“Who killed the world?”- Mad Max: Fury Road
Ram V, Mike Perkins, and June Chung turn in a very post-apocalyptic take on DC Comics’ famous (and often critically acclaimed) swamp creature in Future State: Swamp Thing #1. True to its iconic cover, the book feels a lot like a more botanical version of Planet of the Apes. V saves the overarching conflict of the two-issue miniseries for the final page of the comic and instead spends most of its running time showing the relationship between Swamp Thing (Called simply “Green”) and his children, Calla, Indigo, Vruk, and his “firstborn”, Heather, who he created after the end of the world. Swamp Thing’s mission is to find humanity, but that mission is controversial and leads to jealousy from his people, who think that he cares more about humans than them.
In the past, I’ve really enjoyed Mike Perkins’ art on action-driven superhero stories like Captain America and Iron Fist. However, he really get to flex his storytelling range in Future State: Swamp Thing #1 as he gets to work on both a Biblical scale in his double page spread that shows the DC Universe falling prey to violence and basically being to destroyed and a more intimate one in the interactions between Swamp Thing, his people, and later a human survivor. Perkins and colorist June Chung definitely fall back on the superhero idiom in some sequences like a glorious full page image of Swamp Thing encircling his roots around a falling building in the ruins of New York. But he definitely looks more like a monster with a huge, gnarly hand covering his people and mayhem in his wake in a similar manner to the subterranean monster on the cover of Fantastic Four #1. However, Heather and the other folks are beaming and treat him like a savior figure. You can definitely tell that this is a world bereft of heroes, and it may have even been screwed up by their actions although this is outside the scope of Ram V’s script, and the story he and Perkins are trying to tell.
My favorite visual flourish in Future State: Swamp Thing #1, and that extra piece that makes it go beyond a dystopian disaster story with a side of vegetation, is the bits of narration and art that Ram V and Mike Perkins provide showing Swamp Thing’s process of creation. Perkins draws these panels like images in early modern anatomy textbooks with Chung giving its colors that faded out feel compared to the more detailed rendering on his other linework. V’s narration uses purple prose a la classic Swamp Thing while providing insight into how characters like Heather and Indigo feel and interact with their environment. For example, their emotions come from pheromones, but they don’t have any feelings that didn’t already originate with Swamp Thing.
This is why Indigo is so angry and skeptical while Heather is full of determination and leadership qualities while still being deferential to her “creator”. These special panels also connect smoothly to the ongoing narrative like V and Perkins’ description of their vocal organs coinciding with Swamp Thing talking to the “child” Calla. Or their description of their transpiratory (Think respiratory for humans.) systems being literally sandwiched between two panels showing a journey through the show. It’s an added layer of verbal and visual commentary on these characters and a corner of the nearly post-human world that Ram V and Mike Perkins have crafted as Swamp Thing and his people behave in very human ways although their equivalent of first aid is sunlight, water, and keeping roots planted in a bit.
However, Future State: Swamp Thing #1 doesn’t shy away from showing their differences compared to the human they run into with them being unable to communicate with him until he eats a bit of fruit, which is a wonderful (and much less erotic) riff on the classic Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben story. However, you don’t have to be familiar with this 36 year old comic to understand Swamp Thing trying to find common ground through the breaking of bread even though Indigo and Heather want to take the human out for killing one of their people in self-defense. Communication versus violence is a throughline in this comic with a nice chat or a story revealing more context about this very strange world in contrast with tree limb on tree limb contact, which is why it’s fitting that Swamp Thing #1 is bookended by a pair of visually interesting flashbacks. On a pure aesthetic level, I love how Mike Perkins and June Chung depict snow and whites, which is set against (G)reen and trees.
Ram V, Mike Perkins, and June Chung use Swamp Thing’s immortality, sub-creator instincts, and preference for communication over fisticuffs to tell a wonderful post-apocalyptic yarn in Future State: Swamp Thing #1. V’s prose is beautiful, and you really get to know the dynamic between Swamp Thing and his people throughout the book. Perkins gets to experiment with different kinds of layouts, including powerful spreads and interesting grids, to keep things lively and weird while Chung’s colors tell a story of green, or life, trying to flourish in an inhospitable environment as Swamp Thing and his people move farther North. Future State: Swamp Thing #1 is a smart take on one of DC’s most beloved characters as well as being a holistic take on the “dark future” genre, and it even adds a touch of mystery at the end.
Story: Ram V Art: Mike Perkins
Colors: June Chung Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Story: 8.2 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review