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The New 52 Swamp Thing #1 picks up where Brightest Day and its Aftermath left off: the once-dead botanist, Alec Holland, is now alive. (Mr. Holland’s opus is a little convoluted, so perhaps some recent history is in order.) Now, Holland and the Swamp Thing are two different beings. Comics legend Alan Moore established back in the 80s that the Swamp Thing was never really Alec Holland – he only thought he was, for a while. Moore’s “Anatomy Lesson” story revised the origin of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s classic horror character, and brought life back to Swamp Thing’s saga. The Swamp Thing was a monster who dreamed he’d been a man.
In Moore’s story, Alec Holland was killed in an explosion that launched his bio-restorative formula into the swamp, where it combined with his remains to form the Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing’s new origin made him more than a muck-encrusted bayou critter. Now he was a powerful elemental guardian of the Earth, connected to the planet’s mystical life-force, called “the Green.”
Fast forward to Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi’s Brightest Day series, in which Mr. Holland was resurrected by White Lantern magic (poor Boston Brand, a. k. a. Deadman, had to give up his brief return to life to make this possible). Now Holland was back, but that somehow meant his copied consciousness could no longer guide the Swamp Thing. Which was bad. Really bad. Swamp Thing without Holland is a bit like the Spectre without Jim Corrigan (or Hal Jordan, or Crispus Allen, or whomever) – he’s scary, he’s powerful, and he’s not terribly fond of human beings. Near the end of Brightest Day, the Swamp Thing massacred a board room full of fat cat oil barons. This set his old pal John Constantine out to solve the mystery of his return, which brings us to The Search for Swamp Thing.
Long story short, the un-Hollandaised Swamp Thing was trying to reconnect with his old consciousness, and Constantine was his first stop on the way to this reunion. Enlisting the aid of Batman (Dick Grayson) and Superman, the Hellblazer found Alec Holland in the same Louisiana lab where it all began, and the gang thwarted a Lexcorp plot to steal the Swamp Thing’s power. At the end of this series (by writer Jonathan Vankin), Holland is left to chart his own path. He retains a connection to the Swamp Thing, and seems to have some kind of link to the Green – but he’s not the swamp creature.
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