Thursday, May 26, 2011

"The Soul-Spell of Father Bliss"

Quick random thought: I was just re-reading the early issues of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' Astro City, and in the beginning arc of the title run(#'s 4-9) Aliens pose as superheroes in an attempt to remove them as a threat to their plan to take over Earth. Gee, I wondered, where have I read that before? Oh yeah, that was the main plot of Brian Bendis' Secret Invasion storyline event from the summer of '08. Now I don't know if Bendis ever read Astro City or not, but the fact that he re-used a common plot-point, especially one written in early '97 makes me wonder. I'm not saying he out-right copied Busiek, but I'm saying he possibly didn't either. You be the judge. Oh, and for the record, in my opinion, Busiek's alien invasion was better than Bendis', and it didn't force you buy countless and pointless tie-ins either. Just a thought is all.

For today's Random......Comic......Review.....I decided to review a favorite issue from the 1st Swamp Thing series. Yes, I'm still doing that, so get used to it. I'll at least do one more after this one. This one comes not from the team of Wein/Wrightson, but by the creative team that followed them after they left.

Swampt Thing#15, "The Soul-Spell of Father Bliss" by David Micheline and Nestor Redondo. (Mar-Apr 1975)

The story starts off with a bad storm erupting throughout the Louisiana swamp, home of the erstwhile Swamp Thing.  It seems Swampy's hiding out from his friend Lt.Cable, when all of a sudden he finds himself struck by a powerful bolt of lighting. While unconscious, Swampy's friends, Cable,  Abby, Mr. Bolt, and a man named Luke, are shown to be looking for Swampy only a short mile away. They're tired, but committed to finding their friend. Swampy later awakes to find someone helping him up. The older man introduces himself as Father Jonathan Bliss, and he seeks to help and comfort ST. ST decides to go with him to his church to help heal his wounds. Father Bliss leads ST into a old, abandoned church, leaving him to rest in a pew. Father Bliss leaves St in search of ointments, but secretly heads towards to a small, secret chamber. Father Bliss then starts talking to a glowing red orb he calls Nebiros. "Yes dark one, you have chosen well! Our unassuming friend will make the perfect pawn for bringing about the END OF THE WORLD!"

The story then switches scenes to Mr. Bolt, as he searches a section of swamp land, looking for Swampy. He turns around after seeing a giant shadow creeping up on him. A grappling cable appears out of nowhere and captures Bolt, taking him away. Back to the old church, where Father Bliss tries to explain to ST how the church came into such a decrepit state. He blames his former congregation, claiming they had forsaken God and the church, and that they were against all attempts by Father Bliss to bring them back to God. He further states that he had to turn to less conventional methods in an attempt to to save their souls. Father Bliss convinces St to remove some rubble in order to reach his workroom. After doing so, they both go down into the dark and musty workroom, where various mystical artifacts reside. Father Bliss then positions himself in front of an ancient spell-book, and starts to chant an ancient incantation. The chanting lolls Swampy into a very relaxed state of mind, so much so, that he fails to notice the glowing red orb that was seen earlier.

The orb begins to suck the energy out of ST, who only notices what's going on when it's too late. He loses consciousness and falls down to the ground, as Father Bliss comments "I am sorry my son, but there was no other way! Very well Nebiros, do what you will, he is yours!"

The scene switches again back to Cable and his companions as they stumble upon the very church where Father Bliss and their friend is. (Talk about coincidence huh? What are the odds this would ever happen in real life? Only in comic books my friends, only in comic books.)
As they approach the church, they suddenly see their friend. But Abby's quick notice something's not right with Swampy. "Matt, wait! There's something wrong with his eyes!" But before Cable can react, Swampy nails him with a wicked back-hand, knocking him out. ST then goes after Abby, but their new companion, Luke, shoots ST, but to no avail. ST attacks him too, and quickly takes all three of them inside the church. They all awake to finds themselves chained up down in Father Bliss' workroom. There, they notice the glowing red orb, which contains an image of a fallen Alec Holland inside. Bliss calls the orb a Transcendental Globe that houses souls, such as Hollands. Father Bliss goes on to explain that the orb acts as a way station between worlds, allowing a demon named Nebiros to come to our world and possess people. He says that Nebiros needed a host-body to survive in our world, and Swampy's body served as an ideal host. Bliss further claims that when Nebiros becomes fully charged up that he'll have enough power to unleash Armageddon on the world, which is supposed to bring God back down and make people believe in him again. Nice plan huh?

Cable points out to Father Bliss that by allowing Nebiros to bring about Armageddon, that there won't be anyone alive left to believe in God. Bliss starts to question Nebiros, but Nebiros brushes Bliss off, saying "I assured you nothing fool, save the continuance of your own trifling existence! For now I am at full strength and I thirst for the feast of ruin that has been promised me!"  Hey at least he's consistant ain't he folks?
Nebiros then decides to feast on poor Luke's soul, tearing it apart like it was nothing! Cable then attempt to further reason with Father Bliss, asking him if this is his idea of salvation. Cable, continues wearing down Father Bliss in an attempt to dissuade him from what he's doing. Just as it appears that Cable is finally getting through to Bliss, Nebiros turns his attention towards Cable, preparing to tear to his soul apart too. Bliss attempts to stop him though, by uttering a spell designed to remove Nebiros from Swampy's body. But Nebiros proves to be already too powerful and goes after Bliss in attempt to stop him. Somehow Cable gets free, with Abby telling him to smash the globe in order to stop Nebiros. Cable smashes the orb/globe, driving Nebiros out off Swampy's body. All this does is piss Nebiros off even more, and he goes after both Cable and Abby once again. But he's stopped by a now conscious ST/Alec, and they both wrestle around until Nebiros gains the upper hand. Nebiros is now in need of a new host body, which Father Bliss readily offers with his own. "No evil one! you'll not harm these innocents! It was I who brought you into this world, and if anyone must suffer for it...let it be me!"

Nebiros does just that, and quickly inhabits the old priest's body. Unfortunately for him, he didn't count on the old man's body being too frail to contain all of Nebiros' power, as they both suddenly burn to death. Father Bliss let's out one final plea, saying "" before becoming completely consumed in roar of fire. ST and the others high tail it out of the church just as it begins to cave in on itself, burying Father Bliss and Nebiros. The reunited friends lament Luke's death, until they notice the missing Bolt swinging high overhead.

Next: Night of the Warring Dead.....

I liked this issue because of the character of Father Bliss, and how far he'd go just to regain his follower's faith in God again. This who story proves the old saying right about how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. It seems that's definitely the case here.

Have a good one......


David H. said...

hey Dale since you seem to be on Swamp Thing kick of recent i can't help but wonder if you've read Brightest Day #24 in which we see the return of Alec Holland albeit briefly. it seems that the "powers that be" were very quickly in need of his services as Swamp Thing more so then Dr. Holland. here's a Youtube review of the issue:

googum said...

Is that the same Nebiros that was in Blue Devil? Weird.

Dale Bagwell said...

-David, I did know about Swampy coming back recently. There of course was a big stink about it, since most readers assume Geoff Johns has ignored Alan Moore's ST work. I think it's too soon to tell, so what and see I guess.

-Goo, I honestly don't think it's the same demon, and that it's just a coincedence that they share the same name.

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