It’s all about the environment in the new SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1. This issue follows pre-Flashpoint Superman as he struggles to understand why the crops are failing and the ponds are dry in Hamilton. By investigating the problem, Clark encounters Swamp Thing who explains why nature is suffering.
“Tangled up in Green,” written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, brings together two DC characters we rarely see interact. The dynamic between Superman and Swamp Thing has never been thoroughly developed. That being said, Tomasi and Gleason certainly do take a step towards building that relationship in this issue, one that will hopefully be utilized in the future.
The use of Swamp Thing in this story helps fans understand why this Superman is so out of sync with his world (Ex. His blue palm print being left on the ground). This writing team handles Superman’s confusion for the situation very well. He comes off as stubborn and unwilling to see Swamp Things logic. Due to his lack of understanding, Superman perceives him as a threat rather than a solution.
Through these characters, Tomasi and Gleason give us a story that is essentially about man versus nature. We are definitely aware that both Superman and Swamp Thing care for this planet, but each has a different perspective on its safety. Superman is primarily focused on living people. On the other hand, Swamp Thing cares mainly for the environment and its multitude of living plant life. So, of course, both heroes clash when Clark is negatively affecting the natural world.
The writing in this issue is an important aspect to highlight. I was excited to see how Swamp Thing would explain the aberrations to Clark and how Clark would respond because Tomasi and Gleason developed the dialogue so well. Their conversations were aggressive and sassy in several action-filled moments, showing that both characters are forces to reckon with.
Tagged along with this strong writing is the amazing artwork by Jorge Jimenez. The presence of nature is strong in every page, which is of course expected in anything featuring Swamp Thing. What makes it so well done is the occasional use of vines to separate the panels. The panels come off as untamed and uncontrollable much like nature is, making this paneling a perfect structure for telling a story pitting man against nature.
It’s not just the panels, though. Jimenez has a way of getting every beautiful detail onto the page. Each piece of art in this issue is important to the storyline. This is especially clear in the set of pages that revolve around ingestion. Those specific pages are creative, trippy, and damn right stunning to look at. There is so much that I found myself staring in to these pages to find more treasures that Jimenez may have hidden in these panels. Even the onomatopoeia used for sound in these panels blend beautifully into the environment. We see this in moments like the one where both heroes are fighting and the sounds move quickly like the wind rushing around them. It’s a clever way of handling sound by syncing it with nature.
I’d like to stress the fact that DC has a clear winner with this annual issue. Not only was it action packed and connected to this Superman’s development, but it was also full of amazing imagery and color. The issue as a whole came together masterfully. In my opinion, more comics should take a plot risk like this annual issue did. Not enough comic series are willing to take risks and focus on small scale characters like Swamp Thing. Tomasi and Gleason’s use of Swamp Thing in SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1 is definitely a sign that people should invest in unique characters more often.
It’s also important to note the heavy theme this issue deals with. The issue subtly deals with the negative impact one Kryptonian can have on the environment. By showing how Clark can resolve this by submitting to nature, it gives us a look into our own world. Perhaps we too can save the world around us by not only submitting to nature but by also caring for it and understanding that the environment is also a beautiful, living thing.
I look forward to seeing whether Swampy will make a return in Superman’s plot. I sure hope he does. For now, though, it’s time for Superman fans to keep their eyes on the horizon as we start to learn more about pre-Flashpoint Clark’s story.
What do you think about the inclusion of characters who aren’t really utilized to their potential, like that of Swamp Thing? Are there any other characters in the DC canon that you’d like to see appear in SUPERMAN? Share your thoughts in the comments below!