Sunday, September 4, 2011

Animal Man #1

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman
Company: DC Comics

To be completely honest, I wasn't sure how this book was going to go.  Animal Man, used in the more recent 52 storyline, peaked a few decades ago when Grant Morrison was doing his run for Vertigo.  That run made the character something more than your average and ordinary hero, and it created a world that was unique to its cast and was insanely fun to explore.  With Lemire, I wasn't sure what we were going to get in this version of Animal Man.  Sweet Tooth never quite caught my interest due to its dark and depressing nature, and his Frankenstein Flashpoint series, while good, felt a little abbreviated with only a mere three issues with which to tell a story that could have easily fit five or six.  So yes, there was trepidation for this specific title.

Happily, the end product is one of the more exciting and surprising of the first week of DC's relaunch.  Jeff Lemire has found a fantastic melding of old and new styled Buddy Baker to make a character that you instantly care about.  The divide between everyman and superhero is the name of the game as we see the trials and tribulations of juggling both a career as an actor/animal rights activist with the desire to still be the hero that he knows himself to be.  That style of storytelling allows you not just to get in some great action and neat ideas involving swapping animal powers that you would expect, but it also enables Lemire to tell great character bits with the members of Buddy's family.

Now, the book still does have an edge to it, as you might expect it to with Lemire at the helm.  There are in fact a few moments in this issue that could be considered straight up horror, moments that send the hairs on the back of your neck standing straight up.  That's a fairly impressive feat nowadays, but Lemire does it with frequency and impact.  Not to be outdone though, the range of emotions that is hit upon is impressive.  This opening story has moments of levity too, as does he capture that feeling of elation, exuberance, and adrenaline that socking someone in the jaw can make a person feel.

Travel Foreman was the perfect artist for this book.  His work on Immortal Iron Fist was the first thing that I remember seeing him on and the way that he was able to sell distinct action was uncanny.  I still can picture the scenes with Wu Ao-Shi, the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay with such vivid detail even now.  Foreman's work on Animal Man has that same memorable quality, but he utilizes his unique and semi-exaggerated style in a much different way.  The linework is still the same sort of detail-centric awesomeness, and without a doubt, he captures the action without missing a beat, but the way that he sells the horror is what surprised me the most.  It's visceral and intense and gets under your skin in such a good way.

So yes, Animal Man is an impressive outing.  Lemire and Foreman hit all of the notes that you could want:  Great ideas, great story, solid action, and to top it all off, beautiful artwork.  In fact, the only complaint that I could come up with is the fact that his new costume pales in comparison to his previous one.  Other than that, it's a winner.

This is an advance review.  Animal Man #1 hit stores this Wednesday 9/7/11

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