OK, honestly, how do you not pick these comics up? First of all, Animal Man and Swamp Thing have been two of the strongest books of DC’s New 52 since the reboot kicked off last year. Second of all, there aren’t enough straight-up evil monsters in comics anymore. Third of all, it’s called Rotworld! Now that the (awesome) Night of the Owls event is over in the Batman books, it’s time for the “Dark” family of DC Comics to shine with this event, and in this two-issue prologue co-writers Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire definitely don’t disappoint.
OK, just so we understand how the reading order for this whole crossover thing goes: Animal Man #12 is part one of the Rotworld prologue. Swamp Thing #12 is part two of the Rotworld prologue. And then, as I understand it, in October (after the #0 issue stuff in September), you can read either or both of the books and still understand the story. But in this instance, we’ve got a two-part story spread out over two books, and even if you haven’t read any of what’s transpired before, there’s a handy recap for you couched right in the middle of the story. Basically what you need to know is this: Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the respective avatars for two major mystical life forces called The Red and The Green. But there’s a third elemental avatar known as The Rot, which represents death and decay. It’s a vital part of the world, but lately it’s been getting awful pushy, and now it’s making a play to take over everything. It’s invaded the lives of both Buddy Baker (Animal Man) and Alec Holland (Swamp Thing), and now they’re the only two things standing in its way, and they have no choice but to join together and stop it.
One of the things I’ve long loved about both of these comics is their ability to maintain a sense of intense savagery. The monsters in Swamp Thing (shepherded by writer Scott Snyder) and Animal Man (shepherded by writer Jeff Lemire) never seem to make sense in the traditional context of comic book or movie or TV monsters. They’re just savage abominations coming to eat you alive, and that’s part of what makes these comics so fun to read. It creates an air of unpredictability, and as Rotworld kicks off that feeling is pushed to its limit by two of the finest writers in comics.
Of course, the monsters don’t work without someone to bring them to life, and for that Snyder and Lemire turn to artists Marco Rudy, Steve Pugh and Yanick Paquette to create a truly savage, unpredictably malignant world. Part of what I’ve loved from the beginning in both of these books is the sense that there’s no real limit to how awful this can get if our heroes don’t fight hard enough. The writers might make that idea up, but the artists sell it, and here Rudy, Pugh and Paquette all do their part.
If you’re waiting for something big and cool and dark to jolt you out of a comics slump, or if you’re tired of standard superheroes, or if you just want an epic to sink your teeth into, Rotworld is right here waiting. It’s intense, it’s bold and it’s often jaw-dropping, and this is just the beginning.