This comic is pretty messed up. People might sell it as dark, but the truth of the matter is this book is messed up, it’s strange, it’s beyond macabre and reaches into the lands of the almost-perverted. “Animal Man” is downright strange, giving us something unique and amazing. Our hero is down for the count and it’s up to his family to share the spotlight and the load.
Jeff Lemire is breaking this book, and character, down so as to rebuild something new and defining. It’s not enough to work in the shadow of Grant Morrison’s definition, now Lemire evokes Alan Moore and his legendary dark run on DC’s “Swamp Thing.” It’s the sort of bold move that needs to be done just right lest it alienate fans and enrage the fanboy fires. Lemire takes bold steps forward as if he doesn’t care about either and only concentrates on his faith in his work. The result is a comic that feels sure and well should be.
Buddy Baker, the man and the hero, takes a back step here, yet the issue remains dense and well populated. The supporting cast is a highlight; Lemire is as adept at writing creepy creatures from beyond as he is bemulleted brats looking for cell coverage. Each voice of the Baker family rings completely true and they make the cohesive center of the book hold against murderous monsters and growing legacies. Amidst all the phantasmagorical insanity, it is the four humans who keep you glued to these pages. That is a feat that speaks miles toward the level of craft on display.
Travel Foreman manages to win me over with certain sequences, panels, and pages. His lens over this story is energetically effective and terribly true to the rotten nature of this landscape. It is this level of competency that then makes me feel worse when he misses a beat. A very large moment in the first pages of this book misses an opportunity to add a wow factor and those moments lost are gone forever. Foreman delivers a great two page splash sequence that shows this book is a sister title to “Swamp Thing” in so very many ways. He also ends on a beat disturbing and strong which is exactly how you should send an audience off for a four week wait.
“Animal Man” continues to be one of the very best titles coming out of DC. All it needs is a loyal audience who can stomach the wide ideas and horrific violence and it is well on its way to becoming a true classic. Each issue of this reintroductory arc has offered at least one massive moment of glorious creativity. Beside those moments, we get the developing characterization of what might be the most interesting complete family in comics right now and a forward journey that can only build to the cosmically epic. Lemire and Foreman are working hard for our money and their success rate at bat is impressive.