A Spooky Read for Halloween – “Swamp Thing: Twin Branches” Graphic Novel Review

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches
Images Provided by DC Entertainment

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a horror-themed DC Comics young adult graphic novel by Maggie Stiefvater that features two inseparable brothers who couldn’t be more different. It is a new, innovative, and unique origin story for Alec Holland, the man who became Swamp Thing.

I was provided with an eARC of Swamp Thing: Twin Branches from DC Entertainment. All opinions are my own. 

While I watched the Swamp Thing TV show on DC Universe, I am not a big reader of Swamp Thing in general. I’ve mostly read crossovers with Constantine and stories included in larger collections. What really inspired me to read this book was because it was written by Maggie Stiefvater. I was familiar with her work through the Shiver trilogy and The Raven Cycle, the latter of which is one of my favorite novel series. I already knew her stories to be heart-felt and engaging. Swamp Thing: Twin Branches did not disappoint.

Please note that there will be some spoilers below. 

In Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, Alec and Walker Holland are twin brothers. Walker is more of the popular type who likes to party and tends to be the center of attention. Alec kind of fades into the background and is not as easygoing or approachable as his brother. Their differences sometimes cause strife between the two brothers. They do not always understand each other, but they are inseparable. The two do everything together, including planning to attend the same college after their last summer break.

When Alec and Walker discover their father having an affair, they leave the city to spend the summer in the Virginia countryside with their Aunt Jessica and their cousins in order to give their parents some time and space. Walker’s main goal for the summer is to party and socialize with his cousins and friends. Alec would rather spend time in the summer-school lab where he can work on his plant-based experiments. He also has to constantly monitor his glucose levels. They never seem to be consistent and that’s obviously something he would need to be well aware of. He developed diabetes when his body was fighting off a bad virus the year prior.

Swamp Thing Alec and AbbyLater, due to a couple of mishaps, some forest animals and his cousins’ two dogs get into his experiment. The dogs and the other animals become more plant than animal. When his experiment comes into contact with his own blood, he is suddenly able to hear and feel what the plants around him are saying. He is not too terribly thrown off by this as he tells his friend Abby. He’s always felt more like a plant than a human. Alec could always relate to them more. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse for Abby, Alec, and Walker and Alec ends up making a huge sacrifice for his brother which will change all of their lives forever.

Writer Maggie Stiefvater is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Along with The Raven Cycle and the Shiver trilogy, she has written a number of novels for both adults and young adults. Her writing in Swamp Thing: Twin Branches paints a fantastical world of angst, growing pains, and science that feels and looks a whole lot like magic. There were quite a few characters, so they weren’t all fleshed out as much, but you learn quite a bit about Alec, Walker, and Abby as the story progresses. Stiefvater wove together a story that was both engaging and hard to put down.

Artist Morgan Beem is a freelance artist who mostly works in comics and illustration. I must admit that the art style was not my favorite and it did put me a bit off at first. However, as I read through the graphic novel, it began to grow on me. With a second read through, I feel that my first reaction was probably a little harsh. The art style does fit the story that Maggie Stiefvater is telling so well. This is not an easy story or a fun story. These brothers go through some hard times. Things can be gritty and harsh, but not without hope. I feel that Beem was able to portray these aspects of the story in a way that made sense.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is recommended for readers ages 13+. Some of the themes would not be appropriate for younger readers as it a bit scary and features teens partying and drinking, some language, and two of the characters tripping on Alec’s science experiment. But in general, it is a story about learning to embrace who you are and learning to accept others for who they are. It’s about self-discovery, love and first love, friendship, and loyalty. The world can be a scary place full of unknowns, but no one is ever truly as alone as they think they are.

As a whole, I enjoyed Swamp Thing: Twin Branches. The story doesn’t shy from the hard aspects of life, such a one Alec and Abby Swamp Thingparent cheating on the other, bullying to a violent level, not feeling like you fit in with anyone else, and the pain of trying to connect with others when you are unable to relate to them. This is kind of a darker and grittier story, which is appropriate for the month of October. But not all is doom and gloom. Alec makes friends and though he and his brother fight, they remain close and incredibly loyal to each other.

The ending is very bittersweet, and leaves you with an overall creepy feeling. It’s the perfect ending for a Swamp Thing story and the perfect graphic novel to read to get you into the Halloween mood. Make sure to pay special attention to the panels and backgrounds. There are some spooky looking beings in the dark of the woods.

I recommend Swamp Thing: Twin Branches to those who are looking to read something with a spooky atmosphere for this time of year. I would consider the graphic novel to be a highly enjoyable story for new and old fans alike. It provides a different perspective on a character who is not as mainstream in the DC Comics lineup. And if you’re looking for more Swamp Thing, DC Comics also released a Swamp Thing Halloween special earlier this month!

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is available today from DC, comic book shops, local and online indie bookstores, and your local library digital apps.

Author: Jessica Rae

Jessica has a BA in music with an emphasis in voice and spends her day typesetting, editing, writing, and moderating webinars. Jessica primarily reviews anime and comic book series. She also offers insights on various movies, books, games, and other geeky topics.

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