Or – “Buddy Baker’s Triumphant Return!”
Animal Man is one of those books that I remember fondly, even if nobody else seems to care any longer. Much like Justice League International, Animal Man’s book was key to DC’s 1980s post-Crisis universe, and the book not only cemented Buddy Baker as a DC/Vertigo mainstay, it made Americans realize for the first time what this ‘Grant Morrison’ cat was all about. Given the pure, concentrated awesome of that run of A Man, I found myself looking forward to this book, hoping that it would be a hidden gem of the relaunched DCU… But will disappointment be in my future?
ANIMAL MAN #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Penciler: Travel Foreman
Inker: Travel Foreman & Dan Green
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, on Animal Man: Buddy Baker. Father, family man, superhero. Back in the day, he was given powers by aliens (maybe) that allowed him to transfer the abilities of any animal to himself. Later, he discovered that the aliens may have possibly been agents of a greater power, found himself rebuilt from the ground up more than once, and even met his maker in the way that only a comic book character can, but through it all the basics of his life stayed the same. Even when his powers didn’t work properly, he was just a normal, Midwestern guy whose life was anything BUT normal. In the new DCU, will this remain the same?
Oh My God, It’s A Sequel!
Before Grant Morrison, Buddy Baker was pretty much a cypher, but in the late 80’s, he was revamped and relaunched as a vegetarian, activist hero who was even occasionally a bit embarrassed by his ‘day job’ as a superhero. Writer Jeff Lemire is someone that I’ve tangentially been aware of, but from the first page of this book, he has me hooked, opening things up with a one page text piece featuring a magazine interview that deftly and cleverly sets the tone for what’s to come. Animal Man is, at this point, a veteran hero, a respected character who has taken his stuntman gig and turned it into his first starring role, and who has become a hipster icon. I like the concept of a superhero as activist, and Lemire immediately grounds it with scenes of the Baker family at home. Ellen is quietly tolerant of her husband’s lifestyle, little Maxine wants a puppy, and Cliff is still kind of a punky kid. When the news reports of a man holding a local pediatrics ward hostage, it’s Animal Man to the rescue!
Oh My God, It’s An Interesting Sequel!
The issue spends a lot of time in Animal Man’s head, and I’m particularly impressed with how strong all the characters are. Buddy’s thoughts as he takes down the gunman are particularly well-done, as the thought of injured children makes him think of what might happen to his own kids before he returns to the job at hand. Things get weird with his powers, though, and when he makes it back home, things get weird with his dreams, as Cliff finds himself dreaming of great powers and “The Red,” the source of his animal abilities in the old Vertigo iteration of the series. The story ends with a horrifying image (Maxine REALLY wants a pet, and she’s the daughter of the Animal Man, which seemingly has given her powers of her own) and a mystery that seems to imply that this book will be (at least initially) in the vein of the old Animal Man series, leaving me pleasantly surprised.
The Verdict: Oh My God, It’s GOOD!
Travel Foreman is another name that I’ve only heard of in solicits (didn’t he used to draw Fathom?) but I find myself enjoying the visuals throughout this issue, especially the dream imagery, combining a ‘sketchy’ sort of style with truly excellent coloring and art design. I’m sad to report that this book and Batwing were the only #1’s not to do a day-of-sale sellout at Gatekeeper Hobbies (Huntoon & Gage, Topeka! Ask us about the Forgotten Heroes!) which is a real shame, as it’s a particularly well-done reinterpretation of a mostly-forgotten portion of DC history. There have been some big changes in the universe, but the basics of Animal Man remain recognizable, while setting out into well-drawn and well-writtten new territory. I’m not entirely sure what all is in store for Buddy Baker and his costumed antics, but I’m on board for the long haul here, as Animal Man #1 impresses the heck out of me and earns 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Some people are already posting death-watches for some of the lower-tier titles in the New 52 (a particularly self-defeating process, if you ask me) but in my opinion, this one deserves a long run and a wide audience…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: With the merging of the DC and Vertigo universes post-Flashpoint, is DC watering down their concepts by also continuing to publish the Vertigo books?