, the two babyface teams teamed up against the two heel teams.

Heavy Machinery – Otis and Tucker got an important thumbs after their Stomping Grounds appearance by making WWE TV. The segment felt a little clumsy. The most important plot point of the eight-man tag match seemed to be KO walking out on Zayn. With that being the case, Heavy Machinery against those two probably would’ve went off a little less wonky. Nonetheless, the Steaks & Weights boys still seem to figure prominently in WWE’s plans.

Elias – We’d love to see him no longer attached to Shane McMahon’s hip. However, he scored a victory over The Miz. This provided the one positive note to the continued devotion to Heel Shane’s destruction of The Miz.

Ember Moon – Sure, she got beat by the heel tandem of Rose and Deville. However, she broke through to get some ring time on WWE TV. Considering the sparse amount of time for women not named Becky Lynch, Lacey Evans, Alexa Bliss, Bayley and Nikki Cross lately, that’s a victory.

 

LOW FIVE

Aleister Black – Okay, it’s seriously time for WWE to pull the trigger on putting the former NXT Champ in the ring. We’re working on a solid month of promos talking about people coming through a door to challenge him. Look no further than Ricochet to see how Black has stagnated. His former tag partner just won the United States Championship at Stomping Grounds and wrestled AJ Styles in Raw’s main event. Meanwhile, Black gets reduced to edgy 60-90 second promos each week.

Charlotte Flair – Perhaps The Queen just asked for some vacation time. However, it seems a bit weird to not see her featured for weeks at a time on WWE TV. I know fans have raged about her frequent turns with the championship belts. Yet, the simple fact remains she’s one of the best performers in the company.

The IIconics – The women’s tag champs had some regular segments for weeks with Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss that went well. However, they’re back to being purely backstage or non-entities. Here’s where the predictability of the WWE gets in the way of the product. It’s understandable if Billie Kay and Peyton Royce don’t always fit into the Raw or SmackDown storylines. Yet, wouldn’t that present the perfect opportunity to have them make a cameo on NXT?

Roman Reigns – Don’t get me wrong. The Big Dog remains a weekly presence on TV. I know the WWE Wild Card Era essentially made the brand split a moot point. However, I still think it’s a wrong that the “biggest acquisition” in SmackDown history makes fewer appearances on Tuesdays than Mondays.

Andrade – Flip the calendar back a month or so and we thought El Idolo might ride a rocket to the top. Now, he’s back to being left off TV for weeks at a time. It’s inconsistent handling of guys like this that causes fan pushback when matches seemingly fall out of the sky.

 

RELATED: MONDAY NIGHT RAW RANTS: RICOCHET EDITION

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