Comics / Comic Reviews / DC Comics

Animal Man #3

By Zak Edwards
November 3, 2011 - 11:24

After a couple of issues of story-building and establishing a new status quo, Animal Man #3 boldly states it’s done with hand-holding, done with world-building, and is willing to go out there and have some fun.  Of course, this fun comes complete with grotesque body shifting and mutation, but a romping good time nonetheless.
Well, romping good time is a bit hyperbolic.  Animal Man is, as Jeff Lemire said at last month’s New York Comic-Con, written for the editor-in-chief at Vertigo Comics, so its roots are more in the horror vein than punch-up superhero genre.  Animal Man, along with its counterpart Swamp Thing, is creating space for people interested in comics but want something different.  All the hype and attention DC has gotten in the past few months isn’t being squandered with these books and, while I’m sure the numbers argue differently, this is a very good idea for expanding the genre in the cultural consciousness.  But back to fun.

Lemire is so bold, so strong in his concept, while paying close attention to the past, that this book could be considered the very essence of the reboot.  It’s new, exciting, clearly keeping it’s roots while trying something different.  From the first page, a full-page spread of daughter Maxine falling with her physically unravelling father and a group of animal skeletons, this book promises to be unlike much of what’s been going on elsewhere.  The book is difficult to look at for most of it, barely any characters are able to hold a normal form, mutating and stretching out of their very bodies, but such grotesqueness is thematically important.  Titular character, Buddy Baker, is being deconstructed, the book itself is a narrative of falling apart and, as much as he would maybe like to avoid the comparisons, Lemire is in deeply meta-fictional territory.  The book itself, along with the characters, cannot simply keep on as they were, and the their next stage of development requires some change.  This development encourages a history that is more implied than given outright, the book starts in a form of in media res because of the drastic changes, as if the status quo is situated in a history that isn’t concrete (which is a reference to the pre-reboot Animal Man) but extremely necessary.  The Red, the life web his daughter and himself are traveling through, forces Buddy to confront this history as he attempts to rationalize his past.  He explains he received his powers from aliens, but is quickly rebuked, with the red explaining that he “was simply given a narrative (he) could more easily comprehend.”  Buddy’s history is thus simultaneously integral and falsified.  So as the book constantly bombards the reader with what could lazily be interpreted as gore and shock, is important for the continued (not brand new) development of these characters and the narrative itself, whose experiences are reflected in their horrific transformations.

The more I look at this title, the less and less I think there is anyone else out there who could do what Travel Foreman is doing here.  His rougher style still manages to be expressive and extremely detailed while operating, at times, very minimally.  Foreman’s pacing hurtles the reader forward in a way that keeps the book exciting and continually disturbing, things happen at an uncontrollable rate, while still insisting on being multi-layered and symbolic.  The book never lets up in terms of tone either, even relatively normal or quiet moments have screenshots of zombies and shotgun-axes to keep readers on the edge.  I feel I need to come back in a few months, after the first arc is perhaps completed, and pay more attention to how everyone falls apart.  Foreman’s work moves along quite quickly but the influence of surrealism, along with the sort of faded colouring and rougher inking at points, all gives the book, already heavily-layered, even more depth.

Grade: A+    The best book I have read in a very long time, one that may not be given its due credit.

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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