Tangled up in green: How Ram V and Mike Perkins reinvented DC's Swamp Thing
The Swamp Thing comes to a close, as a new hero claims the elemental powers of the Green. Here’s how Ram V and Mike Perkins’ run altered the Swamp Thing mythos forever.
Of all the misfits and monsters lurking in the DC Universe, one of the most celebrated of them all is Swamp Thing. Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson in 1971’s House of Secrets #92, the verdant superhero protects all plant life in the DCU linked to an elemental force known as the Green. While Swamp Thing initially believed he was a reborn iteration of the murdered botanist Alec Holland, he learned that he was a sentient plant that absorbed Holland’s memories as part of a long line of champions selected by the Parliament of Trees, the rulers of the Green.
The acclaimed creative team of Ram V and Mike Perkins have wrapped their run on The Swamp Thing, which introduced a new Swamp Thing to the DCU and changed up the mantle’s legacy. With their own supporting cast, while familiar faces would appear to see the latest champion of the Green for themselves, the Swamp Thing legacy remains as vibrantly thriving as ever. With their landmark run reaching its finale with August 22's The Swamp Thing #16, Popverse is spotlighting how Ram and Perkins have left their mark on Swamp Thing forever with their contributions to the fan-favorite hero’s mythos.
The Green in flux
Before Ram and Perkins took the reins on Swamp Thing, the character was at something of a crossroads. Swamp Thing had returned to prominence in the DCU when Holland was resurrected by the restorative energies of the White Lantern at the end of the 2010 crossover event Brightest Day after decades of existing outside of main DCU continuity. Maintaining his connection to the Green, the reborn Holland embraced his superhero destiny as Swamp Thing, taking full control of the mantle for the first time rather than being an echo of his consciousness as interpreted by a plant.
By the start of the 2020 crossover event Endless Winter, Holland had vacated the role of Swamp Thing, without a reason given for his absence at the time. The storyline saw an ancient villain known as the Frost King threaten to plunge the world into a magical blizzard after previously being beaten by a team of heroes centuries ago in the Viking Age. To help combat the Frost King, the late hero Viking Prince was temporarily reborn as the latest Swamp Thing, providing vital support in defeating the icy villain once again.
A Glimpse into the Future State
Prior to launching The Swamp Thing maxi-series, Ram and Perkins took the reins provided a taste of things to come in a two-issue tie-in to the 2021 DC event 'Future State.' Set during an alternate future for the DCU, humanity had largely been wiped out by a devastating environmental cataclysm, with Swamp Thing leading the Green to take over the Earth, with the ruins of human civilization overgrown with plants. Swamp Thing’s past experiences with humanity have led him to create a set of offspring to mitigate his sense of isolation and give him someone else to connect to. This proved to be more dysfunctional than Swamp Thing anticipated, with a noted amount of petty squabbles and distrust between the group.
The last vestiges of humanity were revealed to have survived, albeit relegated to a refuge at the Arctic Pole where plant life had more difficulty to grow and overtake them. As the Swamp Thing family contended with this revelation, Holland’s old foe the Floronic Man resurfaced in another bid to claim control of the Green for himself. Having injected himself with plant DNA, the Floronic Man was gruesomely transformed in a deformed state between human and plant only for the gene splicing to reject his body. After a frustrated Floronic Man attempts to destroy all life on Earth rather than let the Green exist outside of his control, Swamp Thing sacrifices himself to undo the villain’s plans while growing his body into a large tree to provide shelter for humanity.
A new Swamp Thing
The Swamp Thing kicked off with the introduction of Levi Kamei, a young man from India visiting his girlfriend in New York City. Over the first half of the series, Levi expressed a deep unease about his past and family life, eventually revealing that he and his brother Jacob grew up in a village in India whose inhabitants revered the Green as the force permeated particularly strongly in this part of the world. The longtime proximity to Green linked the brothers to it and, when Jacob attempted a ceremony to claim its full power for himself, the elemental force bonded to Levi instead, making him the new Swamp Thing.
As Swamp Thing, Levi would face both new threats and familiar foes from Holland’s classic tenure as the superhero. Old enemies like the Floronic Man would resurface with his own continued plans to take control of the Green, as hinted at during Future State. Prescot Industries, a nefarious firm that acquired the archives of the Sutherland Corporation which had combatted the Holland-era Swamp Thing, would target Levi in an effort to dissect him and learn the true nature of Swamp Thing’s power, going as far as to call in a favor from Amanda Waller to have the Suicide Squad ambush the elemental hero with little success.
However, Levi’s most personal antagonist as Swamp Thing remained his brother Jacob who shockingly revealed to have succeeded in his obsessive quest to harness the power of the Green. Transforming himself into a twisted version of the elemental champion, Jacob referred to himself as Hedera – the Ancient Greek term for 'clinging plant' – and fought his brother bitterly. This sibling rivalry would be shelved when the two brothers were forced to team up against the Parliament of Gears, an elemental force linked to the world’s machinery that use their unnatural abilities to reanimate the dead, selecting the personification of an atomic bomb as their champion.
Levi Kamei’s DCU impact
Even apart from his skirmish with the Suicide Squad and encounter with the Floronic Man, Levi is very much a part of the DCU, going on brief team-up with Green Lantern while Levi’s activities as Swamp Thing were closely monitored by Batman. While communing with the Green itself, Levi encountered Poison Ivy, with the longtime Batman villain empowered by its immense elemental abilities, foreshadowing her motivations in her recently launched maxi-series by G. Willow Wilson and Marcio Takara.
While the full nature of Holland bequeathing the mantle of Swamp Thing was never quite completely addressed, the late botanist appeared within the Green to Levi as an echo of his former consciousness, passing the baton to his successor. Holland’s daughter Tefe, whom he fathered with Abigail Arcane as the symbiosis between human and plant, appeared late in Ram and Perkins’ series, would appear late in the series to assist Levi after he was attacked by Prescot Industries, helping him regroup in time for his battle against the Parliament of Gears.
Levi is still very much alive and well in the DCU at the conclusion of Ram and Perkins’ series, offered a peaceful respite after all the horrific, super-powered conflict he endured over the course of the story in a rare happy ending for Swamp Thing. The threat of the Floronic Man and Parliament of Gears remains an open one but the decisive victory has more than proved Levi is capable to wield the powers of the Green as Swamp Thing. The future is looking as bright as ever for Swamp Thing, with Ram V and Mike Perkins leaving an indelible mark on the superhero legacy over the span of 16 issues, grounding the character with a sense of palatable human drama without compromising its elementally tinged supernatural horror.
Written by Ram V, illustrated by Mike Perkins, colored by Mike Spicer, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar, The Swamp Thing #16 is on sale now from DC Comics, with the series’ first ten issues collected in two separate volumes.
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