Superman #17 came out this week, a one and done horror story focusing on Jon and Kathy and the dealings of the nearby Deadman's Swamp. In a current comic world of six issue arcs built for trades, I love the one and done. And I especially love it when it stands alone *and* builds on overlying arcs. In this instance, the Deadman Swamp plot point hadn't been touched on since Superman #10. And there is more hints that Farmer Cobb is more than he says he is. So this issue worked for me and worked well.
The Superman title has been the more family-centric title of the super-books, so focusing on Jon also was welcomed. There was a little bit of Stranger Things in this issue so I wonder if storytellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason were trying to plug into that zeitgeist.
And the art by Sebastian Fiumara is perfect for the material. There is a sort of Bernie Wrightson feel to the proceedings. From the swamp surroundings to the moldering mansion to the monstrous animals, this really brought back echoes of the original Swamp Thing series. And that is always high praise.
I have a couple of theories about the proceedings, better said during the review. But the idea of Deadman's Swamp is a nice wrinkle of horror in the otherwise sci-fi tone of the book.
On to the book!
We start out with Jon home alone. There is a loving note on the fridge from Lois and Clark.
And he is doing what any kid is age would do in that situation ... eating junk food and watching an inappropriate horror movie.
I had to include this because it reminded me so much of my own misspent youth watching the entire opus of Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Phantasm, etc.
Go to snack - doritos and slim jims.
Kathy comes over and let's Jon know that Bessie (the prize winning cow from the State Fair issue) has broken free from her pen and is missing in the woods. Mr. Cobb has also been missing for the last two hours. Kathy is worried something has happened and so enlists Jon to help her look.
I mean, if this isn't a riff on Stranger Things which was a riff on E.T, I don't know what is.
It's just perfect.
Bessie's and Mr. Cobb's footprints lead into Deadman's Swamp, the area the kids are supposed to avoid.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. Kathy and Jon head in to investigate.
They come upon the area of the swamp Jon scorched back in Superman #10. The trees are burned stumps and the ground has been made into glass.
I love the middle panel showing the kids in reflection playing up the glass bit. And I love Jon's embarrassment of the area. That slight head turn in the last panel gives it all away. Perfect.
Heading deeper into the swamp, the fog gets thicker and suddnely the kids are confronted by a huge humanoid with blue eyes. In fact the moonlight casts this blue pall over everything.
I suppose it could be Cobb, who has acted mysterious in the past. It could be an alien. Could it be a Solomon Grundy like creature? The blue energy makes me wonder if this thing is somehow connected to Dr. Manhatten or Mr. Oz.
Whatever it is, it's scary.
I do like that it looks similar to the monster in the movie Jon is watching. That might play in later.
The last time Jon was in this swamp he saw that mutated undead looking moose.
Here he and Kathy run across huge animals, including this porcupine.
I love how Jon is selfless in diving in front of the quills.
One thing I am confused about is how much Kathy knows about Jon's powers. She clearly knows about his heat vision. But she acts like she doesn't know about his strength or invulnerability. And he hides it too.
The giant humanoid thing continues to chase the kids so they run deeper into the swamp and come across a moldering mansion which reminds me of the 'never-ending house' Alan Moore wrote about waaayyyy back in Swamp Thing #43.
The place is falling down around them. The monster rips the roof off.
But the weirdest thing is Bessie is on the top floor, rears up on her hind legs, and vomits a houseful of milk.
Is all of this really happening? That is the strangest thing in this otherwise incredibly weird issue.
With no place left to hide, Jon carries Kathy down the well and holds on to the rope. Out of nowhere a normal Mr. Cobb and Bessie peer in.
I love the last panel, with Kathy crushing on Jon and his bravery.
But it adds to the mystery. If the monster was Cobb, why not turn back into normal earlier? Why attack the kids? If it's not Cobb, what it is? And was that really Bessie? So many mysteries. And Cobb's excuse that the swamp gas is hallucinogenic doesn't seem right. (Although the monster in the swamp looking like the one in the movie Jon was watching makes it more plausible.)
I do worry about Cobb being something odd hiding out in Hamilton just like an interstellar alien on the run from SHADE was also hiding in Hamilton. Could the town be over a chaos stream??
In the end, Clark and Lois come home and are unaware of the night's activities. But something is real and out in the corn fields. The eye holes look almost like glasses! Could this be the pseudo-Clark??
So a nice little done-in-one horror story building on the 'odd little town' plots we've seen before and giving Jon and Kathy a nice spotlight. I loved the eerie art by Fiurama. And I hope that all of this folds into the upcoming arc of Reborn.