Saturday, October 6, 2012

NEW 52 Review: Animal Man

Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt, paperback. Issues 1-6, by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman.

With Spider-Man's marriage gone, and Superman rebooted as a young and single, there are few true family stories in comics. Animal Man is one of them, as Buddy Baker's main priority is the safety of his wife Ellen, son Cliff and daughter Maxine. Throughout his careers as stunt man, superhero, and actor, his family is the only thing that matters to him.

Buddy is able to tap into "The Red," the mysterious life-force all around us that all animals are a part of. He is able to manifest any animal-based power, such as a bird's ability to fly, a rhino's tough hide, or a cheetah's speed. But something is very wrong in the life force, and only Animal Man can fix it. Actually, only the four-year-old Maxine can fix it. The first five issues tell the story of the Baker family's first battle against "The Rot," the evil force trying to destroy the Red and bring its destruction to the rest of the world. Issue #6 tells the story of the movie that Buddy is promoting in issue #1, albeit with a clever framing device that sets the story after issue #5.

This series of issues leaves a few questions unanswered, and the family is heading out to find Alec Holland, aka Swamp Thing. I do not know to what extent these books cross over, but I will continue to read this storyline, whichever title it takes place in.

Travel Foreman brings a very refreshing style to this book. There are very few pages that have a traditional bordered panel layout. Instead, Foreman uses diagonals, small and large panel, and odd angles and shapes to create a book that is visually disconcerting. The colorist and letterer add to this by giving us very unusual visuals, as well.

These artistic choices complement the dark, nightmarish nature of the story. This title was part of "The Dark" line of the New 52, books with supernatural or mature themes. This one definitely fits that criteria, especially the scene where  young Maxine demonstrates her own animal-based powers, by bringing back to life the skeletal remains of family pets buried in the Baker's backyard. So even though this is a book about family, it is not a book for the whole family.

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