Credits & Solicit Info:
When you decide to reboot a universe the size of DC's there are a lot of decisions that must be made. One of the most important decisions is what a character's status quo will be, especially if the reboot isn't a hard one. In that case, a multitude of questions must be asked including, "How many years has the character been around in the universe?", "How many of the past stories will count in this new continuity?", "What tweaks (If any) will the origin go through?" and "What aspects of the character will be used?". With so many details to consider (especially when you take new readers into consideration), it becomes very easy for me to understand why keeping everything that came before could be considered risky. Could Animal Man #1 handle the balance that comes with making a continuing story accessible to new readers? In this case, the answer is most definitely yes.
Whenever you talk about Animal Man the one name that will always come up is Grant Morrison, due to a legendary 26-issue run that propelled both character and writer to new heights. With such reverence for Morrison's work, there was no doubt that the next writer would have to be special to do the character and his story justice. Fortunately, if this issue is any indication, Jeff Lemire will most definitely be the writer to fill those huge shoes. Even on the most superficial level, Animal Man #1 has extremely intelligent dialogue that commands attention for the characters and the story they're engaged in. As for the characters and story themselves, both work together to make this book an even more thrilling read. With a writer who is unafraid to write these characters with multiple dimensions and deep motivations, you get interactions that matter much more than they would in your average comic book due to the weight that each action carries. Buddy Baker's dynamic with his family helps to carry the story to even greater heights; by the time we reach the big climax of the book, you can feel the escalation of the tension and fear that each subsequent page brings. Without a shadow of a doubt, Jeff Lemire has written a story that I can't wait to see unfold as the months go by.
If there's any one part of this book that I can't give the highest praise to, it would unfortunately have to be the art. While there are no "unforgivable" sins in the overall craft, there is definite room for improvement as there are scenes where it seems like the Art Team forgot to draw eyes. Animal Man's new costume comes off as a poor replacement for his original one, and in this case I have to chalk that up to the overall presentation of said costume. Now, with all that being said, there's still plenty to like about the art in this issue. For starters, the panel structure in this book is nicely varied, which contributes to each scene having its own unique flavor. Secondly, the characters' emotions resonate in a way that enhances the atmosphere of the story as a whole. However, the piece de resistance of this issue comes in the four-page nightmare scene, which is illustrated in only in black, white, red and pink. With only those colors being featured, the inks of Foreman and Green truly shine through as they send the reader into the nightmare world that comes from Buddy's connection to "The Red." An excellent exclamation mark that helps to make the overall product on this end look even better.
As it was touched upon earlier, the biggest challenge that Animal Man #1 had was to make sure that its backstory (no matter how legendary) didn't get in the way of making sure that the title remain penetrable to new readers, something that was most certainly accomplished. From the minute the reader opens the comic they're greeted with a lengthy interview that serves as an amazing primer to who Buddy Baker is and what motivates him. From there, Baker's interaction with his family is nearly pitch perfect in terms of fleshing out his main supporting cast and showing that a traditional family unit can give us a healthy amount of compelling tension and drama. Despite the continuity already in place, new readers shouldn't have a problem getting into the story.
My Final 22 Cents:
When the revamp was announced in June, one of the things that had me extremely worried was that it was going to be used to make titles less diverse in terms of tone, progressive storytelling and distinguishing characterization. While those concerns haven't totally been quashed, Animal Man #1 makes me realize that such things will not be universal. As someone who isn't afraid of having a superhero story dealing with more than just punching out the villain, Animal Man will serve as the book that keeps me engaged in DC's new 52 as long as it's published. If you're looking for something to challenge you, or something to get your curious loved ones to look at comics, Animal Man #1 might be the best place to start.
The Bottom Line:
Final Judgment: 94/100
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight