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Sunday, 20 October 2019

If You Go Down To Swamp Today, You're Sure Of A Big Surprise...


For a comparatively lesser-known character from the DC Universe there have been a surprising number of attempts to bring Swamp Thing to live-action.

But I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the best attempt is the most recent: the 10-episode maxi-series on DC Universe (and then Amazon Prime for the rest of us, not in the States).

It's a tragedy that even before the show had a chance to get going on its original platform it had been axed for financial reasons, leaving it dead in the water.

While reducing the number of episodes to 10 possibly worked in its favour, as there wasn't the padding we see in some of the longer-season superhero shows, this Swamp Thing deserves to have been allowed to run and run.

The last episode, even, has an amazing post-credits scene that's not only an incredible Easter Egg for fans of the source material, but a tantalising teases of what might have been, should there have been a second season.

Doctor Abby Arcane (rising genre superstar Crystal Reed), of the CDC, returns to her childhood home of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a deadly swamp-borne virus, only to discover the dark, terrifying mysteries of the the area.

In just these 10 episodes we're treated to some amazing body horror, mad science, supernatural, ghosts, demons, and devils.

Multiple other characters from DC Comics put in an appearance, including Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott), Daniel Cassidy aka The Blue Devil (Ian Ziering... yes, Sharknado's Ian Ziering), and The Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair).

While these weren't necessarily "comics accurate", they still captured the spirit of the character, and, like Swamp Thing, himself, all deserve to have longer lives in the live-action DC Universe.

Perhaps they could pop up in Titans?

The Swamp Thing costume that Derek Mears dons throughout the show is simply spectacular, and really comes into its own in the last few episodes when we see more of the titular character.

Before I started watching, it had been pointed out to me by one of my Canadian friends, Percy Hodge, and is worth pointing out to anyone thinking of diving into this show: Swamp Thing himself - despite being the title character - very much plays a supporting role in the first season's story.

Swamp Thing, the show, is really Abby's story, following her investigations into the strange disease and her conflicts with odious businessman Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) and his dotty wife, Maria (Virginia Madsen).

I only really had one issue with the show, and it's a real "First World" problem.

Having read the comics, back in the day, particularly Alan Moore's seminal run in the 1980s, I knew the big revelation that was coming in the penultimate episode.

It even takes its name from the issue that features one of the greatest moments in comic book history ... and I kept wishing the story would get to it ASAP, so I could see how it was handled.

Which is, of course, daft, because (a) the story needed to get there in its own way and at it's own speed and (b) it was handled incredibly.

There are even some nice cameos to look out for: such as sci-fi stalwart Jake Busey (most recently seen in Stranger Things, season three) and a squee-worthy appearance from the wonderful Adrienne Barbeau, who, of course, played a key role in the original Swamp Thing movie from 1982 (written and directed by horror legend Wes Craven).

Special mention should also be made of one of my favourite character actors, Kevin Durand (of The Strain and Vikings, to name but two), for his powerful portrayal of Avery's new pet scientist, Jason Woodrue.

Simply put, Swamp Thing is a superb realisation of a very particular comic book character, that captures the essence of the source material, while making it very much its own story.

While it does feel as though it was just getting started, and is part of a greater whole, everything from the sets and swamp scenery to the supernatural elements all worked perfectly in the show, so there's enough to satisfy fans old and new of Swamp Thing's corner of the DC comic book universe.

The only thing it was really missing was a cameo from Matt Ryan's John Constantine.

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