Review: Animal Man #1 by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

Animal Man #1

Written by: Jeff Lemire
Penciled by: Travel Foreman
Inked by: Travel Foreman and Dan Green
Lettering by: Lavern Kindzieski
Colored by: Jared K. Fletcher

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Note: This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

When I saw Animal Man on the list of books for DC Relaunch, I was definitely curious. I know very little about the character other than the fact that Grant Morrison wrote some crazy comics starring him. I had a feeling this book would be a bit off kilter, and Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman did not disappoint me there.

Summary (contains spoilers): Animal Man #1 starts with Buddy Baker, his wife Ellen, and two kids Maxine and Bud living out a simple life in surburbia. Buddy recently appeared in an indy film about a washed up superhero, and it seems like he hasn’t been using his powers much recently. Maxine keeps pestering them to buy her a dog. This ends up being important later.

Bud says that on the news they are talking about a guy with a gun taking hostages at a nearby hospital. Buddy throws on his Animal Man costume and heads off to save the day. I really do not like this costume.

Turns out the gunman is a short order cook who’s daughter died of cancer in the hospital a few weeks ago. The man snapped, and has taken the children’s ward hospital. Buddy tries to talk to him, telling him about his own daughter. The man doesn’t seem to want to hear it and opens fire. Buddy uses his powers to turn into a rhino, and then begins to mixing in some other animal abilities to allow him to take the gunman out before anyone can get hurt.

Animal Man brings him out to the police who freak out. It seems that Animal Man has started bleeding from the eyes. Doctors check him out, and say that he’s fine. Animal Man insists that he’s felt better than ever lately. More connected to “the life.”

He heads home to find the rest of the family is already asleep. He borrows the ability of a cat to take a nap, and finds himself in a nightmare world. His son is on the run from Maxine. When Buddy asks, “What happened to mom?” Bud says, “Don’t ask me about mom…that’s the worst part of all…you don’t wanna know what she did to mom!“ Bud collapses to the ground dead, and Buddy finds Maxine.

She tells them they need to run before the Hunters catch up to them. She refers to them as “the bad things that dress up like men.” She tells him that to survive he’s going to need to turn off the human side of his brain and embrace the animal side. He then encounters these guys:

Buddy wakes up from the nightmare to find that Ellen is gone. He finds her outside freaking out over Maxine. Maxine is playing in the backyard with what seem to be reanimated animal corpses saying, “Sorry Daddy, I just wanted a pet of my own.”

Review: I love the little prose piece that starts this issue. Animal Man is not a character most people know, and this really helped the reader catch up quickly. I love the idea that Animal Man is such a pop icon in the DC Universe, since most readers wouldn’t know that much about him. It’s a real clever twist. I also love the fact that he’s staring in the DC Universe version of “The Wrestler.” This really helped build the setting right from the first page.

That said, the opening interview was a little hard to read digitally. The magnify option definitely helped, though it really made a mess of the pacing of the interview. Comixology needs to give the readers more options in their zooms or allow readers to use other comic readers on their digital comics. I was actually tempted to download a scan of the issue just because I knew the readers for those would give me more options to read it. I had similar problems with all the odd fonts they used in Canterbury Cricket. I had to read that entire comic zoomed in, one panel at a time, which is not a comfortable way of reading a comic for me.

I love the idea that people are wearing “Evolve or Die” shirts. It reminds me of Grant Morrison having people wearing “Magneto was right” shirts in New X-Men.  And it comes full circle since Animal Man was best known when Morrison wrote him.

I like how quickly suburban bliss turns into a Stephen King book. Jeff Lemire really does a brilliant job here or setting the scene and quickly flipping it into something completely different. If not for the cover and the publicity, the sudden change would have been a slug to the jaw.

I always love a comic where the art looks very different from anything else out there, and Animal Man is the perfect example  Travel Foreman’s art is a great fit for this book. Two different people texted me the day it came out and said it was “creepy” which is definitely the right word for it. But I like creepy.

Just from the cover alone, you have a pretty good sense of what you are in for. And I won’t spoil it here, but that last page ups the ante big time. I just hope Mr. Foreman isn’t someone who uses a lot of models for his work…

The Hunters Three were also really well drawn. Like something out of a nightmare, which of course they were in the book.  I suspect we will be seeing much more of them in the near future…

My one major complaint about this book is that I really prefer the old “googles” version of Animal Man to the new costume. It just looks very generic. I know that this book isn’t really about Buddy Baker as a superhero, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a cool costume.

This was another solid first issue, and I really hope that it finds an audience. This seems like it could be on the level of some of my favorite comic epics like Sandman or Y: The Last Man. I am really glad this is one of the series I am buying day of release.  If you are looking for something different in your comic reading, check out Animal Man.

Final Score: 8.5 – Starts off like a simple tale of a suburban B-level superhero and quickly turns into something disturbing and different. Not sure if this is for everyone, but it’s exactly what I was hoping for.

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