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"Survival of the Fittest": The Past

Quote1.png Anyhow, this here says something about an artifact -- "The Claw of Elk Hound" -- which was used to send the old fruit "on his way". Quote2.png
John Constantine

Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #88 is an issue of the series Swamp Thing (Volume 2) with a cover date of September, 1989.

Synopsis for "Survival of the Fittest"

The Past
Somewhere during the time of the last great ice age, a tribe of nomad homo-sapiens lay to rest the corpse of a baby, lost to them now.

The Present
John Constantine visits Abby to check on her pregnancy. He coyly reminds her of his own vested interest in seeing to the child's health. Abby informs him that Swamp Thing is still alive, trapped somewhere in the past. Constantine peruses the autobiography titled Hawk, Son of Tomahawk, and his eye is caught by mention of the Claw of Aelkhünd, which apparently sends the Swamp Thing further back in time.

The Past
In a place protected from the ice, a woman from a South American Neanderthal tribe celebrates her coming of age by consuming a seed plucked from the mouth of an ancient skull. A second seed falls from the skull, landing on the floor of the cave, whereupon it takes root and grows into the form of the Swamp Thing. Rheelai, the tribe's shaman, recognizes the Swamp Thing as an earth-spirit and Swamp Thing is surprised that he is able to understand their language.

The Present
Two police officers from Houma visit Gene LaBostrie to tell him that if he sees Abby, he should let her know that the police are no longer investigating her for the apparent death of her former husband Matt Cable.

The Past
The nomad tribe is searching for a new land to live, as they are fleeing the ghost of their last leader. They believe that the stronger a man was in life, the stronger he will be in death. They took precautions when they buried him to make sure he could not come back, but they know that they will have to keep travelling until they find a suitable place.

In Rheelai's village, the shaman explains, the nature of his magic and the power of the earth-father, Sarga, to the Swamp Thing. He gives the Swamp Thing three of the ancient ceremonial seeds that they use, and reveals an artifact passed down by his ancestors, meant as a vessel for his people in the event of their deaths. Swamp Thing immediately recognizes the artifact as the Holy Grail. Rheelai also mentions that he has a chunk of amber around his neck, which has been passed down to him. This, in concert with the chalice, serves as a spiritual tether for his people. Swamp Thing asks to see the amber, so that he can continue his journey, but Rheelai withholds until the amber has served its purpose for his tribe.

The Present
Gene LaBostrie reaches Abby outside of her home and tells her the news concerning the police investigation. He also offers Abby the chance to use a midwife from his people, rather than one in a hospital, for which she is grateful.

John Constantine meanwhile, travels to South America, where he discovers the Claw of Aelkhünd in the hands of a Brazilian native.

The Past
The cro-Magnon warriors begin an evil ritual, having found a new land to live, but discovering the neanderthal tribe living there already. They believe that the neanderthals are sub-human and must be killed.
They raid Rheelai's village, slaughtering dozens of defenceless people. The Swamp Thing tries to defend them, but his power is hindered by a weakness in The Green. Rheelai uses the amber to send his people into the chalice, while the leader of the cro-magnons kills him and takes the amber pendant. The Swamp Thing, lays his eyes on the amber, and is returned to the Timestream.
The warrior grabs the golden cup and holds it to the sky. He knows that it is an item of great importance, and places the chunk of amber inside it.

Appearing in "Survival of the Fittest"

Featured Characters:

Supporting Characters:


  • Cro-Magnon warriors

Other Characters:





  • The letters column includes a message from group editor Karen Berger, explaining writer/artist Rick Veitch's separation from DC Comics. She expands upon the reason why Veitch quit DC in the letters column in Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #89. According to Berger, DC Comics publisher and editor-in-chief Jenette Kahn rejected Veitch's original script for this issue, which would have had Swamp Thing arrive in the past during the time of Jesus Christ. It would have revealed how the three wise men were actually assassins and that Jesus was a hedge wizard. The story was rejected out of fear of offending DC's Christian demographic. More information about the issue can be found here.
  • The golden cup that the Cro-Magnon warrior takes from Rheelai is the Holy Grail of Arthurian and Biblical lore; earliest chronological appearance. The grail would also have featured heavily in Rick Veitch's original script for this issue, which was rejected.
  • The exact era in which this story takes place is unclear, but it reflects the time when Neanderthal man evolved into Cro-Magnon, the oldest modern evolution of man. Scientific excavations suggest that this would have occurred approximately 40,000 years ago.[1] Reference is also made to a pending "Ice Age" which helps to determine the chronology for this issue.


  • The Guy Fawkes mask on page 5 is a nod to Alan Moore's character V from the episodic mini-series V for Vendetta (Volume 1).
  • The Earth-God Sarga is actually one of the first plant elementals known as Tuuru. Swamp Thing will meet Tuuru in issue #89.

See Also

Recommended Reading

Links and References