By: Mark Cormier
Ironically, the most appealing thing about Animal Man is how average he is. Buddy Baker is just a regular Joe, a suburban everyman with a wife and two kids who just happens to have super powers. He didn’t become a super-hero because of some tragic occurrence like his home planet exploding or having his parents shot to death in front of him; he just decided to become a super-hero because it seemed like the natural thing to do (I mean, what else are you supposed to do with super-powers?)
Animal Man is a test of the old adage “there are no bad ideas; only bad writers.” If someone can take such a seemingly boring character and make him fantastic, then that person has the makings of an excellent writer. Grant Morrison proved it with his 26-issue run of Animal Man back in the late 1980’s; and from the looks of things, Jeff Lemire is well on his way towards repeating history.
True to the form shown so far with The New 52, Animal Man #1 is the perfect launching pad for fans and newcomers alike. Even if you’ve only read Grant Morrison’s run like I have, this issue feels like it just picks up where that left off. If you’re new to Animal Man, the introductory pages do a bang-up job of describing who the character is and setting the tone for the series. There is no need to get into the origins, and we don’t really need a detailed explanation of how he got his powers.
If you really need to know, a spaceship blew up in his face.
I’m glad to see Buddy Baker is still in the suburbs as the husband and father he should be, because these are the elements that really set Animal Man from all of the other super-heroes. Whereas Batman has an entire Bat-Cave full of costumes and gadgets and specialized vehicles, Animal Man has to ask his wife if there are any clean costumes in the dryer.
It’s also fun to see Buddy use his powers creatively with any given situation, like absorbing the endurance of a rhino to stop a bullet, or absorb the weight of a bumblebee to sneak past the hallway and not wake the kids. That has always been a staple of any Animal Man comic, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll get out of future predicaments.
The latest danger that is plaguing Animal Man is both disturbing and mysterious, one that is apparently tied to the nature of his powers, and one that threatens his family. This has also been a staple of Animal Man, as his adventures have always been surreal and introspective, so I’m glad Lemire is sticking to the tried and true formula. Seeing Buddy’s little daughter Maxine develop similar (albeit really creepy) animal powers of her own is an intriguing premise to start with, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.
I’m not sold on Animal Man’s costume. I’ve personally gotten accustomed the orange jumpsuit with the goggles and the leather jacket. Although I suppose it wouldn’t be right for an animal rights activist and vegetarian to wear a leather jacket, and maybe it was too 1990’s. Still, I don’t think this new look is iconic enough for him. Maybe that’s just me.
I’m not familiar with Jeff Lemire’s prior work, but with this issue he’s proven he’s got the chops to write. As for Travel Foreman’s artwork, he does a good job keeping up with the various styles and settings that are thrown at us, from the tranquility of a family home, to the urban dangers of the city night, to the outright terror of a horrible nightmare.
If you’re looking for something different, this is the issue to pick up.
Overall Grade: 8/10