Everybody's favourite gang of oddballs reviews Animal Man #2 this week, everyone's snap judgement after #1 was that this book was awesome, but can it keep it up?
The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.
This week we've got Animal Man #2. Jeff Lemire is taking Buddy Baker in some pretty surprising directions, and the RG on the whole, digs it a lot.
Really good. I have to read Swamp Thing #2 still, but as of right now this is probably the best DCnU book.
Very interesting developments in this issue.. Lemire seems to be building a very Alan Moore-on-Swamp Thing-esque thing with The Red Place. It is very similar to The Green, except for animals.
The art has grown on me a bit. I think Foreman is way too sloppy for this book, but it's passable.
The second issue of the relaunched Animal Man takes everything I loved about the first issue and amplifies it. The tension in the Baker house, the disturbing new villains and the resounding echoes of Alan Moore's seminal Swamp Thing run are all present, and they're beautifully drawn.
I am a sucker for the old 'Berger books' that became Vertigo line, and Swamp Thing was my favourite of the bunch. Everything about this comic screams that Jeff Lemire feels the same, with Buddy Baker's family life being the human anchor that it hangs on. The story is moving along at a welcome pace, with plenty of chicken-hands or mutant hippos to set the scale of what's happening but really it's Buddy Baker and his lovable spooky daughter Maxine that are the driving force here. The tension between the normal and the abnormal here is presumably going to drive a lot of the story going forward and, until Grant Morrison appears to kill Ellen and the kids at least, Ihope that it's going to be as well written as this.
The art is scratchy yet detailed and Travel Foreman seems equally at home with a family in crisis as he does with body horror and abstract meat trees, which makes him an ideal fit for the title. While I'm naturally tempted to compare him to Totleben and Bisette, some of Gaiman's Sandman co-creators feel like a closer match; Vince Locke and Jill Thompson both spring most readily to mind. The muted colours, the almost omnipresent viscera and the bizarre scenes all work wonderfully well together and an artist I liked on The Immortal Iron Fist has become one I can see myself loving on Animal Man.
It's always nice to see such a well-regarded property handled with such love and skill, and if Animal Man can maintain this level of quality, then Animal Man might start getting some of the recognition of his old Vertigo peers.
Story - I wrote a review of Animal Man #1 for the 52apalooza, so I'm going to try and not repeat myself here. Luckily Jeff Lemire moves on the story enough that I'm not going to have to do that too much.
Picking up from last issue's shocking cliffhanger, in which it is revealed that Buddy Baker's daughter Maxine also has animal powers, but hers involve communicating with dead creatures, Lemire takes the reader on a crazy ride with lots of creepy imagery and a story that turns a lot of what we thought we knew about Animal Man upside down.
Buddy and Maxine's adventures are just beginning, but already Lemire is making them memorable, the image of all these half-decayed animals is a haunting one, as are Animal Man's new tattoos. Last issue had a memorable moment when Buddy started to bleed from his eyes, and here we find out that the bleeding was just a part of a bigger pattern, that Buddy is forming a map to the red on his chest. What is 'the red'? We don't know yet, but Maxine does, and she's the one in charge. It's cool to see Lemire develop Buddy Baker's kids, whenever I've read Animal Man stories before, his kids have just been there to get in danger and to have terrible haircuts, but Maxine has a purpose now, and it's fascinating to see. From the dream sequence in #1 it was implied that Maxine is dangerous and a possible villain, but in this issue her intentions seem altruistic. We shall see.
She certainly didn't seem too altruistic when she turned that dude's hand into a chicken foot! That was another freaky image, and helps to demonstrate that this book is not your traditional superhero comic, there's a deep vein of horror here, and it's cool to see Lemire take perhaps the most suburban superhero and show a dark underbelly beneath his powers and world. That same horror tone is shown in the appearance of the three new villains. They first appear in a gruesome splash of engorged, hippopotamuses, and then burst out, taking over some humans. These are horrifying monsters, and I can't wait to see what their plan is.
Animal Man #1 was one of my favourite books of the DC relaunch, and #2 continues the strong work established in that issue. Lemire is taking a character that could be considered lame and putting him in the middle of the kind of story you wouldn't expect Animal Man to be involved in. Horror and Animal Man shouldn't mix, but they do, and it's wonderfully creepy.
Oh yeah, and Buddy's real name is Bernhard? WTF?
Art - This book wouldn't really work without Travel Foreman's art, he has a very unique style, and it's just the right amount of weird that it's perfect for Lemire's blend of suburbia and creepy horror. All the shocking creepy images like the zombie animals, the chicken hand, the hippos, the monsters at the end, Foreman draws it all brilliantly. I also like his panel layouts a lot, there's a page where he shows Buddy and Maxine's journey to 'the red' and it's depicted in a really cool, off-beat way. Foreman may not be for everybody, but for this book? He's the man.
Best Line - '...into the red'
This will be in my weekly Starlord: Top to Bottom article later today but I have to say that this is still in my top 5 books that DC is producing. Both story and art are great with just enough weird in it to make it totally unique. This and I Vampire are the two books to keep an eye on.
REVIEW COLUMN CROSSOVER! HERE IS AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM "TOP TO BOTTOM"!
What a f%*ked up world Buddy Baker lives in. Residing in the DC Universe proper, Buddy and his family, with the help of Jeff Lemire, is bringing the weird with them. Bloody tattoos that appear on Animal Man's body - blood pouring from his eyes, nose, and ears in a macabre design that would send a shiver down Stephen King's spine gives us the wonderful feeling that in this part of the DC Universe, anything could happen... and will! In fact the stakes already feel so bizarrely high that the fact that Buddy's daughter is so deeply involved worries me. Great art that works well with the story caps off issue number two with a near perfect score
My Score: 9
I like Jeff Lemire. I think Essex County is a really special work. I think Sweet Tooth, although not nearly as good as Essex, is pretty interesting, too. For some reason, despite my respect for Lemire, I expected to be disappointed by this book. I'm not sure why. I guess I assumed no one could really make me like Animal Man. Despite being a vegetarian -- well, actually a vegan -- I never really enjoyed Morrison's eco-warrior Animal Man. Well, it's been years since I even tried to read those issues. Perhaps I would enjoy them more now than when they first came out.
Anyway, I picked up this book with a lot of silly baggage. Yet, despite my biases, I have to admit that Lemire does a pretty good job with Animal Man. I won't say that this is my favorite book of the DC reboot. But I can understand why many fanboys are calling this series their favorite. The writing is strong for two reasons: Lemire thinks up some very imaginative supernatural scenarios, and he develops a strong family dynamic between the characters. This book has a lot of potential. I can imagine some very dramatic -- and, potentially, heart-wrenching -- interactions within the Baker household.
But what really makes this book standout is the art. My God, Travel Foreman is perfect for this book. He makes Lemire's ideas dance and swirl and jump in all directions. The page designs are at once complex and easy to follow. Jim Steranko eat your heart out. Someone has finally matched you.
Overall, this is a very strong issue. And I am glad that I made the effort to seek it out.
This issue was my first experience with the character Animal Man. Since I didn't read the first issue I felt lost reading this. However, I felt the writer did a great job with the character interactions. His dialogue was definitely a strong point to the writing here. I felt the issue was well written and won't let my lack of understanding the story drag the score down. There just wasn't enough here for me to pick up the next issue or seek out the first issue.
I liked the art here. Foreman seems to be a good fit for the tone of the book. I was a fan of his back when he was on Iron Fist.
Story - 6
Art - 8
Overall – 7
This was a pretty good issue. Not Great and the art doesn't really seem right. Foreman has done some amazing work but he's going for a totally different style that doesn't really fit superhero books no matter how much this book is trying not to be one, at the end of the day it's still a superhero book. I'm also a little numb from this book as I just put my dog down yesterday.
Short but sweet this week, and very positive. I'm sure you'll all send good wishes to former tyrant Guitarsmashley this week, it must have been a bit rough reading this after putting down your dog, considering the subject matter.
Overall Animal Man #2 got a highly impressive 8.04! Nice one! Head over here to read the thread, and join us next week when we'll be looking at Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3 and placing bets on which member of Miles Morales' family will die.
Written or Contributed by: Niam Suggitt