DC NEW 52: ANIMAL MAN #1

 

ANIMAL MAN #1  “The Hunt, Part One: Warning From The Red”  (DC Comics, September 2011)  Story: Jeff Lemire.  Pencils & Cover:  Travel Foreman.  Inks:  Travel Foreman and Dan Green.  Interior & Cover Colors: Lovern Kindzierski.  Letters:  Jared K. Fletcher.

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I expected to be pleasantly surprised by this book, and I was!   Unlike JUSTICE LEAGUE #1,   I approached ANIMAL MAN with no expectations and no previously obtained perceptions.

  I must confess that, despite the presence of Grant Morrison and other great writers and artists,  I never paid any attention to  ANIMAL MAN, Volume 1.  I did pick up the very first issue (and still have it);  but it didn’t leave a lasting impression and didn’t motivate me to explore any further.  In defense of that title, it did have a successful run from 1988 to 1995 that lasted 89 issues.   Aside from a brief appearance in other DC titles from time to time, the only other major work featuring this character was the 6-issue mini-series LAST DAYS OF ANIMAL MAN from 2009.  I don’t even remember seeing that on the new issue stands of my local comic shop.

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However,  I’m  already awaiting the next issue of ANIMAL MAN, Volume 2.  Writer Jeff Lemire introduces a very different and intriguing mystery in the opening chapter.  While he hints at what may be occurring to hero Buddy Baker’s family-oriented world, Lemire doesn’t elaborate or show his hand yet.  That should engage most of the readers who pick up this book, and bring them back for at least one more round.

NOTE:  Do not - - - DO NOT! - - - read any further in this review if you have not read your copy of ANIMAL MAN #1 yet!  Instead, pick it up and read it now.  I’ll wait for you. 

So, what happens in Issue #1?

1) Superhero / Actor / Activist Buddy Baker has just completed acting in an independent film, his first major character role (about an aging super-hero).  He’s gained some renown as an animal rights activist and only occasionally reverts to protecting the world from crime, etc. as ANIMAL MAN (in a more contemporary uniform that the previous goggles and jacket - - see cover image from Volume 1). He no longer wears the costume on a regular basis, just when he feels needed.  He’s also an  inspiration to many youth, and has his image featured on a popular tee-shirt and posters. All this background information is revealed in a clever page one magazine article where Baker is interviewed.

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2) Prompted by some words from wife Ellen and later his son’s eagerness for Dad to get involved in a local  hospital crisis, Buddy puts on his new costume and saves a group of children being held hostage by a disturbed father.  It’s an opportunity to display his powers and skills for new readers, that include some unexpected consequences - - bleeding from the eyes.  

3) Later that night, Buddy has a very disturbing dream involving a river of blood and “The Hunters Three”.  When he awakens, he learns that some of the dream may be real, including his young daughter’s possibly inheriting some of his abilities, but in a weird twisted way.

What did I like about Issue #1?   

1)  The everyday human element that runs throughout this issue.  Lemire has great skills here and writes ANIMAL MAN as if this could happen to anybody.  Buddy Baker is a family man, with regular worries and concerns.  He’s far from self-assured and seeks (and often gets) reinforcement and support from his family.   This title may just help me forget that Jeff Lemire is no longer writing SUPERBOY (which I really miss.) 

2) The art of Travel Foreman.  Rather than compare Foreman to other artists (I can think of a few) I’m just going to say that he (assuming that Travel is a male name) has a different style than normally seen in super-hero books, and I find it refreshing.  I love the little details, facial expressions, and body language that he employs.  His panel placement is different and not predictable, as well as the effective use of white space and panels without borders on all four sides.   The more I look at this, the more I enjoy it.  His best work this issue is the dream sequence, enhanced by the colorist’s use of just black, shades of gray and the occasional red (which really pops off the page!) 

3) It appears to be a non-conventional tale involving elements of mystery and horror that just happens to take place in a super-hero universe.  When that is done properly, it goes down much smoother than another super-hero versus super-villain rehash.

What didn’t I like?

1) That I had to pay for this book (like most of what I read) and DC didn’t send me any review copies. Hey DC, how about a little recognition for the BC Refugees?   Seriously, I can’t find a single thing that isn’t right with ANIMAL MAN #1.

Do I absolutely love this book?  Too soon to tell for certain, but I’m getting warm and fuzzy feelings.

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