You've probably already heard how good this book is, and it really is!
This is Animal Man #1, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman. The issue starts with a page long piece of prose from a fictional magazine, not usually a fan of prose in my comics this made me skeptical right from the start but it was actually a very entertaining, very clever way of giving just enough character history for new readers to understand the groundwork of the comic whilst it also presented character traits which prevail throughout the issue. The result of this is a very smooth comic book; no clunky exposition, no forced character development and after the third page I was full invested in the character of Animal Man/Buddy Baker- quite the achievement as I have no previous interactions with the character.
After this, we meet the rest of the Baker family. Buddy's wife, Ellen, his son, Cliff (who has the most magnificent mullet) and his daughter, Maxine. Buddy and Ellen are discussing the magazine interview; Buddy is reminiscing about his crime-fighting days when Maxine walks in, desperate for a pet dog but Buddy explains that, if he spends too much time around one animal he loses the connection he has with other animals. Ellen makes an underhand remark that it's "not like (he uses) them anymore" but as if in answer, Cliff bursts into the room with news of a man holding a whole floor of a hospital hostage. With this, Buddy Baker dons his suit once more to become Animal Man!
Arriving at the hospital, Animal Man takes care of the man holding the floor hostage and we get to see our first glimpse of Animal Man's powers. However, after taking out the man, Animal Man's eyes start to gush blood. Lucky, then, that he's in a hospital of all places but according to the doctors, he seems to be in perfect health.
Upon returning home, Buddy climbs straight in to bed and, after summoning the napping abilities of a cat, we are treated to a beautifully drawn dream sequence. I say "dream sequence" but it would be far more accurate to describe this as a nightmare. As the pages turn to greyscale, the only color we see is the deep scarlet of blood. Seeing Cliff with his stomach ripped open, Buddy rushes over to him but as he does, Maxine emerges, wearing an Animal Man-esque costume and tailed by a fifty-foot tall, live stuffed dog. Maxine tells Buddy it's time to go and that they have to hurry as they're being followed, the 'hunters' are after them and they have to hide. As she says this, Maxine wades into a river of blood telling her dad to do the same as he is reduced to nothing but a weave of veins and arteries. But it is too late; a horde of monsters gathers behind Buddy, accompanied by his daughters words, "It's them. Too late. We're all gonna die now".
With this, however, Buddy jolts awake, only to find the bed empty. He follows Ellen's calls to the front garden where we see Maxine looking up at her parents saying, "I-I'm sorry, Daddy. I just wanted a pet of my own", surrounded by dead animals which are crawling towards her. TO BE CONTINUED.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my first interaction with the character, I had no knowledge of the character going in to this and I merely picked it up because, from what I'd read of the solicitations, it sounded really interesting. I have never regretted anything less. This has been my favorite comic of the New 52 so far, it's also a strong contender for my favorite comic of all time. If you're like me and like a dark or horror edge to your comics then this is certainly a book for you!
The art by Travel Foreman was bizarre but I liked it, it started off surprisingly simple but clean looking. However, as it progressed it got more detailed and significantly more line-heavy. The nightmare sequence, however, was a thing of beauty and I believe that's where Foreman really came into his element.
As you may have noticed from my reviews on the comic cast or just my general views on things, I'm not one to follow a crowd. I like to think for myself and decide whether I like something by myself and straight after I'd finished this issue, before I'd read anyone else's reviews, I knew I'd just read something special! This truly is a spectacular piece of work and I urge anyone and everyone to give this a read! If you can find a copy of it that is.
This is definitely a series to look out for; this was a perfect issue and I absolutely can't wait for issue two. Not only that but the next story arc is supposedly a cross-over with Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing- another good series which you should be reading.
Animal Man #1:
Reviewed by Joe Jinks