- I am thinking about the old man. I am thinking about the cracking of his joints as he runs. I am thinking of the terror in his ancient, atrophied heart.
Synopsis for "The Anatomy Lesson"
General Sunderland arranges to have Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, released from prison and brought to the Sunderland facility in Washington. There he is instructed to examine the remains of the Swamp Thing and from him, divine the secret of Alec Holland's Bio-Restorative formula. Woodrue detests Sunderland and the fact that he wields so much control over him, but he concedes to the older man's demands nonetheless.
Jason spends days examining the Swamp Thing; his own vegetative nature gives him a keen insight into the creature's biological structure. While performing a rudimentary autopsy, he finds that the Swamp Thing's body contains non-functional, vegetable versions of normal human organs, such as a heart, brain, liver and kidneys. However, none of them could ever have served any functional purpose due to a lack of any true biological material. He ultimately concludes that the Swamp Thing is not actually Alec Holland, as was previously believed.
Woodrue explains his findings to Sunderland, comparing the Swamp Thing's nature to that of a Planarian worm. He reveals that when Alec's body, doused with the Bio-Restorative formula, came into contact with the swamp, the chemicals reacted with micro-organisms in the environment, producing a unique, yet distinctly separate organism. This organism absorbed the memories and personality of Alec Holland, and in fact, believed that it actually was Alec Holland.
Sunderland has little interest in Woodrue's findings, other than their inherent commercial value. He also has little regard for Woodrue himself, and Jason knows that it is only a matter of time before Sunderland tires of him and sends him back to prison. As Sunderland leaves his office, Woodrue tampers with the old man's computer, unlocking the doors on the laboratories on the lower level.
What Sunderland never realizes, was that a creature like the Swamp Thing, cannot be killed through conventional means. Swamp Thing eventually wakens from his containment housing and finds Woodrue's notes. Having believed himself to be Alec Holland, he always held onto the hope that one day a cure for his condition might be found, and he could resume a normal life. Now learning the truth, he realizes that all hope is lost, and he flies into a frenzy. The Swamp Thing batters down the doors to the laboratory just as General Sunderland is making his way down the corridor. The creature overtakes the old man and kills him.
Elsewhere, Woodrue comments on his fascination with the Swamp Thing, and declares his intention to follow him and learn more.
Appearing in "The Anatomy Lesson"
- Swamp Thing (Origin)
- General Sunderland (Dies)
- Linda Holland (Appears only as a corpse) (Flashback only)
- This issue is reprinted in The Best of DC #61, Essential Vertigo: Swamp Thing #1, Millennium Edition: Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One trade paperback, and the Vertigo: First Taste trade paperback.
- Although General Sunderland dies in this issue, he does in fact make a return appearance as a denizen of Hell in Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #72.
- Reference is made to Linda Holland in this issue. Sunderland reveals that his company exhumed Linda's corpse, and examined it for traces of Alec's Bio-Restorative formula.
- A reference to Liz Tremayne is made in this issue.
- The issue's title is an allusion to the 1632 Rembrandt painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, which depicts a physician lecturing on the musculature of the arm, using a dissected cadaver.
- The splash page for this issue contains a bisected outline of a human body with the words "The Anatomy Lesson" placed between the sections. This is stylistically similar to the opening title card of the 1956 movie Anatomy of a Murder.
- Swamp Thing Recommended Reading