Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rating the New 52: Animal Man #1

As many of you probably know, DC has kicked off it's "New 52" push-- basically, they are releasing 52 number 1 issues to attract new and, in my case, lapsed readers. Fans have bemoaned some unusual editorial choices, including the...de-wheelchairing of Barbara Gordon (the former Batgirl who found a much more unique role as computer wizard Oracle) and someoverblown costume designs for characters like Superman and Harley Quinn. That said, I'm willing to dip into the New 52 pool and have subscribed to 8 of their titles, which I'll be reviewing throughout the month.

The first of these I've read is ANIMAL MAN by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. If the rest are as good as this comic, this'll be a month to put in the history books. ANIMAL MAN #1 is one of the most exciting comic book issues I've ever read. Lemire starts his superhero comic with a one-page faux interview in The Believer, in which Lemire chats with our protagonist, Buddy Baker. Buddy is a semi-retired superhero who these days is better known as an animal rights activist, hipster idol and unpaid indie movie actor. Lemire does an amazing job showing up the stable (but not undramatic) relationship that Buddy has with his wife Ellen and his children. As the book dips into action and horror territory, Lemire never loses sight of Buddy as a character--this improbable indie icon who can connect to an animal life version of the Speed Force called The Red, which gives him access to just about any creature's abilities (the bark of a dog, the rough hide of a rhino).

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the unsettling artwork by Travel Foreman. This man is a true talent, and is equally comfortable drawing simple domestic scenes (like a dinner scene at the beginning of the comic) and more violent and disturbing imagery.

ANIMAL MAN #1 is a must-read comic for any fan of the genre, or even any open-minded reader willing to give this new, strange book a try.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Next up: SWAMP THING #1, baby! His name is Alec Holland....his name is Alec Holland...