Swamp Thing, in the wake of Anton Arcane's airship crash in the previous issue, returns to the crash site in the mountains in order to find the body and verify that his Arch-Enemy is truly dead. When he succeeds in doing so, he feels a sense of loss for two reasons. First, he reflects that he and Arcane were two sides of the same coin in terms of having lost their human nature. Second, he fears that the modern world may be acting to rid itself of "shadow" creatures like him and Arcane.
Meanwhile, General Sunderland and his associate, DDI head Dwight Wicker, having learned that Swamp Thing and his friends are all still in the West Virginia woods, plan to kill them all for knowing the shady truth about their respective organizations. Their cover story is that they're protecting Americans from alien invasion.
Dennis Barclay, having slept with Liz Tremayne in the previous issue, assumes they're now a couple, but Liz disabuses him of that notion, saying that "All we have in common is the horror in our lives." Dennis doesn't take that well, and the two of them return to their hotel in silence to get his medical bag and then go their separate ways. At the hotel, oil mogul Hec "Dallas" Brandon, who had tried coming on to Liz in Issue 16, now offers to retrieve the bag for her, unaware that Sunderland Corporation agents have just planted a bomb in their room. Just outside, Dennis hears the explosion and rushes inside to find Liz, in the lobby, babbling to herself in shock. Flashing back to his Vietnam tour of duty, he runs, dragging her along with him, in case there's a backup bomb. He thinks to himself that maybe things could work out between them "so long as they never ran out of horrors," and smiles.
Meanwhile, Matt Cable confirms for his wife, Abby, that the various monsters lately surrounding him were unconscious creations of his brain, a result of the DDI's electroshock treatments. He claims, however, that he's finally fought them and made them go away for good, and also that he's given up drinking. Matt then tries to initiate lovemaking, but between this revelation and his recent alcohol-induced behaviour, she's not ready. He claims to be okay with this, but soon afterwards, drinking alone, he creates a tiny blue woman to dance for him, thus revealing that he hasn't really rid himself of his dark paranormal ability, but has merely learned to control it.
Sunderland's men go into action, torching the forest where Swamp Thing is hiding and surrounding it with troops hidden behind a ring of blinding light. They also blow up the Cables' home; fortunately, they're outside and manage to escape. Swamp Thing attempts to do the same, but a barrage of bullets cuts him down. A Sunderland agent pronounces him dead.
This is the first issue authored by Alan Moore.
- Antagonist in Mourning: Inverted. Swamp Thing mourns Arcane's death.
- Cliffhanger: The issue ends with the title character apparently dead.
- Evil Counterpart: Cradling Arcane's body, Swamp Thing reflects that the two of them were more alike than he'd realized.You were my opposite. I had my humanity...taken away from me. I've been trying to claw it back. You started out human...and threw it all away. You did it deliberately. We defined each other, didn't we? By understanding you...I came that much closer...to understanding myself.
- Gullible Lemming: An initially skeptical local man believes a Sunderland agent's cover story about hunting down an alien as soon as the agent utters the words, "national security." The local even offers to help unload the searchlights.Sunderland: "National security" is one of those magical little phrases. It stops people worrying about what you're doing, where you're going...who you're killing.
- Make Room for the New Plot: Liz and Dennis, who'd been the major supporting characters in Pasko's run from the beginning, are abruptly Put on a Bus after their escape from death, and so is the ongoing plotline about their relationship, or lack thereof. All this is so the series can focus primarily on the upcoming deconstruction and reconstruction of the Swamp Thing, and secondarily on the Cables' deteriorating marriage.
- Never Found the Body: Averted. Swamp Thing has seen his Arch-Enemy "die" enough times realize that, even though he saw Arcane's airship crash and burn, he can't assume he's dead until he's seen the corpse firsthand. Arcane still comes back, in Issue 29.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Invoked and subverted. Swamp Thing decides to run to "safety" through the halo of light, reasoning that "[t]his body's...near enough invulnerable." And indeed, previous issues had shown that a bullet wound is essentially harmless to him. A barrage of bullets, however, including one through the head, succeeds in felling him.
- Power Perversion Potential: Matt gains control of his formerly unconscious power to make thoughts real. However, being a sexually-frustrated, relapsed alcoholic, he now uses it for his own erotic entertainment.
- Put on a Bus: This is Dennis's and Liz's last appearance until Issue 54.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Dennis, who served in the Vietnam War, is triggered when he hears the explosion and finds Liz raving incoherently:He's heard that kind of talk before, in Danang, in Phnom Penh...And all of a sudden, he isn't thinking [West] Virginia anymore. He's thinking jungle. He's thinking night patrol. He's thinking incoming mail...
- Dwight Wicker, discussing Sunderland's planned cover story, references Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The irony is that whereas in the Spielberg film the government tries to discourage belief in the existence of extraterrestrials, Sunderland intends to encourage such belief, so as to hide the DDI's real motive behind its swamp hunt.
- The hotel receptionist, trying to recall the name mentioned by the "friends" (so she assumes) of Liz and Dennis who'd just been in their room, comes up erroneously with "Sutherland." This reminds her of Donald Sutherland's performance in the horror film Don't Look Now (although she misstates the title as Now Don't Look and then Don't Watch Now). She then proceeds to recount the film's horrific climax—thus adding to the suspense of the in-comic scene—just before the bomb goes off.
- Title Drop: Sunderland agent Roy says to a colleague, "Y'know, that old general, he's really tying up some loose ends here today, ain't he?"
- Twisted Echo Cut: A favourite tool of Moore in his 1980s work, it appears several times in this and nearly every other issue throughout his run on the title. For example, in the last panel of page five, Sunderland, referring to Swamp Thing and friends being unprepared for his assault, says, "They're in for a rude awakening, Dwight..." The caption for the first panel of page six completes his sentence: "...a very rude awakening, indeed." This is juxtaposed with Liz waking up from her tryst with Dennis, which leads to another sort of "rude awakening" for the latter.
- Unrequited Love: Dennis for Liz.