|First Published:||May 30, 2012|
|Next Issue:||Animal Man Annual #2|
While waiting for her mother and brother to return to the motor-home, Maxine Baker decides to accompany her cat Socks out into the woods for a pee-break, on the condition that she stay where he grandmother Mary can see her.
As Socks is doing his business, Maxine asks him questions about The Red and The Rot, and he admits that this is not the first time that the Rot has risen up. It is only when the avatar of the Rot hungers for destruction that this happens, and this particular avatar is better left unnamed, for the time being. Her interest piqued by the thought of battles like the one she soon faces having happened in the past, Maxine begs Socks to tell her the story of one.
Reluctantly, Socks begins the tale of Jacob Mullins. With his family, Jacob was a farmer in northern Manitoba, just before the turn of the 20th Century. He and the other locals of Stone Lake had recently discovered some kind of pestilence that was killing all of their livestock, and it was becoming clear that if it continued, it would soon spread to the human population as well.
Jacob and some friends joined with a pair of RCMP Officers, Frears and Deschamps, to travel into the nearby woods and ferret out the source of whatever this pestilence was. The deeper into the woods they went, the more disturbing and decayed the animals appeared to be. When night fell, the officers decided to light a fire, with intent to use its coals to burn the pestilence out of the forest in the morning. One of the officers went off into the woods alone to relieve himself while the others slept.
Suddenly, Jacob woke from his sleep with the strange sensation that something horrible was coming. His feeling proved true when Frears returned from the woods infected by The Rot. At the same time, Jacob's eyes began bleeding, as he established his first connection with The Red. He tried to stand up to the monsters, but they knocked him back.
Fortunately, Jacob was saved by an ally. An avatar of The Green had also been awakened to his purpose. The Swamp Thing took Jacob in his arm, and dashed away to relative safety. He carried Jacob to the cabin that was once his home. He explained that he was once the trapper known as Jack Crow, and he gave Jacob a tuber from his own body to taste of, and come to understand his role in this.
Creatures of The Rot came to the woods, and Jack Crow had tried to shoot them down. He was too weak, and they burned him alive. As his flesh melted away, he dove into the water nearby, and rose up as the Swamp Thing. He learned that he was not the first avatar of The Green, and there would be others after.
But with the Red and the Rot, the Green forms a codependent ecosystem. Each depends on the other, in balance. When that balance is broken, however, two must unite against the other. Jacob and Jack would have to band together to fight the Rot.
As Jacob listened, he fell into a deeper trance, and experienced a vision of the future. He saw chaos, death and destruction, with the bodies of the earth's superheroes skewered on pikes. A man appeared to him, claiming that regardless of what Jacob did, the end result would be failure, down the line. He, Buddy Baker would not be able to stop the Rot, and all would be destroyed. Buddy had lost his whole family to it, and the thought of losing his own family brought Jacob back to reality.
Taking on the abilities of a wolf, Jacob dashed away from the cabin, and back towards home. He returned to town to find that his friends and family had all been infected by the Rot. Even his wife and daughter had been taken, and the Swamp Thing was forced to kill them before Jacob's eyes, in order to protect him.
Still, Jacob's son was nowhere to be seen, and he hoped that Henry was still alive. Rushing back to his farm, he was glad to see his boy alive. Henry had managed to gather some survivors into the house too.
Outside, the house came under siege by two creatures of the Rot calling themselves the Hunters Two. With righteous anger, Jacob used his power to pull the Rot from the very bones of its hosts. The Hunters retreated, promising to return when the Green and the Red were weaker. As Jacob embraced his son, the Swamp Thing promised that while the Rot would return, it would be for someone else to face. Their time had passed.
Maxine declares the story a sad one, pointing out that Jacob's family died, regardless of whether or not he defeated the Rot. As she and Socks return to the motor-home, the cat warns that there will certainly be sadness and loss of life in the war to come, as well.
- Animal Man
- Maxine Baker
- Mary Frazier
- Swamp Thing (Jack Crow) (In Flashback Only)
- Animal Man (Jacob Mullin) (In Flashback Only)
- Henry Mullin (In Flashback Only)
- Margaret Mullin (In Flashback Only)
- Catherine Mullin (In Flashback Only)
- Aaron Ofner (In Flashback Only)
- Rene Deschamps (In Flashback Only)
- Carl Frears (In Flashback Only)
- Superman (Corpse in vision)
- Batman (Corpse in vision)
- The Flash (Corpse in vision)
- Green Lantern (Corpse in vision)
- Wonder Woman (Corpse in vision)
- Robin (Corpse in vision)
- Batwoman (Corpse in vision)
- Booster Gold (Corpse in vision)
- The Hunters Two (In Flashback Only)
- La Junta
- Manitoba (In Flashback Only)
- Stone Lake