If Brightest Day accomplished anything for the DCU, it managed to clean up the continuity of several deceased characters while bringing them back to life and placing them firmly back in the DCU. Brightest Day did potentially do some damage to the DCU along the way though. Well, maybe not particularly to the DCU, but the DCU-V (The DC Universe Vertigo). As is plainly visible from the cover image of Brightest Day #24, The Swamp Thing is back in the DCU proper as a character, and as the protector of The Green. What isn’t so apparent from the cover, but from the last page of Brightest Day #24, is that a certain character who was spun out of Vertigo’s Swamp Thing title might be back in the DCU proper as well…and that may or may not be such a good thing.
If you’ve read any of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing then you know that The Swamp Thing’s alter ego Alec Holland really wasn’t The Swamp Thing. Alec Holland actually died in the explosion that seemingly created The Swamp Thing. The Swamp Thing only thought he was Alec Holland. Confusing I know, but it was a part of the brilliantly sprawling tale that Moore dreamed up for the character. When Vertigo started as an DC Comics imprint in the early 1990s, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, and The Sandman, which were all DCU proper titles at the time, became the big three (if you will) of the new imprint’s line. They were still causally linked to the DCU proper, but the stories that went on in the pages of these books took on a much more mature reader theme. Eventually, they became classics of the Vertigo line and to this day are revered by many readers. Swamp Thing eventually died out and was cancelled and The Sandman came to its planned storytelling end, but Hellblazer has continued to this day and is regarded by many as the “Flagship Title” of the Vertigo line. As time went by, the original connections between the storylines of Swamp Thing, The Sandman, and Hellblazer and the DCU proper faded away. Characters would show up now and again, like many superheroes did in their dreams during Morpheus’ funeral, which took place during the final Sandman story arc “The Wake,” but for the most part, Morpheus, Constantine, and Swamp Thing were free from the DCU’s continuity. More importantly, they were freed from the need to present “all ages friendly” stories. If Swamp Thing and Constantine become regular members of the DCU again though, some of the thematic storytelling freedom potential that’s regularly exercised in their Vertigo titles might not be available. This would be a huge detriment to the characters. Although, it has been many years since Vertigo started, and regular displays of blood, gore, horror, and other “mature” things are now becoming more and more commonplace amongst the mainstream books. Honestly, I’ve seen more blood spilled and more graphically violent murders occur in the pages of Brightest Day than I have in nearly any Vertigo title recently…
The point isn’t really that Swamp Thing definitely (and Constantine possibly) is rejoining the DCU proper, it’s more “What does this mean for Vertigo as an imprint?” Right now, Vertigo is home to some of the best ongoing, and recently completed, series in all of mainstream comics. Northlanders, DMZ, Unwritten, and the recently cancelled Madame Xanadu and Unknown Soldier (two more properties that will most likely be reappearing in the DCU proper sooner or later) are prime examples of these. The Vertigo name itself is now synonymous with edgy, mature, and most of all literary books. Granted, while recent storylines in Superman, Green Lantern, and other DCU proper titles have been quite strong thematically and literarily recently, no other mainstream publisher has a line near as strongly written, intelligent, and with as good a reputation and track record as Vertigo. If the plan is to remove the remaining superhero characters from the Vertigo line and reintegrate them into the DCU line while leaving the other Vertigo titles alone, then I can live with it. If the goal is the dissolution and absorption of the entire Vertigo line, much like with what has happened with DC Comics’ recently folded Wildstorm imprint, then I (and I’m sure many other readers) will have serious problems with DC Comics.
Seeing Swamp Thing back in print somewhere is, overall, a good thing at least. He’s been languishing in character limbo for a while, and DC Comics has to print something with him in it to retain the rights, so at least Alec Holland/Swamp Thing got a decent re-introduction to the DCU. He really is Alec Holland again though now, not an elemental with the memories of a deceased human (back to that confusing stuff again). He is the official “Protector of The Green” again, and apparently it’s the DCU proper’s Green that needs the protecting. Alec Holland himself was resurrected by the White Lantern, merged with the Swamp Thing, and tasked with purging the last of Nekron’s influence from the Earth’s Green. Upon completing this mission, Swamp Thing heals all of the Earth’s green and resumes his role as protector of The Green by violently murdering the oil magnates responsible for a devastating oil spill much like the real life one in The Gulf of Mexico last year (2010). Like I said, gore, violence, and murder are no longer strangers to the DCU line proper. Hopefully, where any future Swamp Thing series or appearance is concerned, neither will the precedent set by his stint at Vertigo for good storytelling.
Brightest Day has come to an end, and again, much like Blackest Night, it did more to clean up and reintroduce regular continuity to a host of DCU characters than the last two major Crisis storylines did (both Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis respectively). Hopefully, it just hasn’t gone too far and ushered in the end of DC Comics’ great Vertigo line as well.