New 52 Review: 'Animal Man' #1 Is The Pick Of The Litter

Animal Man #1, Jeff Lemire (w), Travel Foreman (a) [Print Edition]

THE PITCH: Buddy Baker is a family-man, a stuntman, and also the part-time superhero known as Animal Man. It’s the way things were back in Grant Morrison’s run, and consarnit, it’s the way things are now.

HOW WAS IT? I don’t want to oversell this, but if there is a better book put out by DC during the month of September, I will eat the other 51 comics. It’s just that good.

And there were certainly high expectations for this… Though plenty of other creators have written Buddy Baker, Morrison’s take on the character is not just seminal, it’s one of the greatest comic books of all time. So to launch Animal Man as part of the New 52 takes a certain amount of confidence on DC’s part; a confidence that seems well placed, given Lemire and Foreman’s frim-handed grasp of the material.

I hesitate to spoil to much, but suffice to say that this is a book that takes chances. The first page is a text heavy piece giving back story on Buddy that reads as well as any blog or magazine article. And it’s not just a recap page, it emotionally plays into Buddy’s motivation throughout the rest of the issue. It’s this piece, and what it implies, that drives him to do what he needs to do throughout.

There’s also a severe sense of dread throughout the book… It’s not straight up horror, though it flirts with it. You can’t have the main character mention, “I just want to keep my family safe,” or say, “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to them,” without knowing that something very, very bad is coming. And it does, at least three times in this issue. Where most comics would be content with a cliffhanger on the last page – and believe me, there’s a doozy – this comic has no less than three shocking sequences that tease very bad things coming for Animal Man in the future… Making issue two a must read.

I should also mentions Travel Foreman’s art which is like nothing on comic book stands today. It switches from whispy, almost cartoonishly flat compositions, to a gorgeously painted nightmare sequence, to one of the most terrifying last pages in recent memory. Like I said: really good.

The bigger question, of course, which is a totally unfair one to ask of any new comic book is: how does it match up to Grant Morrison’s run? The answer, happily, is swimmingly. Lemire honors everything that made Grant Morrison’s run great, while clearly forging his own path with the character. I can’t wait for more.

BEST BIT: There’s so much good it’s hard to say, but a panel of Buddy, flying high in the air and super tiny, about to land near some cop cars is going to stick with me for a while.

WORST BIT: Lot’s of text on the first page will turn some readers off. They are stupid, though.

EASTER EGGS: Jeff Lemire is the writer interviewing Buddy on the first page, a clear shout out to (spoiler) Morrison adding himself in to the comic the end of his run on Animal Man. Also, there seem to already be some visual connections between what’s happening in The Red here, and in The Green over in Swamp Thing. I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a crossover soon.

ACCESSIBLE TO NEW READERS? Yup, totally. There’s the text piece, but even if you skip that, everything you need to know is in the issue.

WILL YOU BE PICKING UP ISSUE 2? Does Animal Man poop in the woods?

RATING: 52/52

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