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Recap / Swamp Thing Volume 2 Issue 39 Fish Story

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"This... is their the place...where they are safe [...] to live and worship as they choose [...] to raise their children [...] And I...have destroy it."
— The Swamp Thing

When Nicky and Howie fail to come home, their parents find out from the boys' friend William that they'd gone swimming in the lake at Rosewood, and they decide to go looking for them. Meanwhile, by the lake, the vampires and the newly-turned Nicky have tied Howie upside down to a rock. Nicky tells him they're saving him for the coming "firstborn" to feed on.


Beneath the water's surface, the Swamp Thing comes face to face with the Rosewood vampires, who herd him to the birthing-place. He watches in horror as the Mother's eggs hatch not humanoid vampires, but skeletal fish creatures. These proceed to devour each other until, by a process of hyper-accelerated evolution, only one is left: a giant, bipedal vampire-fish which attacks and destroys the Swamp Thing's body.

Meanwhile, the parents find the boys. Nicky feigns helplessness in order to lure his mother Joan toward him. Ignoring her husband's caution, and Howie's shouted warning that "he isn't Nicky anymore," Joan goes over to comfort him, and he drains her of blood. When his father pleads for him to stop, Nicky tells him he's "useless" because he wasn't there to save him as a father should be. With that, the giant fish-vampire breaks the surface and devours first Joan's husband, then William's father Osgood. Howie's parents, however, have managed to cut their son loose and the three of them drive to safety.


The Swamp Thing abandons his dismembered body for the Green. He reflects that he's still been trying to fight as a human would, and comes up with a larger-scale tactic. Seeing that a narrow strip of land separates the stagnant lake from the nearby flowing river, he becomes one with the land and restructures the terrain so as to reconnect the lake to the river. The vampires, unable to survive in the flowing, newly-oxygenated water, quickly disintegrate, their last thoughts a lament that all they wanted was their own home to raise their children.

When the flood subsides, Constantine meets up with the Swamp Thing, now able to regrow himself in under a minute. The swamp creature then demands the knowledge about himself that his mentor had promised. Constantine, however, tells him that he's "botched" the job, because he allowed Howie and his parents to survive and tell others about their ordeal, which will lead in turn to an increase in the number of people who believe in vampires. Increased occult belief, John explains, is exactly what "the people who are behind this" need for their plans. He tells the Swamp Thing he'll talk further with him in two weeks' time, in Kennescook, Maine. Annoyed and exasperated, the Swamp Thing says only "Perhaps," and then abandons his body for home.



  • Abusive Parents: The opening page ironically juxtaposes the Swamp Thing's inner monologue about the vampires wishing to keep their children safe, with a scene of Osgood verbally abusing and hitting his son William to make him reveal where Nicky and Howie are.
  • Adult Fear: Although they each show it in different ways, all of the parents are worried about what may have happened to Nicky and Howie, neither having returned from the lake all night.
  • Black Comedy: After the waters have receded, exposing the vampires' skeletons, Constantine casually punts one of their skulls. Later, after the Swamp Thing leaves, he comes across three skeletons slumped over at a bus stop. "Don't worry," he tells them, "there'll be three showing up at once in a couple of minutes." Then he walks away chuckling at his own joke.
  • Dedication: This issue is dedicated to the memory of Underground Comics artist Greg Irons. The skull in the last panel, just above the dedication, is an homage to his Skull Comics.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The story is about vampires who rapidly evolve into fish-monsters. As well, "fish story" is slang for a tale that (as Constantine lampshades) grows more exaggerated with each telling, the reference being to the proverbial tendency of fishers to inflate the size of "the fish that got away."
  • Evolution Power-Up: The humanoid vampires who survived the first Rosewood flood were, it seems, already capable of living underwater. A mere two years later, one of their sires, the Mother, somehow develops the reproductive system of a fish and becomes engorged with eggs. Her hatchlings are in turn more fish than human, and the natural-selection-by-cannibalism melée that follows produces an amphibious vampire fish with Super Strength.
  • Five-Man Band: The parental search party.
    • Tammy (Howie's mother) is The Leader. Focused, sensible and take-charge, she's the first parent who resolves to go looking, and the one who gets her husband and son into the car when they hesitate. She also tells Osgood (who doesn't listen) to forget about fighting the vampire and join them.
    • Jack (Howie's father) is The Lancer. Quieter than Tammy, but similarly rational and focused. Quick-working and competent; as such Tammy delegates him to cut their son loose.
    • Mr. Shapiro (Nicky's father) is a downplayed and subverted The Smart Guy. More collected than his wife, he does his best to keep her calm and hopeful and, unlike her, is observant enough to notice his son is Not Himself. However, when Nicky starts draining his mother, Mr. Shapiro proves ineffective, merely standing by and pleading instead of trying to save her. And he freezes at the sight of the vampire fish, instead of running.
    • Osgood (William's father) is The Big Guy. Macho, quick-tempered, brutish and headstrong. He has no patience for other's weaknesses, while being unaware of his own. The only member of the party to carry a gun, which he foolishly tries to use on the vampire instead of running to safety with Howie and his parents.
    • Joan Shapiro (Nicky's mother) is The Chick. Completely governed by emotion, she does little except cry and imagine the worst. Upon finding her son, she ignores Howie's and her husband's warnings and rushes to hug and comfort him.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Apart from Nicky, who acts in a Manipulative Bastard manner toward his own mother, the vampires aren't portrayed in the usual For the Evulz manner. Rather, in this storyline, they're given an inner monologue from their collective viewpoint, which shows they value the safety and happiness of their families and their community. In contrast, the humans in the story are a mixed lot. While most of them are loving and well-meaning, Osgood is an abusive brute, and John Constantine a Trickster Anti-Hero who not only strings the Swamp Thing along but places the prevention of the Apocalypse Cult's grand scheme above the sparing of individual human lives. The Swamp Thing, being neither human nor vampire, nevertheless also places himself in a morally gray area by taking the humans' side, as he himself acknowledges here (see page quote) and even more starkly in Issue 50:
    I have community...destroy another...because it was different...and because it posed a threat...And afterwards...I thought...did history's vilest any worse?
  • Pragmatic Hero: When Constantine, instead of giving the Swamp Thing what he's after, gives him another horror hotspot to visit, the Swamp Thing says, "Constantine...I do not like you." John's response: "You don't have to."
  • Red Skies Crossover: Towards the end, Constantine refers casually to "all these red skies and funny weather patterns we've been having," and that's the extent of the tie-in to the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover which had recently begun. The later Issue 46, however, is a full-fledged Crisis tie-in.
  • Transhuman Treachery: As noted above, Nicky is the one Rosewood vampire who behaves in a way that's deliberately evil, first deceiving his mother into approaching him so he can drain her, and then taunting his father for having failed to save him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Nicky pretends to be scared and cold, in order to lure his mother to him so he can feed on her.

Example of: