Something smells rotten in the swamp, and Judge Paul Pritchard swears it's not him.
"The swamp is my world. It is who I am; it is what I am. I was once a man. I know the evil men do. Do not bring your evil here, I warn you. Beware the wrath of Swamp Thing."
A second-tier comic book character at best, Swamp Thing has nonetheless spawned a number of spinoffs. With two movies, video games, and an animated show already under his belt, you'd think Swamp Thing may have exhausted all avenues. But no, the early Nineties also saw a three-season, 72-episode live-action series released. Not only did the show utilize the suit from the Swamp Thing movies, it also saw the return of actor Dick Durock, reprising his role as the title character, having played him in both movie adaptations.
Facts of the Case
Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2 consists of four discs containing the following episodes:
One quick note: Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, we have it on good authority (from star Dick Durock himself) that Season Two consisted of only nine episodes, while Season Three had 50. Volume 2 contains the first 26 episodes of that mega season. So for anyone wondering why Shout! Factory didn't release the show in season sets, now you know.
It would be fair to say we are currently experiencing something of a "Golden Age" for comic-book movies and TV shows. On the big screen, having completed the Spider-Man trilogy, we now have the likes of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man entertaining us, with The Dark Knight and Hellboy II set to follow. Meanwhile, on the small screen, we're impressed by the likes of Heroes. But those, like me, old enough to remember a pre-Matrix/pre-X-Men world, will tell you of a darker time, a time when movies like Dolph Lundgren's The Punisher, Captain America and, perhaps worst of all, the dreaded Justice League of America, were excreted unto the world.
Things were not much better on TV, either. While Batman: The Animated Series proved both critically and commercially successful, it also proved to be the exception to the rule. Further evidence of this can be found in Shout! Factory's release of Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2, a formulaic dud that should have been left festering in whatever bayou it was found.
Watching the 26 episodes that form this box set, you'd never believe the comic book that preceded it, under the guidance of bona fide genius Alan Moore, was once genuinely groundbreaking. Here, in lesser hands than those of Moore, Swamp Thing is barely attached to his horror-based roots, and more disappointingly, lacks the depth that Moore bestowed upon the character. For all intents and purposes, Swamp Thing has been reduced to a go-to guy for when some dumb kid gets into trouble, kinda like Gentle Ben, but without the threat of Swamp Thing going feral and tearing the kid to pieces.
Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2 opens up the third "epic" season of the show; and when I say epic, I mean epic. Fifty episodes were produced for Season Three of Swamp Thing which, based on the quality of the show, is quite surprising. Clearly the show had its fair share of devotees and, apparently, was once the top-rated show on USA network. I can only assume said network was going through something of a lean spell at the time.
While Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2 takes the basic structure of the comic, complete with Swampy's nemesis Anton Arcane, it reduces each element into Saturday morning TV fodder of the lowest order. Indeed, rather than having Arcane be a legitimate threat to Swamp Thing, in their infinite wisdom the series' creators saw fit to have Arcane act like a whiny child, and look like the keyboard player from a New Romantic band, circa 1983.
With each episode clocking in at a mere 24 minutes apiece, you may be forgiven for assuming the show was at least tightly paced, lacking the necessary time to really drag. While that assumption would be reasonable, it would also be totally incorrect. Each minute spent with this show was torturous; I could literally feel the life being sapped from me, each minute wasted on this show piling up, until I had lost nearly nine hours on it. Nine hours I'll never get back that could have been better spent honing my skills on Rock Band.
My biggest beef with the show is its refusal to let Swamp Thing let rip. Actually, let me rephrase that. We're dealing with a character that, at its core, is a monster that fights sorcerers, monsters, and other ne'er-do-wells who stumble through his swamp. Now imagine if someone pitched that idea to you, you'd be expecting some seriously cool ass-kicking action, wouldn't you? Do I need to tell you, you won't get anything like that in Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2? Yes, you get to see Swamp Thing help some carnies out, despite the smell of cabbage and their small hands, and he even tussles with some escaped convicts. But, really, for such a fantastical setting, Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2 is seriously lacking imagination. Case in point: the episode "A Nightmare On Jackson Street" sees Swamp Thing helping out his friend Will, who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Following a robbery gone wrong, Will's life is put in danger, while his conscience is also troubling him. Cue Swamp Thing, stepping in with some sage advice and a little assistance to help out his buddy. No asses get kicked; in fact Swamp Thing, as is the norm for this show, doesn't even confront the villains. He's basically Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote) in a giant turd costume. When Swampy does decide to take action, it more often than not means using the power of the swamp (which I believe is only second to the Power of Greyskull); in layman's terms this basically involves setting a bunch of spiders onto a villain or some other such copout.
No extras are included on the disc which features a bog-standard transfer. The picture quality is, at the least, better than VHS but certainly no great shakes; a number of older shows resurrected on DVD recently have looked far better.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While I personally didn't care for Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2, I can at least appreciate Shout! Factory for putting the show out on DVD. I've had the pleasure of reviewing a number of Shout! Factory titles and am continually impressed by their efforts at releasing cult TV shows other companies show no interest in.
Never has the term "for fans only" been more apt. Poor acting, uninspired storylines, and dodgy haircuts conspire to make recommending Swamp Thing: The Series, Volume 2 impossible to all but the most die-hard Swamp Thing enthusiasts.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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