Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
0

Comics News

DC Comics New 52: Animal Man #1 - review

By
The New 52 - Animal Man

© DC Comics

In the latest of our comprehensive series of reviews of DC Comics' 52 relaunched titles, we take a look at Animal Man #1.

Who's it by?
Animal Man #1 is written by Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth) and drawn by Travel Foreman (Cla$$war).

What's the history?
Buddy Baker - aka Animal Man - was created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965, with a somewhat woolly origin story about gaining the power to borrow the abilities of different animals after he was caught near an exploding alien spaceship.

Animal Man was promptly ignored for over 20 years, until a little-known young Scottish writer called Grant Morrison was asked in 1988 to revive the character following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths (an initiative which also gave rise to Neil Gaiman's legendary Sandman series).

Morrison's acclaimed run touched on animal rights and the nature of fiction, leaving Buddy aware of his own status as a comic book character and making some sense of his origin story. The series was subsumed into the Vertigo imprint, but the character later returned to the DC Universe to play a role in Infinite Crisis and 52.

What's new?
Animal Man has returned as an ongoing DC series as a part of the 'Dark' subset of titles, which includes Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing and Demon Knights. Indeed, Lemire has revealed that Animal Man and Swamp Thing will be closely linked and may eventually receive a crossover.

Animal Man has featured in some unusual stories (especially under Morrison's direction) but has generally been a light-hearted character. However, in keeping with the title's new place in the DCU, Lemire has promised a "horror/superhero hybrid" that will visit some "very dark places".

What happens?
Animal Man #1 begins with a new phase in Buddy Baker's life. He was a stuntman before he gained his powers, then he was a superhero and an activist, and next up for Buddy is the role of film star.

The issue gives us a look into his home life with wife Ellen and his two children Cliff and Maxine. While Buddy struggles to make sense of where his life is headed, Ellen is torn between her desire to see him return to happier times as Animal Man and a wish to see her family safe.

Moving outside of his home life, Buddy is called out to stop another family man with a gun fallen on hard times. In the process of saving the day, Animal Man suffers a grisly and mysterious reaction that gives the reader the first glimpse of the horror promised by Lemire.

The latter section of the book is given over to a disturbing dream that promises danger in Animal Man's future and a threat from 'The Red' (the united spirit of all animal life similar to 'The Green' in Swamp Thing).

What's the verdict?
Jeff Lemire's introduction to the issue is clearly aimed at new readers, with a first page laid out in the form of a magazine interview introducing Animal Man to those less familiar with him. It also serves as an explanation of Buddy's new status as a budding actor (and amusingly, a hipster icon), which means that it will not have older readers rolling their eyes, impatient to get to something they do not already know.

This new phase in Animal Man's life is also effective in marking an opening to the title, offering the reader an entry at a time of change - and, to a certain extent, uncertainty - in Buddy's life, rather than launching directly into your average superheroics.

A large part of Animal Man has always focused on Buddy's family life, and this series looks to be no exception. We are quickly introduced to the Baker family, with Lemire deftly drawing them as nuanced but relatable characters, from his concerned wife to the pair of kids that act just as kids should.

Animal Man himself has always been - for all his incredible powers - an everyman character: well-intentioned, sympathetic and concerned with the familiar matters of his family and career. It is great to see the best of Buddy Baker has transferred into a new series and iteration of the DCU. For Lemire's part, he makes the whole execution seem effortless, offering a smooth and easy read that never jars or feels awkward or laboured.

Travel Foreman's art is sharp and clear with an atypical style for a superhero book that gels well with Lemire's roots in the alternative comic scene. His characters are expressive and there is a cleanness to his work that contrasts sharply with the splashes of horror that begin to appear as the comic progresses (just as the horror contrasts with the scenes of everyday family life).

New readers might feel confused as to the later mentions of The Red (as will some older readers). For an issue subtitled 'Warning from the Red', this feels like a bit of an oversight, but one that can easily be cleared up in Animal Man #2, which we will definitely be picking up. This is a strong debut that plays to the character's strengths and injects a healthy dose of mystery and horror into the property.



> Buy the digital version of Animal Man #1
> Read our review of Stormwatch #1

Watch the teaser trailer for Stormwatch #1 below:

You May Like

Comments

Loading...