Horror can make strange bedfellows.

Trauma, tragedy, and terror can bring people together. Even mud encrusted muck monsters and school teachers. Especially in the wake of what you thought was a case of domestic violence, but turned out to be something far, far worse. But that is an earlier story in the run (which you should definitely read) that leads up to this union of an iconic couple of the DC Universe, Swamp Thing and Abigail Arcane. This tale of beauty and the beast coming in Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 from Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Tatjana Wood, and John Costanza.

Amidst the horror of the first year or so of this era of the Swamp Thing, there was a budding romance between Alec and Abby that came to bloom in “Rite of Spring”. For all that this run redefined Swamp Thing as an entity separate from Alec Holland, repositioning him as a plant who thought he was a man, it presented how much humanity and compassion he really had. Sometimes even more than some of the human characters. Here we see confessions of feelings and a communion through consumption of drugs that show just how connected animal and plant life can be. It’s a weird love story, fraught with tragedy before and after, but one that reminds us that anyone can find love.

The artwork in this issue is some of the most stunning, most beautiful, in this run from Bissette, Totleben, and Wood. There’s a synergy between layouts, shading, and colour that enhance and embolden the hallucinatory trip that Abby is going through in a way that conveys the transcendent experience well to the reader. The pacing for this issue is interesting, presented in grids and tiers at the start, that lead to an explosion of collages during Abby’s trip. I see it as a kind of visual cue for the rigidness and trepidation at the beginning, followed by a fusion of Swamp Thing and Abby after she eats the hallucinogenic tuber. Wonderful colour work from Wood during that sequence.

John Costanza is one of the best letterers ever to work in the business and helped set a design sense for DC through the ’80s, especially through Swamp Thing and Batman. He took the essence of the massive contribution that Gaspar Saladino left as a foundation and built upon it, refining it for future audiences.

The Moore, Bissette, Totleben, Wood, and Costanza run on Swamp Thing (along with Shawn McManus, Rick Veitch, Ron Randall, and others) is something that I believe that everyone should read at some point in their lives. Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 in particular highlights much of the heart within the horror, suggesting that love can unite anything, and brings together one of comics’ greatest couples.

Swamp Thing #34

Classic Comic Compendium: Saga of the Swamp Thing #34

Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 – “Rite of Spring”
Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Stephen Bissette & John Totleben

Colourist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November 27 1984
Also available in Saga of the Swamp Thing – Book Two

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!