Confession: graphic novels are NOT my usual genre. However, my teen who has recently fallen in love with them has been pushing me to step out of MY comfort zone. What better way to start than with Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, written by Maggie Stiefvater!
I received an advanced copy of the book from DC Comics via NetGalley for review purposes; all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
All The Deets:
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by DC Comics on October 13, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Comics & Graphic Novels, Superheroes, Coming of Age, Horror
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#1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater (the Raven Cycle series) and artist Morgan Beem unearth the primal power of memory and how it twists the bond between two brothers.
Twins Alec and Walker Holland have a reputation around town. One is quiet and the other is the life of any party, but the two are inseparable. For their last summer before college, Alec and Walker leave the city to live with their rural cousins, where they find that the swamp holds far darker depths than they could have imagined.
While Walker carves their names into the new social scene, Alec recedes into a summer-school laboratory, slowly losing himself to a deep, dark experiment. This season, both brothers must confront truths, ancient and familial, and as their lives diverge, tensions increase, and dormant memories claw to the surface.
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a story of shadows, both literal and imagined--and those that take form and haunt us.
My Thoughts on Swamp Thing: Twin Branches
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is dark and strange and beautiful. While I had initial hesitations about this format, the wonderful illustrations drew me in and made me slow my roll and pay closer attention to what was happening.
The twins, Alec and Walker, are as different as can be – Alec is quiet, painfully introverted, and more comfortable with his plants and experiments, while Walker is a total extrovert and social butterfly. Alec’s pain is up front and center, and I loved how Walker tried to pull Alec out of himself, while he himself had his own things to deal with that Alec wasn’t seeing. I appreciated the Type 1 diabetes rep-something you don’t see much of – and how it actually worked into the plot.
Alec is conducting experiments with plants – specifically, that they store memories and communicate in their own way. He brings his experiments to Virginia, and they suffer several mishaps along the way. (I doubt Virginia will never be quite the same again).
The snippets of plant characteristics were clever and intriguing analogies to human characteristics (and more specifically, Alec). That said, I do wish there was a little more context to explain what was going on with Alec’s experiment. Like: maybe why he did what he did with it, and the why/how it is affecting both him and the plant/wildlife around him.
The bullying storyline is one I think some readers will relate to, and I found myself getting emotional. I was annoyed with the cousins for their selfish and irresponsible behavior. The nonchalance of what happens to his experiments was annoying. So was everyone pushing him to party when he’s a diabetic AND he was so clearly not in his element. I loved the brothers’ relationship, and AND I definitely want to see more of Abby.
Morgan Beem’s illustrations are wonderful and weird, heavily hued in greens with slashes of black and deep purple. The expressiveness and the color and the layout all work well with Stiefvater’s text. The dogs-turning-plants were creepy as all get out – I loved it! The story is dark and I felt loneliness and pain pouring from Alec in some panels.
What I wish was different
The ending of the story was abrupt. It left a few unanswered questions. Two big ones for me? What made Alec decide to do what he did at the end? What happened to Fancy Sam’s memories? A few more pages and panels might have rounded it out, as this isn’t a huge book.
As this is the origin story for the Swamp Thing, I’m hoping very much that Maggie and Morgan have more in store for us. Between a great start to the story, moody, interesting artwork, along with just the right amount of weird/creepy, I would definitely read another installment! I’m curious to see what is next for both Alec and Walker, as well as seeing more of Alec’s new friend, Abby.