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26 of 52: Animal Man #1

by on September 13, 2011

Animal Man #1 is a curious choice for me. I’ve never been much of an Animal Man fan. To be fair I’ve never read the Grant Morrison run. My biggest exposure to him is through the 52 series, in which he did not impress as a character.

But the buzz for this book has been very positive, basically that the comic creates a vertigo-esque series that exists in the actual DCnU. Plus, even though I’ve not read Jeff Lemire‘s Sweet Tooth series, I’ve heard very good things about it.

So, now with 25% further ado:

Animal Man #1: The Hunt part one: Warning from the Red
Writer: Jeff Lemire | Pencils & Cover: Travel Foreman

The quick origin of Animal Man is that Buddy Baker was too close to an exploding spaceship, which granted him access to “The Red” a conduit that allows him to borrow powers from animals. Apparently, in the superhero world where all marriages are being destroyed or retconned out of existence, Buddy is still married to his wife Ellen. Buddy and Ellen have two children: Cliff and Maxine.

Synopsis

Animal Man Buddy Baker is home with his wife who is preparing dinner. Buddy has just been interviewed by a magazine, describing his current career as a superhero and actor and animal activist. His daughter, Maxine, interrupts asking if she can have a dog. Buddy explains that having an animal affects his powers with other animals.

Buddy leaves to go down to a hospital where someone has taken a whole floor hostage. Animal Man arrives to help the police who are happy for his assistance to help stop a man who has taken over the children’s ward of the local hospital demanding the return of his daughter who died of cancer.

Buddy confronts the man, who shoots him, but Buddy borrows a combination of animal powers and takes out the shooter. However, Buddy now has blood pouring from his eyes, ears, and nose. Buddy feels fine, and returns home to his family.

At home Buddy has a dream where he and Cliff are running away from Maxine. Maxine tells Buddy that he has to shut off his brain and become an animal like her and Mr. Woofers (her stuffed dog). Buddy is chased by demonic creatures. He awakes from the dream, and goes outside to join his family to learn a secret about Maxine.

Analysis

There is something inspired about bringing a modern Vertigo comic book into the proper DC Universe. Back in the early 90s when the “Vertigo Universe” was created, the target audience for comic books was much younger than today. And therefore, you would rarely see mainstream comics that tackled mature themes and horror concepts.

As much as this is a throwback to that early feel, the comic book is told with a very modern storytelling flair. It is a very well put-together comic book, that really rewards old readers while still capturing everything you need to know as a new reader.

I enjoyed the depiction of Buddy and Ellen’s married life. The way it was written was to show a married couple, and not a married superhero couple. Buddy could have been a firefighter, paranormal detective, or time travelling cowboy, and the relationship would be the same. Too often, superhero marriages are depicted where the superhero part outweighs the marriage. This was very pleasant.

The artwork is muted, but it really works in a title like this. You don’t need to see musculature and extra definition. The lines are simple and effective. The colors are very soothing, so the stark contrast is really seen during the images of Buddy tapping into the Red, or dreaming.

I like that Buddy has a new superhero costume, but find it really interesting that the costume was not included on the cover. Especially when the cover is of a #1 issue.

Questions

  1. Is the man who held the children’s ward hostage a part of future plot lines, or just a one-off character?
  2. Why does Buddy feel a stronger connection to the Life Web?
  3. Is the dream connected to Maxine? Or just prophetic?

Verdict

Extremely well done, and I don’t have any real complaints about it. I am not sure that I would pick up issue #2, because this seems like a series that would work better in trade paperback format, than individual issues. It’s a personal preference, but this seems more arc oriented than cliffhanger, tease, constantly ongoing single-shot oriented.

That’s not a complaint, just how I enjoy digesting my comic books these days.

A- (leaning towards trade collection, but unsure)

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From → Comic Books, DCnU

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