Monday, September 12, 2011
DC New 52 Review: Animal Man #1
In a single issue, writer Jeff Lemire did just that.
Animal Man #1 opens with a brief "interview" between Lemire and his titular character, ostensibly as a way to introduce Animal Man's place in the DC New 52 status quo. Buddy Baker is a former Hollywood stuntman who, for the last three years DCST (DC Standard Time), has been moonlighting as the superhero, Animal Man. His bond with the animal kingdom, however, has opened his eyes to the way animals have been treated by mankind. Because of this insight, Baker has taken a step back from superheroics and instead has been focusing his energies on being an animal rights activist. He is also a family man, married for 10 years with two young children. How does a superhero juggle all these responsibilities? Work, family, superpowers. It's a great concept for someone of Lemire's talents and aesthetic to play around with.
The first half of Animal Man #1 is for the most part straightforward superheroing, albeit well-done superheroing. There are some nice scenes between Buddy and his family (his daughter wants a puppy and his wife wants him to return to being a superhero because "[he] just seemed happier then." Then Buddy's son rushes in and tells his father about a hostage situation at a local hospital and we're off!
Animal Man of course averts disaster at the hospital (which is a melancholy, almost poignant sequence that really illustrates why Lemire is a great fit for this book) and then things start to get ... weird. But in a good way.
Accompanying Lemire on this journey is artist Travel Foreman, whose work has always been hit-or-miss with me. His art always either seems to be too sketchy, too heavily inked, too blotchy. His pacing is solid and the action sequences flow well, but I'm not entirely sold on him just yet. He draws animals really nicely, though, which is a definite plus in a book called Animal Man. But it's telling, I think, that the surreal black-and-white dream sequence is the best-looking part of the book.
That being said, one week into DC's New 52 initiative, Animal Man is hands down the best title so far. It has humor, heart (almost literally) and humanity, and a big dose of creepiness. It's like Vertigo invaded the DCU, and, I hasten to add, the DCU is better for it.