I had this idea a while back for a series of articles in which I could simply relax and talk about comic books. You see, I love comics I always have but keeping up with every issue I would need to for an up to date series was simply too much for me to handle money wise. So I got to thinking and eventually I came to the conclusion to instead of collecting the issues for a series I would simply create a review series utilizing the various trades within my growing collection. I’ll be honest, I actually like collecting trades more than single issue. I love everything about trades and it lets me show off a series on a slightly more complete spectrum than in just small segments.
Still, then I began thinking of some other comic book reviewers. I’ll come right out and say that I really don’t like many review series for this medium. So much focus goes towards what you should hate about these comics as opposed to what you should love. Yeah, not everything out there is going to be a gem but focusing so much on the negatives of comics will sometimes make a person forget why they really love them to begin with. So this series isn’t about the criticism of each book but rather just putting these series out there for you to see and maybe enjoy as well. I should also state that I’m trying for a non-spoiler approach with this first one. Any criticism or suggestions towards this are of course appreciated.
So with my rather wordy introduction out of the way I’d like to start things off light. So this week we’ll take a look at a surreal horror comic to recently come out in trade. Part of DC Comic’s New 52 here is Animal Man volume one: The Hunt.
Right off the bat simply knowing that this is a New 52 book shows you that this is probably the best jumping on point for the series. Speaking from my own experience this was my first foray into the story of Animal Man and this book made it very easy for me to get into the story without prior knowledge. Within the first chapter we get everything we need to know about our hero. Buddy Baker is Animal Man a lesser known hero who draws his power from the web of life, allowing him the abilities of any animal on earth. We see him struggle to keep his family happy while trying to pursue multiple careers, including of course his costumed crime fighting as well as a lackluster movie career. Just like that you’re all caught up.
From there we take a look into Buddy’s life as well as the lives of his wife and kids as they deal with an influx in Buddy’s powers as well as the discovery of his four year old daughter’s own frightening powers. As time goes on things begin to ramp up as grotesque creatures known as the Hunters Three begin hunting down Buddy’s family. The story becomes a surreal look into the origins of Buddy’s powers and the dangerous fate that lies in wait for his daughter.
The story itself is a haunting and somewhat grotesque take an otherwise paint-by-numbers super hero story. To state right now this is not a story meant for everyone and those adverse to any kind of horror or just weird imagery will be put off by it. That said any horror buff will find the over all product an intriguing one as it blends in disturbing imagery with surreal concepts.
On a more technical level for the story the pacing of each chapter is very well done, never really making you feel like you’re missing a plot point while at the same time never leaving you bored. The impact behind every reveal and the intensity of the horror is spot on and the story never falls into a point of being predictable. The characterization is an interesting one as Buddy is certainly a likeable and relatable person. Extending into his family probably some of the most enjoyable scenes are the displays of character relationships between Buddy’s wife and older son. Never did I feel like the family was unbalanced or even stereotyped as each relationship had a very realistic flow and dynamic to it.
That said the character of Maxine, Buddy’s daughter, brought about some confusion. As I stated before her given age was four years old though she displays an attitude of unrealistic calmness and wisdom for a child of her age. If anything the age point detracts from her character, again making her feel unrealistic in an otherwise well written family structure. This is of course a small complaint as the personality of the character herself is never once grating and is even rather fun at times despite her mismatched age.
Something notable about the story is that while the first five chapters cover The Hunt arc the final chapter takes a rather interesting side excursion. This chapter is a partially standalone story that shows the story of a movie in which Buddy Baker played the main character. The story itself is decent on its own but it becomes more interesting as you begin to realize the parallels that it draws between Buddy’s character in the movie and Buddy himself. Taking a sort of symbolic approach towards Buddy’s waning career as a hero and his relationship with his children. This chapter stands as another testament to the overall writing of Animal Man, as it turns what would’ve normally been a filler issue into a deeper look at the main character himself.
From an artistic perspective this is probably one of the more well matched, well done books in my collection. The ability from the artist is top tier in terms of nailing the expressions of each of the characters while still making the book look unlike anything else on the market. With that said this, like the story, is something that could turn people away from reading. This is because the art does a splendid job of matching the surreal horror of the story, making much of the imagery within it unsettling and disturbing. It’s not something I can see many people enjoying as even I could not dwell too much on several images, pretty though it may be. Still the art does it’s job very well and is something that I would expect to see from a book of this kind.
Overall I can say that Animal Man was a pleasant surprise coming out of the New 52. The book does a fantastic job of taking an otherwise second rate hero story and truly showcasing the intensity and harshness of his life as a hero. The story and the art match perfectly making for a smooth and enjoyable experience. With the ability to jump right in and the mystery and promise of things to come within the story this trade is definitely a must pick.
Publisher: DC Comics
Retail Price: $14.99
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror, Superhero
Original Release: May 02, 2012