"Any Deadly Thing": In the small town of Mud Creek, Texas, a preacher called Father Tocsin uses snake handling in his services. He is in search of what he calls a "vessel," a man without sin. His method for discovering a vessel involves poisoning his entire congr
- As to the ways... between man... and woman... there are things not even gods on Earth... can hope to fathom...!
Synopsis for "Any Deadly Thing"
In the small town of Mud Creek, Texas, a preacher called Father Tocsin uses snake handling in his services. He is in search of what he calls a "vessel," a man without sin. His method for discovering a vessel involves poisoning his entire congregation with communion wine, believing that any who survive must be without sin. The local news reports seem to believe that his mass murders are actually suicides by death cults.
In Houma, Louisiana, Chester Williams offers his friend Abby Holland a ride back to her home in the swamps. She invites he and his girlfriend Liz to come stay with her family in their new house, and while Chester is grateful for the invitation, his relationship with Liz seems to be on shaky ground.
In the swamps, Abby encourages her husband the Swamp Thing to speak to Chester about his relationship. Though he is practically a god, Swamp Thing has little to offer about the nature of the connection between man and woman.
Father Tocsin's Caravan of Faith eventually reaches Paratonnerre, a makeshift Cajun town in Terrebonne Parish, where he meets Gene LaBostrie, and begins advertising his next service. After Father Tocsin leaves, Gene seems disinterested. His more devout wife Ada scolds him, and insists that she be allowed to attend.
In the past, after Father Tocsin had murdered a young boy, he had a vision of an angel which congratulated him for killing the "spawn of the serpent." The encounter inspired him to become a travelling preacher, and it took his eye from him as a mark of his faith.
Gene takes his wife out across the swamps to Paratonnerre to attend the service. On the way, the Swamp Thing springs up from the water. He introduces himself to Ada politely, and explains that he is searching for the creature that was seen two nights ago in the swamp. He believes it is still out there. Despite her earlier distrust of the Swamp Thing, Ada appreciates his demeanour.
Gene refuses to join Ada in the tent, and she fears for his soul, particularly given his dealings with a swamp monster. While Father Tocsin is charismatic, much of his sermon is contradictory. Even so, Ada finds him inspiring. He passes around the communion wine, and when the cup gets to her lips, Ada realizes that it has been poisoned. The Father's hand forces the wine down her throat.
Dying, Ada drags herself to her husband, who rushes her back to the Swamp Thing, hoping he can help. Swamp Thing determines that she has been poisoned with strychnine, which is fortunately plant-derived. He neutralizes the poison, but there is still some danger of brain damage or worse. With his baby daughter Tefé's help, Swamp Thing brings her back to full health. Then they go in search of other survivors to heal.
The Swamp Thing's arrival terrifies Father Tocsin, who believes he is being tempted by a demon. Attempting to run out of the tent, he encounters Gene LaBostrie, armed with a knife. Swamp Thing heals those who can be helped while Gene holds the preacher there, slicing the head off of Tocsin's pet snake.
Father Tocsin explains that the dead and dying around them were unworthy vessels. LaBostrie challenges him, then, to drink from the same cup. Believing that he is being tested by God, Father Tocsin drinks hastily from the cup, still clutching his headless snake. Of course, he dies of strychnine poisoning moments later.
Swamp Thing admits that he could have stopped the preacher from poisoning himself, but chose not to. He gives Gene the severed snake head as a souvenir, and returns to his home in the swamp.
Appearing in "Any Deadly Thing"
- Father Tocsin (Only appearance; dies)
- Ada LaBostrie
- Chester Williams
- Tefé Holland
- Alcée (Single appearance)
- Lazarus the snake (Only appearance; dies)
- Nancy A. Collins becomes the regular series writer with this issue.
- The Swamp Thing is referred to as a "Roogaroo" in this issue. Rougarou is a Cajun term which means "swamp monster", though it is traditionally more similar to a were-wolf than the Swamp Thing.
- Swamp Thing Recommended Reading