The Search for Swamp Thing #1 (August 2011) is the first issue in a three-part miniseries spinning out of the Brightest Day event, and picks up directly where that book left off. It is the first series to fully deal with the characters of John Constantine and Swamp Thing after their reintroduction to the DC Universe in Brightest Day.
Following the unpredictable events that concluded the BRIGHTEST DAY series in April, Swamp Thing went missing. With him on the loose, who better to help find him and restore his identity than John Constantine, the man who helped him learn it in the first place?
In BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #1, Constantine enlists the help of the world’s greatest detective, Batman, to assist in finding the plant elemental. The Dark Knight, in turn, seeks out the help of one of Constantine’s former flames, Zatanna. Can the trio get to the bottom of Swamp Thing’s location and stop him from his path of darkness before it’s too late?
The issue opens on a pub in London, where John is reading a newspaper. Chas looks up from his iPad to mock him for buying into the old media and Constantine says that the wood fibres in the paper called out to him - that rogue elemental Swamp Thing is calling out to him. He heads to an arboretum at Kew Gardens and tries to summon Swamp Thing into the foliage, but that backfires when it springs to life and wraps around him, injecting his left hand with a strange green substance. Chas helps John escape the vines and they flee as the trees burst out of the greenhouse roof, growing hundreds of feet out into the sky.
In the cab, John says that he needs to find Swamp Thing quickly, before anything else goes wrong. Chas jokes that he should contact him on Facespace (presumably an equivalent of Facebook) and that gives John the idea to use someone else's computer to do all the detective work for him. Recalling a chance encounter with Batman years before, John resolves to head to Gotham City to recruit the superhero.
Over in Gotham, GCPD commissioner Jim Gordon has accompanied Batman to a crime scene: a mobster who'd been making good money disposing of hazardous waste illegally has been found dead, impaled on a tree branch. It's an odd way to die, but even odder is the fact that trees don't grow in the filthy, corrupted wasteland that they're stood on. The killer must have planted it first. Gordon suggests that they have an eco-terrorist on their hands, not knowing that he's speaking the truth - and that the killer is Swamp Thing.
After failing to find a pub that serves decent beer, Constantine manages to flag down a taxi. Unfortunately, it's one with a gun-wielding mugger in it. He throws some enchanted grains in the man's face, causing him to fly out of the car and into some trash cans, and then gets in. John starts drawing a location spell in a notepad, telling the driver that he's looking for Batman; his driver suggests an easier solution - drive towards the Bat-Signal shining in the sky.
Later, Batman returns to his Batmobile and contacts his butler, Alfred, on the videophone, asking him to do some analysis on a sample from the tree, but when the camera focuses on Alfred, Batman sees that he is unconscious. At that moment he turns his head and realises that he is not alone in the car: John has somehow entered it without him noticing. Batman asks what's happened to Alfred and John says that he needed Batman's full attention. He sparks up a cigarette, something that annoys Batman, who kicks him - literally - out of the car.
John says that he knows about the dead mobster, and that Swamp Thing killed him. Batman doesn't believe him, so Constantine says that he'll have to find another superhero to deal with the impending massacre that Swamp Thing will commit if he's not stopped. Batman still needs convincing, so Constantine shows him the strange green infection under his skin and then astrally projects both of them into The Green, the existential plane that connects all plant life. There, Batman spots Swamp Thing, who flies over and grabs John by the throat, choking him unconscious. Just before he blacks out, however, Constantine notices that there's something wrong with Swampy - something missing.
John wakes to find himself in some kind of hospital room with the magician Zatanna standing over him. Batman called her in to provide some additional occult advice, not knowing that she and John used to be an item, but broke up badly. She turns to leave, but John shows her the green mark on his hand, telling her that he needs her help. She says that she can only slow the infection, not stop it, and casts a spell.
John says that he needs to get hold of Alec Holland to stop this whole crazy debacle. He explains that Holland's soul - or a copy thereof - was what kept Swamp Thing tethered to reality and away from homicidal urges. But, he says, it looks like Holland's body and soul, which was implanted into Swamp Thing in Brightest Day issue 24, has split off from Swampy, leaving the elemental soulless and off the leash.
And, just as he says that, a living Alec Holland does indeed crawl out of the swamps of the Louisiana bayou...
Continued in The Search for Swamp Thing issue two.
- This issue marks the first appearance of the DCU version of Chas Chandler.
- The acrimonious break-up between John and Zatanna, hinted at here, is a new addition to the mythology; previously they had always been shown to be amicable exes, such as in Zatanna: Everyday Magic.
- John mentions having met Batman before during a previous crisis; he did indeed, in Swamp Thing issue 44, by Alan Moore. The issue was set during the world-spanning 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'.
- Batman refers to Swamp Thing as the Star City hero - a reference to the events of Brightest Day issue 24.
- Constantine refers to himself as 'Conjob', the nickname given to him by (and used exclusively by, until now) Rich Eldridge, a character from the Vertigo Universe comic Hellblazer.
- As well as referring to the Alan Moore Swamp Thing storyline "American Gothic", in which Constantine introduced the Earth elemental to the full extent of his powers, John also mentions loaning his 'equipment' to Swamp Thing, referring, of course, to the events depicted in Swamp Thing issue 76 and Hellblazer issue 10, respectively, in which Swamp Thing posessed John's body to impregnate his wife, resulting in their tri-parented elemental offspring, Tefé Holland.
- It seems unusual for Batman to be surprised that Swamp Thing is a threat to Gotham, since Swampy clashed directly with Batman in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing volume 2 issue 53 - something referenced in this issue, when John says that Batman "tangled with Swamp Thing" previously. However, it is possible that this is the result of continuity having been changed by the numerous universe-rewriting crises that had taken place between the publication of that story and this one. Also, as mentioned in the next issue, the Batman in this issue is not Bruce Wayne (who tackled Swampy in the Alan Moore issue), but former Robin Dick Grayson (the result of events in the then-concurrent comic book series Batman, Incorporated).
- Elements of this issue appear to contradict what happened in Brightest Day issue 24. In that issue, Alec Holland's body, despite having been burned and dumped in the Louisiana bayou, crawled out of the ground in Star City, California. Holland was then restored to full life by a creature known as The Entity, before being absorbed into the body of Swamp Thing to become its guiding consciousness once more. Somehow between that moment and the murder of some evil oil company execs that same night, Holland's body became separated from Swamp Thing and wound back up in the bayou, where it stayed until it was somehow reanimated again and crawled away. However, this may be explained next issue.
- Chas berates John for being 'the last man (in England) who actually buys a newspaper', yet there are two other men in the first panel on that page reading papers.
- Constantine's taxi drives towards the Bat-Signal to find Batman; however, this would only take him to the GCPD headquarters, not to Batman himself, as the signal light is stationary and fixed to the police HQ's roof. He couldn't be following Batman from the HQ to the crime scene and back, either, because Batman was already established as being at the scene prior to John catching the taxi.
- How does Batman get into and out of the city? He's shown out of town with Jim Gordon at the crime scene, then does his disappearing act. Later, he lands in an alley next to the Batmobile and enters it to contact Alfred about the tree sample. So did he park the Batmobile, swing on the rooftops out of town to meet Gordon at the crime scene, then swing back again just to get back in his car?
- The issue featured a variant cover painted by JG Jones.
- In order to create some mystery about Constantine's return to the DCU, early promo artwork showed this cover with Constantine blacked out and Zatanna replaced by a black silhouette.
- Constantine references Harlow Greyhound Track and visits Kew Gardens; both of these places exist in the real world.
- When introducing himself to Batman, Constantine says, 'I'm a nasty piece of work, chief. Ask anybody.' This was the same phrase that he used to introduce himself to Swamp Thing in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing issue 37.
- Several changes were made to the artwork and lettering between the preview and the final issue. The most obvious of these is that in the preview Constantine was accompanied by a fat, bearded, unnamed man. In the final issue the dialogue was changed to identify him as Chas and he was redrawn to look more like the Chas Chandler featured in Hellblazer. This is why his hat and clothes look a little too big in some panels.
- John's monologue on the Kew Gardens page was altered; in the original copy it stated that the murdered businessmen (seen in Brightest Day issue 24) were in the US. This created an odd sequence of events as it involved Constantine flying from the UK to America to inspect the crime scene, then back to England for no particular reason, then back to the US to visit Batman. In the final version the dialogue was changed to imply that the businessmen were based in the UK.
- The cover also went through some revisions. The original version of the cover had Hawkman in the place of Zatanna; this version was also used in advertisements after the Zatanna cover had been leaked on the web, leading some to speculate that Zatanna had been excised from the finished story.