These stories celebrate the work of renowned artist Wrightson relating to the Bat. The second tale is the reprint, now re-colored by Alex Sinclair to fit the modern capabilities on display in the premiere story.
That story is a long-rumored series of Wrightson-penciled splash pages, telling an unknown story of Batman’s encounter with another sort of Swamp Thing, Solomon Grundy. Interestingly, there’s no mention of who the original author may have been in the editor’s introductory page. Nor do we get a sense of how finished or unfinished the pencils were.
They are being treated as unearthed treasures, though, and both colorist and inker make sure to highlight all that is most evocative in Wrightson’s storytelling. A gothic story originating in the sewers of Gotham is right up Nowlan’s alley, of course, but he restrains himself admirably from some of his trademark moves in this work. His Batman is mostly Wrightson’s, and Grundy is an especially photogenic cadaver under Wrightson’s gloomy visions.
Ron Marz supplies the colorful but terse amount of text accompanying each image and it is almost surprising that he manages to maintain the tension of Wrightson’s confrontational images (many of which feature tight face shots, others pulling back only slightly to ¾ body views of the combatants), and even to supply a twist ending that I didn’t see coming. It ties things up nicely.
Commissioner Gordon is the third major character who appears, and his panels evoke the verisimilitude of Hitch/Neary. That’s the level at which the somewhat fictitious team of Wrightson/Nowlan perform, and the splashes accompanied by Marz’s pulpy narration (the identity of the colorful narrator is part of the twist) create a compelling noir horror tale.
The old reprint looks great, but finds Swamp Thing more or less intruding on very familiar Batman turf, years before the earth elemental elevation of his character and role in the DC universe. Here he’s just a man of muck, hardly even tragic, and Batman is coping with his usual sea of mediocre baddies and imperiled innocents. Matt Cable and Abby Arcane show up, but the tale is more of a crime pulp than a supernatural affair.