Middle school can be pretty tough… especially if you have a tree trunk for an arm and vines growing out of your neck.
Such is the life of Russell Weinwright, the unlikely hero at the center of Kirk Scroggs’ new graphic novel The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, a part of DC’s new Zoom imprint. Aimed at younger readers, Swamp Kid tells a fun story of acceptance with a humorous take on middle school, friendship, and even one of the darker DC characters.
Russell Weinwright is different from the other kids at his school: not only does he keep his nose in his journal (the titular “Secret Spiral”), he’s also bright green and covered in plants. He’s not particularly popular, and is treated as an oddity by his classmates. With the exception of his best friend Charlotte, Russell is fairly isolated at his school, but maintains a generally positive outlook.
Scroggs makes Russell as relatable as any traditional comic book hero as he faces challenges with school, friends and family. At heart, it’s a sympathetic portrayal of the trials of a middle school student, which includes dealing with strange science teachers and unsavory classmates, all composed in a hilarious notebook style that evokes young reader books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. There are tons of jokes, both written and illustrated, on every page… many of which work even for older readers who may be following along with their children.
Russell’s problems become a bit more complex when he, along with Charlotte and yearbook head Preston, are drawn to the bayou. Once in the swamp, with which he shares a genetic connection, Russell meets the legendary Swamp Thing himself…
The classic DC hero is used very sparingly (this Russell’s story, after all), but enough to be effective. Building from an elusive urban myth to a juice box-drinking mentor to the eponymous Swamp Kid, the “Guardian of the Green” gets a surprisingly faithful retelling of his own origin story. Very different from the “R-rated” iteration most of us are familiar with, Swamp Thing is nicely explored here, but mostly absent from the main story, making Swamp Kid feel almost like a wholly independent work from a larger DC universe.
The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid is full of laughs, heart, and visual gags to delight kids and parents alike. It’s a light graphic novel, perfect for middle school readers, that would have definitely interested me at that age… and it managed to still make me smile now. Kirk Scroggs tells a well-made story of acceptance and overlooking physical differences through Russell’s journal, hinting at more interesting output from the DC Zoom imprint, while expanding the DC multiverse in fresh new directions.
The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid is available at bookstores now, and as a digital edition from the DC web store. Here’s the official book trailer: