At long last, Rotworld comes to its climactic conclusion. As per usual, and because they comprise two parts of a whole, we’ll be looking at ANIMAL MAN #17 and SWAMP THING #17 together. Will the Red and Green prevail over the Rot, or does this story spell curtains for our heroes and all life on Earth?
For those who came in late, here’s the rundown: Alec Holland (the Swamp Thing) and Buddy Baker (Animal Man) are the avatars of the Green and the Red respectively. Well except Buddy isn’t really the avatar, just the father/guardian of the real Red avatar, Maxine Baker. The two heroes fight to protect their respective domains of life against the greed of humanity and the forces of the other domains. These domains are the Red, the Green, and the Rot. The three domains struggle against each other in a huge three-way standoff, kind of like in “The Good The Bad And The Ugly”.
Although in this case, the comic sort of stacked favor so heavily against the Rot in terms of sympathy that it’s more like The Good, The Other Good, and The Bad Which Is Also The Ugly.
Every so often one side of the conflict would try to overstep its bounds, and claim the Earth for whatever broad category of life it stands for. This time, it’s the Rot’s turn, and they (re)enlisted a powerful champion of decay, Anton Arcane. Anton is also Alec Holland’s oldest enemy and the uncle/father of his love interest, Abigail Arcane. As you can probably guess, Anton Arcane is a right bastard and wants to spread decay over the whole of the planet, damn the consequences.
To that end, he tricked Animal Man and Swamp Thing with a portal into the very Rot itself, a place beyond time or the power of death that transported them one year into the future. Keep that whole time travel thing in mind, it’ll become important later.
In one year, the world has been ravaged by rotting things, plant and animal life nearly swept away, humanity brought to the brink of extinction. Those that lived, and were without a tie to either the Red or the Green were swallowed by putrefaction, drafted into its foul army and forced to deliver death upon any that resisted. It’s this world our heroes landed in, where most heroes succumbed long ago, and little bastions of life remain under siege. In the (perhaps vain) hope of finding their loved ones, apparently captured by rotten forces, they set out from separate places to combat Arcane at his stronghold and put an end to the madness. Over the course of their journey, the two gain and lose allies, until they come upon that dread fortress.
Thus is where we arrive here, in ANIMAL MAN #17 and SWAMP THING #17. And damn, I should get paid to recap stories.
The hard part about recapping these issues however is that to give even half the story is to spoil an entire issue. Suffice to say Animal Man’s forces and Swamp Thing’s forces crash against the fortress from either side (by coincidence, I might add). It’s a big fight, with more allies lost and no new ones gained. Maybe I’ll Tumblr some of my favorite panels, but there’s a lot of good stuff. Like Mr Freeze dying because he got distracted from his job by his “wife”. Or Frankenstein being chosen for his ability to overcome great fear.
Oh yes, they go there. It’s awesome.
There’s also the lingering problem of each protagonist’s respective loved ones, Maxine and Abigail. Over the course of Rotworld we’ve seen hints that the two may or may not be alive, in the clutches of Arcane. Thankfully for me, because this was revealed in previous issues, I can safely say the two are, in fact, dead. Sort of.
This finale is sad and tragic as all hell. Awesome, as per the aforementioned Frankenstein, but tragic.
So what about the end? We can’t really end it with Rotworld, the regular DC continuity needs to keep going. Can’t have this be the DCU’s future. At the end of the day, the status quo must be maintained. Or at least, a broad status quo. And indeed, some time travel is involved as I predicted it would. And from an unlikely source given that the heroes have the entire DCU at their disposal to obtain chronal aid.
Let’s just say not everyone in the party voted for the party’s candidate. And of those who did, even a loyal party member can admit they made a mistake.
With it all said and done, was this a satisfying conclusion to the Rotworld event? Yes, though as is the nature of the two ongoing series, the story hasn’t ended. Rotworld is a story that could only come about in an alternate timeline, where you can get away with any damn thing. Want to kill a bunch of heroes and villains? Go ahead! Want to pervert all the old standbys for the sake of a certain tone? Be our guest! Want to cause mass death? Knock yourself out! It’s an Elseworld’s story, so do whatever you want! It’s what made The Defenders so great.
As the continuation of an ongoing plot? It’s alright. And if nothing else, now people can go back to reading only one of the series or the other. I myself might stick around in Animal Man a bit longer, see what’s going on. But if you were on the fence about reading the opposite series to the one you’re already reading, the event was all the better with both sides of the story.