"Animal Man" enters the Rotworld arc with an expository issue, hoping to benefit from the outside interest. Therefore, it's DCU characters that get to serve as guides to the missing Buddy, and the theoretical new reader unaccustomed to the title. The time jump helps provide a starting point for the uninitiated, but the book thankfully retains enough of its identity to provide for a satisfying reading experience.
Jeff Lemire picks an unusual assortment of heroes to serve as Buddy's guides, with a double page spread serving to indicate the fates of the rest of DC's superhuman community. At this point in the history of the genre, the superhero/horror crossover is no real novelty, but the creators still try their best to genuinely repulse the reader.
The grisly visuals come courtesy of Steve Pugh and Timothy Green II, with the latter devoted to present day segments involving Buddy's family. When the book cuts away to these scenes, it genuinely becomes more interesting, as there is no guarantee that the supporting cast will survive the crossover intact. Green II's Moebius-inspired artwork presents Ellen and the children as lean, heavily stylized figures, making the subplot even more distinctive compared to Pugh's raw and bulky characters.
Steve Pugh's loose line helps realize the broken landscape of the Rot's rule, retaining a hostile, agressive style that accentuates the weird superhero style of the overall direction. There is definitely a wider arc that the writer is working towards, quickly establishing the resistance in the post apocalyptic world, but the formulaic elements would have been much easier to overcome if the final result was a bit more refined.
Seeing Hawkman attack Buddy as soon as he materializes in the Rotworld, with the superheroes immediately coming to his defense, speaks of a distinctive lack of subtlety and a desire to guide the book towards a very linear plot. Having the hero meet the resistance who promptly lead him towards their base is a very cliched plot, that the creators try to mask with the bits and pieces of their new mythology.
Ultimately, the cliffhanger revolves around the fate of the Baker family, as the final page offers some truly disturbing visuals, that are posed to affect the reader in a way that the decay of extraneous superheroes simply doesn't. So far, the crossover does provide for an interesting change of page, which not only maximizes on the promise of the previous issues, but offers a distinctive tone of its own. Its clearly leading to a team-up with Swamp Thing that has the characters beating the Rot back in their own time, but at least it's realized in a way that is feel fresh and entertaining.
The "Swamp Thing" part of the Rotworld crossover makes a much better impression so far. Reunited with Yannick Paquette, who has taken time to really leave his impression on "the Green Kingdom", Scott Snyder delivers a story that is much more organic, despite the presence of superheroes. Deadman and Poison Ivy provide a very fitting guides to Holland, given their historical connection to the title, as re-imagined by Alan Moore.
The story follows the same progression as "Animal Man", with the superheroes blaming the avatar for abandoning the world before deciding to take him into their trust and have him join them against the Rot. The key difference is that Swamp Thing exhibits his connection with the Green before the fight with the corrupted superheroes, which goes on to reaffirm the title's mythology as much more organic, and ironically better integrated with the DCU than that of the Animal Man.
Being a plant-related elemental defines Holland in a very narrow way when it comes to a superhero universe that is teeming with animal themed superheroes. When presented with Paquette's lush and gorgeous work, the reader is simply overwhelmed by the promise. The inventive layouts, characters that are strong sense of anatomy and a thoughtful palette avoids the cluttering of visuals and makes for a very confident look.
Where the art falters is when it comes to depicting the aforementioned battle against the villains, whose redesigns seem too busy and ill-defined. Ironically, the parts of the story showing Abigail in the past (relative to the Rot takeover) present a scenario that is much more likely to be quickly resolved than the fate of the Baker family.
Taking everything into consideration, the two titles would have been better off had they been left to explore Rotworld on their own terms, disregarding the need for the tie ins and superheroes. At this point, the tie-ins are mostly on the structural level, with each book left to its own, parallel plot. It's hard to judge the crossover's effectiveness for the readers who have not previously followed the titles, but it certainly provides a way to have the two titles stay relevant past the initial praise.