[NOTE: This review focuses upon the entirety of Alan Moore’s run on Saga of The Swamp Thing. It is worth noting that DC Comics never collected the first twenty issues from this series (Moore’s ran began with Issue #21) and that the six volumes referred to in this review are from the most recent reprinted collections.]

Alec Holland was a brilliant and idealistic scientist with dreams of ending world hunger. His life’s work was a plant-growth formula that could turn dead deserts into lush forests. But such work does not go unnoticed and few shared Holland’s idealism, seeing only the potential for profit.

So it was that Alec Holland was killed for his work, his body splashed with chemicals and set aflame by a bomb, doomed to a painful death as he dove into the swamp outside his lab. Or was he? Something of Alec Holland survived that night. Something that merged with the chemicals in his lab and the plants of the swamp. Something that was some thing… a Swamp Thing!

For years, the Swamp Thing searched for a cure for his condition, fighting all manner of monster and evil-doer as he did so. He made a nemesis of the mad scientist Anton Arcane and befriended Arcane’s hapless niece Abigail. Yet in his quest to maintain and regain his humanity, one question never occurred to the Swamp Thing—what if he wasn’t human anymore?

What if he was something new, formed from the memories of the man who was Alec Holland? What if he was something more than a monster? Something new, yet simultaneously ancient?

These were the questions proposed by Alan Moore when he took over the Saga Of The Swamp Thing title with issue #20, beginning a now legendary run of comics. Moore transformed the book, turning it from a science-fiction adventure title into something more mystical and mature. Like many Dennis O’Neil comics of the 1970s, Moore would examine serious ecological issues even as he gave The Swamp Thing a new origin steeped in Moore’s own unique blend of arcana and horror.

There is no way to calculate just how influential this run of comics was on the DC Universe as a whole. Moore redefined the cosmology of the DC Universe, introducing new concepts such as The Green—a mystic realm that connects all plant life—while organizing the hierarchy of DC Comics’ afterlife and redefining classic characters as Deadman and The Phantom Stranger as he did so. He also introduced a marvelous new character in the form of blue-collar magus, John Constantine. At the same time, Moore spun a tale of an epic romance between The Swamp Thing and Abigail, a romance that would see The Swamp Thing storming the gates of Hell, traveling among the stars, and bringing a major metropolitan city to a standstill! All in the name of their love.

These six volumes feature a variety of illustrators who match Moore’s scripts in quality. The only real weakness the series has artistically is a lack of visual continuity due to the variety of fill-in artists who were employed during Moore’s run. The artwork also suffers somewhat in that Moore’s writing often obscured the artwork or otherwise made it redundant. Granted, Moore has always been a verbose writer, but in later years he allowed his artistic collaborators more space to work their own magic.

This series was suggested for mature readers by the publisher and that is a suggestion with which I strongly agree. While not containing as much outright bloodshed or nudity as many modern comics, this book does deal with a number of adult themes that teenage audiences might not be able to fully appreciate. Among these are a fair bit of horrific imagery, murder, the use of psychotropic drugs, and the discussion of Abigail’s physical relationship with the Swamp Thing.

Saga Of The Swamp Thing, vol. 1-6
by Alan Moore
Art by Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala,
Volume 1: 9781401220839
Volume 2: 9781401225445
Volume 3: 9781401227678
Volume 4: 9781401240462
Volume 5: 9781401230968
Volume 6: 9781401246921
Vertigo, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Mature Audiences (18+)

  • Matt

    | He/Him Librarian


    A librarian with over 10 years experience in public and academic settings, Matthew Morrison has been blogging about comic books for nearly as long as they’ve had a word for it.  Over the past two decades, he has written regular columns, commentary, parodies and reviews for such websites and blogs as Fanzing, 411 Mania, Screen Rant and Comics Nexus.  He has served as an Expert in Residence for a seminar on Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults at the University of North Texas and has given several lectures on the history of comics, manga and cosplay culture at libraries and comic conventions around the country. In addition to his work for No Flying No Tights, he is the Contributing Editor of and maintains a personal blog at

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