SWAMP THING EPISODE S1, Ep5 “Drive All Night” Review

As the “Darkness” in the swamp continues to grow, the ghost of Shawna Sunderland has now possessed the body of little Susie Coyle. However it appears as though Maria has no problem with it and is glad to have her daughter back (sort of), and wants her and her mother to be together forever. And while Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation, he realizes he is able to form a link with the trees in the swamp through “the Green” and see their memories with the help of a mysterious unnamed stranger. Dr. Jason Woodrue shares his findings with Avery Sunderland and reveals he is close to discovering something, but Abbie is getting in his way. Meanwhile, Daniel Cassidy tries to leave Marais and he is unable to do so, due to some supernatural force which burns his arm.

This episode goes even deeper into the supernatural powers that the swamp continues to manifest in different and sometimes confusing ways. While the swamp and the regenerative formula did give Alec Holland his life back as Swamp Thing, it seems as though everyone involved is cursed in some way. And it looks as if it has been going on for some time now as we see what really happened between Abbie and Shawna those 15 years ago.

I was looking forward to this episode with the tease from DC Universe in its synopsis:

“Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation with the help of a Phantom Stranger”

With that, fans of the darker side of the DC Universe like me will be reminded of a very important character known as the Phantom Stranger who has been around since the 1950s. Sadly while it does suggest that the character is like the Phantom Stranger (played by Macon Blair), he appears as an ordinary resident of the bayou. While the Phantom Stranger possesses many magical abilities, I don’t recall shape changing to be one of them? When Swamp Thing asks him who he is, he merely replies that he is “…just a passing stranger, maybe a phantom from a dream, trying to help you understand the things you already know.” Along with many other cryptic answers he does introduce Swamp Thing to “the Green” the elemental force that connects all the plants on Earth.

While I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t appear like the traditional Phantom Stranger or we might even get a glimpse of him, it never happened. The last time a supernatural character had a cameo like this was in the Constantine TV series where we got to see Jim Corrgian/the Spectre in episode 5. On a side note we may get another Constantine TV show. As far as Swamp Thing goes, the possessed child scenario was especially creepy and brings Abbie’s tragic past to a head.

Comic Review – Usagi Yojimbo #1

After 165 issues have been published by Dark Horse Comics, the critically acclaimed series “Usagi Yojimbo” is being released by IDW Publishing this month. When it was announced in February of this year, some were surprised, but since IDW also currently publishes the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series, it seems only fitting that they share the same publisher. While Usagi Yojimbo inhabits a different universe as the TMNT, they have appeared together in many comic over the years as well as several times in the TMNT animated series. For those unaware of the rōnin rabbit, the title “Usagi Yojimbo” essentially means rabbit bodyguard (Yōjinbō) in Japanese. Created by Japanese-American cartoonist Masahiko ‘Stan’ Sakai in 1984, the series features the anthropomorphic swordsman, Miyamoto Usagi, who was based on the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Having been published by many companies over the years including Fantagraphics and Mirage Studios, it seems as if the bunny has found a new home.

Beginning with this new three-part story arc “Bunraku”, Usagi continues his wandering of an anthropomorphized Japan during the Edo period on his warrior’s journey, when he comes upon an unusual puppet drama (bunraku) performance, where the puppets (Ningyō) seem strangely lifelike. After Usagi introduces himself to the blind narrator (tayu) and praises the performance while sharing a cup of tea, he later comes across fellow samurai Sasuké (aka the demon queller) where he informs him of evil demons (nukekubi) disguised as townsfolk residing in the town. Later, there is a brief afterword where we see that one of the puppets is not what they appear to be.

The “Usagi Yojimbo” comics have always been a favorite of mine for years, having first discovered his character (and action figure!) in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series in 1989, not to mention my growing love for samurai movies (Akira Kurosawa) and anime (Rurouni Kenshin). The comic are a perfect combination of comic fantasy, Japanese culture, folklore and history, not to mention many stories involving supernatural creatures (yokai) and demons. And this latest story is no exception, with its fun combination of a samurai drama and the “Puppet Master” horror movies.

Written, drawn and lettered by Stan Sakai, with colors by Tom Luth (“Groo the Wanderer”), this begins a new chapter in the 35 year epic of Usagi Yojimbo, while many of the comics over the years have been in black-and-white, like many independent comics, there have been a few color specials over the years. According to IDW, this new monthly comic book will be published in full color and IDW will curate a fully-colored graphic novel library of the complete Usagi Yojimbo saga.

If you are a newcomer to the Usagi story, this is a great starting point for new fans, or older fans like myself as a fresh start. For those who desire to catch up on the story, the last 32 volumes are available to read and Volume 33 will be available next month. This milestone first issue also includes a main cover by Stan Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson, Kevin Eastman and Walt Simonson.

SWAMP THING EPISODE S1, Ep3 “HE SPEAKS” – REVIEW 6/14/19

After Swamp Thing revealed himself to Susie Coyle while saving her and killing her pursuer by ripping him apart, she told Abbie that he said that his name was Alec, which shocks her. The episode begins with a bizarre dream sequence of Alec seeing himself and Munson who he killed and he feels guilty for it. While Abbie wrestles with the new revelation that Alec could be alive, another CDC doctor arrives at the hospital to take over, but her friend Harlan contracts the disease as well. As we are introduced to the eccentric Dr. Woodrue, we also learn that his wife is suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s. Then when Abbie goes to Alec’s lab to try and learn more about what he found, she is confronted by the reanimated corpse of Munson, as well as Swamp Thing in person who saves her. After her encounter with Swamp Thing, he gives her the idea about the nature of the mysterious disease that is plaguing Marais. Later we get to learn more about Avery’s plans for Marais and his not-so-noble intentions regarding the swamp.

This episode really ramps up the horror elements as we see Munson’s body being swarmed and reanimated by insects, as well as Maria seeing visions of her dead daughter Shawna speaking to her from beyond the grave. The dark and supernatural elements harken back to the iconic days of writer Alan Moore’s stint on “Swamp Thing” during the 1980s. The ‘bug zombie’ is truly terrifying in this episode and the fight between it and Swamp Thing is especially exciting. As the title suggests, we also get to hear Swamp Thing speak as he protects Abbie from the ‘bug zombie’ and uses his newfound abilities to “release” Munson’s soul/spirit from the control of the disgusting insects.

Swamp Thing Episode #102 “Worlds Apart” – Review

After the pilot of “Swamp Thing” the latest streaming show from DC Universe shows much promise as they delve into a darker and more horror-oriented drama, but unfortunately as I will address later in the review. This show, while hopeful is fated to be short-lived.

Following the alleged death of Alec Holland in the swamp at the hands of an unknown assailant, Dr. Abby Arcane and the Marais sheriff’s department conduct a search for his remains. While Susie Coyle remains in the hospital, two more cases of the illness have been reported. And while the Swamp Thing emerges from the swamp and struggles to understand what has happened to him, Susie has an episode and seems to be somehow connected to the creature. And later, while Abby searches for clues as to what Alec was working on, she reluctantly approaches Avery Sunderland, who she hopes can provide her access to his lab. But when Susie goes missing from the hospital, Abby and Matt Cable follow her trail into the swamp, where she encounters a human monster as well as the Swamp Thing. Now as the plot thickens, the mysteries of the plant accelerant formula and Alec Holland’s fate are revealed.

As the second episode begins we finally get a fairly good look at the Swap Thing, and he is most impressive. No more B-grade rubber suits or overly campy performances, this is the Swamp Thing as he was meant to be. The costume, along with prosthetics and CGI effects are very realistic and add an otherworldliness to him that is very believable.

Also with this episode we are introduced to two new characters who will no doubt become an integral part to the story. One being the blind mystic Madame Xanadu (played by Jeryl Prescott), whose character has been a part of the DC comics magical world with characters such as the Spectre and Phantom Stranger since 1978. Also introduced is the botanist Dr. Jason Woodrue (played by Kevin Durand), who, without spoiling anything about his character, DC Comics fans will instantly recognize but who was previously but limitedly played by John Glover in Batman & Robin (1997). There’s even an appearance by Dan Cassidy (played by Ian Ziering) who fans will also know by another name, as the ‘Blue Devil’ but in a much different incarnation.

Overall, this show is slowly building up characters and backstories, but also doing a great job of adding both supernatural thrills and suspense that fans will come to expect. There is a particular two very horrifying scenes where Madame Xanadu tries a voodoo-like séance with Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen) and we also get to see a fairly bloody display of Swamp Thing’s powers in the climax of the episode.

On another note, before the airing of this episode, viewers received some shocking news that may have come to soon and which also may bring detriment to the future of the show and its continued audience. On June 4th, rumors spread on the internet that the new “Swamp Thing” series was in fact Cancelled! As more details emerged, the company announced that after filming had ended on the first season, that there will be no second season, due to a combination of production troubles, corporate bureaucracy, and money, along with the uncertain future of the DC Universe streaming service with the upcoming AT&T’s Warner Media streaming service. Before “Swamp Thing” emerged from the swamp it seems as if his fate was sealed with a $100 billion deal. Much like 2014’s “Constantine” TV show on NBC, which was also canceled after one season. The character of John Constantine (perfectly played by Matt Ryan) was able to live on in CW’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” While it seems DC has always had a problem with their darker heroes, their more mainstream characters such as Green Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, have prospered on the CW Television Network. As for the other original shows on DC Universe like “Titans and “Doom Patrol,” their futures seem just as uncertain. I for one will continue to watch and review “Swamp Thing” for the next 8 episodes and hope that soon, after the fans on the internet have spoken, “Swamp Thing” will return!

Swamp Thing Episode #101, Pilot – Review

With the launch of DC Universe streaming service, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros., have produced a few original programs that feature exclusively on the digital platform. Along with its live-action series “Titans” and “Doom Patrol,” the highly anticipated “Swamp Thing” has finally been released this month. Having been announced last year along with “Doom Patrol,” this is the second attempt to bring the character of Swamp Thing to the small screen. Since the character’s creation in 1971 by writer Len Wein (Marvel’s Wolverine) and artist Bernie Wrightson (“House of Secrets”), the character has appeared in two low budget films in the 1980s, a live-action series on the USA Network that ran from 1990 to 1993, and a short-lived animated series in 1991, with an accompanying action figure line. For the most part, the dramatic adaptations of Swamp Thing have been disappointingly B-grade and overly campy attempts to truly represent the character, until now.

Upon the release of the first episode of “Swamp Thing” on DC Universe, the popular humanoid-plant creature returns to it’s horror roots and its intended incarnation in this dark and dramatic web television series. Created and executive produced by screenwriter Gary Dauberman, comic book writer Mark Verheiden and director James Wan (“Aquaman“), this new show hopes to do justice to one of the most unusual character’s of the DC Comics Universe.

When Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) of the CDC returns to her hometown of Marais (pronounced Ma-ray), Louisiana, to investigate a mysterious and deadly epidemic that is spreading throughout the bayou town, she meets an eccentric scientist named Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who is also trying to find the source of this swamp-borne pathogen. While Abby reconnects with her old friends, including Matthew Cable, a police officer and Liz Tremayne, a local bartender and reporter, she also runs into the mother of her college friend, Shawna Sunderland, who still bears a grudge against her for her involvement with her daughter’s accidental death.
As Abby and Alec join forces to find the cause of the disease, they find the decayed body of Coyle, a local fisherman, whose daughter has been hospitalized after contracting the sickness, who has been covered inside and out with strange plants and vines. As they come closer to finding out the origin of the contagion, Abby learns that Alec was once a prominent biologist, who was disgraced by the scientific community. But when Alec gets too close to finding out the truth, he is murdered by an unknown assailant and left for dead in the murky swamp.

While many are familiar with the character of Swamp Thing, especially due to his resurgence in the 1980’s with the work of British comic book writer Alan Moore (“Watchmen”, “V for Vendetta”), he has been rarely seen in the DC Comics universe since his series relaunched as part of the “New 52” from 2011 to 2015, plus a six-part miniseries in 2016, written by Len Wein and art by Kelley Jones (one of my favorite artists). The DC Universe service seems ripe to debut the latest incarnation of the character. Although unfortunately, both the creators died in 2017, this show will hopefully honor their creation and present a fresh, new perspective on a character that has been through so many incarnations over the years. And with visionary horror director James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”) on the production team, along with character/creature actor Derek Mears (“Friday the 13th”,”Predators”) portraying the Swamp Thing creature, this dark and suspenseful show is sure to blossom forth. The vine and plant CGI effects are impressive, and the first episode did a good job of building the main characters, particularly Abby and Alec. The transformation/creation sequence for Swamp Thing was considerably disturbing and shocking, but very effective. I am looking forward to the continuation of this series by next Friday.