- In the heart of darkness, a flower blossoms, enriching the shadows with its promise of hope. In the fields of light, an adder coils, and the radiant tranquility is lent savor by its sinister presence.
Synopsis for "The End"
Meanwhile, John Constantine and his crew of occultists and sorcerers conduct a dangerous séance, using Mento as a conduit through which they can see what is going on in the Spirit World, and direct their combined magical energies to the aid of Swamp Thing's team. From Wintersgate Manor, the group watches as Etrigan puts on his armour and leads the other rhyming demons in a full on charge against the oncoming darkness.
Swamp Thing and Deadman are surprised by the arrival of Doctor Fate and Phantom Stranger soon after. The Stranger brings with him a host of higher consciousnesses beyond bodies – angels. With these reinforcements, they prepare for the Great Darkness' arrival.
The Great Darkness rises from the waters of chaos beyond Hell, and the sight of it is horrifying to Mento, to the point that he instantly feels as though all is lost. His companions force him to go on, despite his complaints, and he watches as Etrigan leads his army directly into the Darkness' path. When Etrigan engages with it, he is consumed by it, sucked into a vast darkness. A voice comes to him demanding to know what it is. Etrigan responds that the Great Darkness is evil, locked in an eternal struggle with God's light. The Darkness, in its thirst for knowledge, has learned fatalism and inevitability from Etrigan. These are not what it needed, and it expels Etrigan back out onto the ground, unconscious.
Back at the séance, the Great Darkness begins to sense their efforts, and attacks them, searching for a weak link. They know that they must not break the circle by letting go of each other's hands, lest their powers backfire, or they lose contact permanently. The Darkness seems to focus on Sargon, who begins to smoulder in his seat. To their horror, they are forced to watch as Sargon burns to death, and still hold his charred corpse's hand, in order to keep the circle intact.
Deadman and Doctor Fate fight against the demons loyal to the Darkness. Fate kills Abnegazar in anger, but he is distracted and soon enveloped by the Darkness. The darkness demands to know what evil is. Fate responds that evil is the ignorance that drags people back as they climb toward heaven; a vile and wretched thing. The Darkness responds that Fate has taught him contempt. This is not the answer that was required. Doctor Fate is expelled as Etrigan was, unconscious.
At the séance, the Darkness focuses its attacks on Zatanna. After seeing what happened to Sargon, her protective father John Zatara utters a spell that directs the Darkness's attack toward him instead. Horrified, Zatanna cries out for her father to take back his spell, as he explodes in flames before her eyes, burning her hand severely. Angrily, she curses Constantine, but they all continue their efforts.
Finally, after much wondering where he has been, The Spectre appears, and engages the Great Darkness. He grows in size, wrestling with the Darkness' black form. However, it appears that the Darkness has several long and huge tentacles, making it much larger than the Spectre. He is knocked into the darkness, where he is asked what evil's purpose is. The Spectre responds that evil exists only to be avenged, to show what ruin comes of opposing the "Great Voice." The Darkness expels the Spectre, having learned only vengeance.
With no remaining allies, and the Phantom Stranger visibly shaken by the Spectre's defeat, the Swamp Thing simply walks right into the Darkness willingly. The Darkness takes notice, and asks what Swamp Thing has to offer. He admits that he has nothing to offer, but he could not simply stand and watch. The Darkness then asks what the purpose of evil is. Swamp Thing responds that he cannot answer the question. He has seen evil and cruelty, and the randomness with which it ravages both the guilty and the innocent alike. It cannot be understood.
However, Swamp Thing recalls his meeting with the Parliament of Trees, and wonders whether the chain of life – wherein all things die and return to humus, which becomes the fertile ground in which plants grow stronger – mirrors the struggle between good and evil. He posits that evil may be the humus formed of virtue's decay, and from that dark loam, virtue can grow strongest. Not necessarily satisfied, the Darkness allows Swamp Thing to leave freely, as he came.
Despite the encounter, the Great Darkness continues toward heaven. Mento is drawn too close to the Darkness' mind, and becomes aware of its true nature. The Spirit World is rocked by the sight of a gargantuan black hand reaching closer and closer to heaven. Mento is driven to further distraction by the appearance of the hand of the presence reaching back. He anticipates a battle which will see everything destroyed. However, when the golden hand and the black hand touch, they flow together as a ying and yang. The image drives Mento completely insane, and he laughs hysterically at the revelation that the black mass they called "the Darkness" was only just part of a finger and fingernail belonging to the gigantic black hand.
Doctor Occult senses that the power seems to have discharged itself, and that they can release each others' hands. Sadly, there were three casualties. Sargon and Zatara are dead. Mento is insane. Constantine senses that what they experienced was not a victory, but rather a no-score draw between good and evil.
In the Spirit World, Swamp Thing wakes. The Phantom Stranger explains that while light and shade are still surrounding them, the conflict between them has been altered. There is a sharpness, a distinctiveness in the air that was recently more foggy. The Stranger marvels at how much light and dark – good and evil – seem to depend on one another. Swamp Thing can't help but wonder how the events of the day will have changed the world as they know it.
Appearing in "The End"
- Baron Winters
- The Presence
- Doctor Fate
- Doctor Occult
- Sargon the Sorceror I (Dies)
- The Spectre
- Zatara (Dies)
- Washington, D.C.
- Spirit World
- Halfway Territories
- House of Secrets
- House of Mystery
- This issue is reprinted in Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows and Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Four.
- Doctor Fate kills Abnegazar, one of the Demon Brothers.
- Cain mentions "that reanimated valley girl" on T.V., referring to Elvira, who took over his House of Secrets for a while.
- In New Teen Titans (Volume 2) #24, we learn that Mento's ordeal in this issue has further damaged his already fragile sanity and left him without the use of his legs.
- Last Days of the Justice Society Special #1 reveals that the Spectre seen in this issue is only a "tiny portion of [his] ectoplasm", as the real Spectre traveled back in time to prevent Ragnarok in 1945. Nevertheless, he was still punished for his failure in Spectre (Volume 2) #1.
- A tombstone reads: "Steve Bissette ... late for his own funeral." Another says: "R.I.P. Totleben. The dead shall rise from the..." Also, Alan Moore is creeping out of his grave (all on last page).
- In Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #49, Zatanna is seen in a red jumpsuit, where she jokes about the outdated nature of her top hat and fishnets costume. In a later scene, she is wearing that very costume. In this issue, she is wearing a third, different costume.