- Written by SaturnKnight, Niam Suggitt, Katie Hutchison and Linwood Earl Knight on Thursday, September 29 2011 and posted in Reviews
Check out what our 52apolooza Reviewers have to say about Animal Man!
Welcome to 52apolooza, the Outhouse feature focusing on DC's September Relaunch. All of DC's 52 titles will be reviewed by our pool of reviewers to point out the best and worst that DC's new comic book line has to offer. To see how this book ranks among the other new DC titles, be sure to check out our 52apolooza Rankings!
Animal Man has largely been defined by his Vertigo series, despite recent forays to better integrate the character in the DCU. Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman and Dan Green, the new Animal Man series seems to combine his bizarre supernatural elements with his status as a DC Superhero. How did the book do? Check out the reviews and find out!
DC Reviewer: SaturnKnight
Out of all the many complaints longtime fans of DC Comics have had about the post-Flashpoint reboot of their beloved DC Universe, certainly one of the biggest has been the undoing of superhero marriages. Superman now has never even dated Lois Lane, let alone been engaged to her. The Flash not only has never even kissed Iris West, but is now dating someone else. Hawkman's eternal love for Hawkgirl looks like it has vanished into the ether both figuratively and literally. Are there any married men running around the DCU in tights anymore? Well, boys and girls, feast your eyes on Animal Man #1.
The married man in tights lives—with the house, the car, financial difficulties, the wife and kids, it's all there. Written by Jeff Lemire, the first issue of Animal Man succeeds on multiple levels. Lemire takes the unusual step of technically crafting a text-only splash page. After a strikingly powerful cover of Animal Man bleeding into the morphogenetic field that he draws his powers from, we are greeted on Page One by a celebrity interview with Buddy Baker A.K.A. Animal Man that deftly synopsizes everything he's been up to all these years: superhero, animal rights activist, stuntman, even movie star (and, of course, husband and father).
The interview with Buddy is far more fun to read than one of those dry plot synopsis pages that often waste the reader's time and money in other titles. We get a little bit of Animal Man history told in a clever and unique way that adds worthwhile detail to the pages that follow. Lemire then takes the reader in yet another unexpected direction when he opens his story in the kitchen as the Baker Family is getting ready for dinner. So much for all comic book marriages being retconned away forever.
What many fans and possibly even pros might expect to be a dull and tedious sequence of husband and wife squabbling with kids turns out to be thoroughly engaging and even includes a bit of vital foreshadowing. (Pay close attention to Maxine's stuffed animal, Mr. Woofers.) We learn the movie business doesn't pay superheroes very well and that his wife, Ellen, would actually be *gasp* happy to see her husband spend a little more time playing superhero. There's a lot that gets set up in these first few pages that is central to the story later and it works beautifully, making you like the characters while simultaneously setting up all the action that follows.
Artist Travel Foreman is clearly channeling his inner Bill Sienkiewicz on Animal Man and this is a very good thing. Panel layouts are clear and the story is easy to follow. Yet the figures are slightly elongated in some shots, the layouts involving Animal Man accessing his powers are intense and it all gives the book an almost mid 1980s Daredevil/New Mutants-esque feel to the artwork. The characters' facial expressions are subtle yet powerful. Credit also must be given to colorist Lovern Kindzierski who uses a rich palette of subdued colors that is restrained and not stereotypical four color comics' bold-and-brash. Foreman's pencils pack more punch with coloring that allows the artist's work to pull the viewer in without overwhelmingly flashy colors that are thankfully kept on the cover. But when the story calls for it? The bold colors are there.
Lemire's script and Foreman's pencils combine to create a slow burn story that effectively picks up the pace with each sequence. We start out in the Baker home, then get to see Animal Man in action fighting a gunman at a hospital (a sympathetic villain, no less, not a cardboard cutout), before a smooth-as-silk transition to a disturbing dream sequence where we meet the book's true villains who are suitably gruesome. It all ends with a classic cliffhanger on the last page where we find out just exactly how much love there is for animals in the Animal Man household in a weirder way than one might've expected in the DCnU.
Added bonus: Lemire does a great job injecting small bits of humor throughout the story in ways that are natural, effective and genuinely amusing. After reading this issue, I certainly will be thinking of Animal Man's superpowers whenever I have trouble with insomnia.
Animal Man is a superhero comic that smartly pushes boundaries for DC Comics. It wisely embraces marriage and family in ways the more big name superhero franchises have been steered away from. It creates a sympathetic minor villain who both the hero and the reader can sympathize with while ultimately introducing far more frightening villains later on who allow the creative team to inject a bit of horror into DC's superhero world. It's definitely not wall-to-wall action and the story takes its time to build up to a climax, but the last few pages are worth the wait.
This is a smart and engaging superhero comic with realistic dialogue, strong art and an entertaining story that sets up a franchise which could break many boundaries within the DCU over time. I highly recommend it and will definitely be back for issue #2. Don't miss it.
FINAL SCORE: 88 out of 100
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