The closing panel to ‘Swamp Thing’ #9 revealed the return of Anton Arcane to the ‘Swamp Thing’ universe! For those who haven’t read ‘Swamp Thing’ before, Arcane is the most horrible vile man since… well… pretty much anyone. In the previous DCU, Arcane delved into dark sciences in an attempt at gaining immortality. Since then, he’s died several times, gone to Hell, and returned, become a demon lord and was actually pregnant when he was last seen.

It’s unclear how much of Arcane’s previous history will be used in the New 52 Universe but it seems that he’s no longer pregnant and is not a demon lord. Instead, he is one of the lords of the Rot. However, his history and battles with the Swamp Thing and his estranged daughter Abigail are still intact.

As this issue opens, Abigail and Alec (Swamp Thing) are recovering from their battle with Sethe last issue. Alec’s Swamp Thing form is weak and Abby must get him back to the swamp where he can recover.

Meanwhile, Arcane is telling his history with Abigail to an unnamed person who is lying near death at Arcane’s own hand. The new history tells that the Arcane family has always had ties to the Rot and that Abigail is destined to be one of the Rot’s beings.

This issue is naturally a bit slower after the hectic battle at the end of the first nine-issue arc. But don’t think that slow means a calm relaxing issue. This one is so perfect and so tense that you just have to read through it quickly and, once it gets to the final page, you know that Scott Snyder is about to take the next arc to new heights… or if Arcane’s involved, is that new depths?

The art this issue is from Francesco Francavilla. I’ve loved the organic style of Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy over the run of ‘Swamp Thing’ so far (as you can tell by my raving on nearly every issue) but Francavilla comes into this title and totally owns it! His pencils have a much more classic horror comic style. The feeling of gloom that permeates his work is so oppressive and thick that I’d compare him to a visual Edgar Allan Poe. His page layouts aren’t as awesomely fluid as Paquette’s but the standard square panels with rounded corners that Francavilla uses only seems add to the tension. As icing on the creepy cake, Francavilla’s use of shadows in the scenes where Arcane is dictating his story to the dying man remind me why I loved ‘Swamp Thing’ comics as a kid. Arcane is truly horrifying!

Verdict: Buy

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Cover by Yanick Paquette