Why Can't we just go to Issue 13....
DC’s zero month is finally underway, celebrating the one year anniversary of the New 52. While I’ve felt pretty apathetic towards the whole idea, certain titles hold a genuine intrigue, in particular Animal Man whose origin is finally revealed. How did ordinary, family man, Buddy Baker acquire his most unusual power set?
It all begins with the preceding Animal Man being slayed by Anton Arcane, Lord of The Rot, deep in the bowels of the Congo jungle. With no immediate avatar champion to take his place, the wise, old Totems decide to tailor a provisional defender until the true champion, Maxine, is ready to rise. Thus begins the decorative scheme to fuse Buddy to the power of The Red.
The scheme itself is a shrewd one as the Totems construct a false narrative to get to Buddy. By implanting the “superhero” persona, it’s a narrative Buddy can understand and also keeps the Totem’s identity and purpose a secret. However, once again it’s the everyday aspect of the series that continues to draw readers even if the main plotline can sometimes slip. Buddy is a fraught, second-rate actor starring in cheap, comedy movies. He’s at a tough stage in his life but he’s an exuberant family man and Lemire does a great job at conveying this. Subtle embellishments, like Buddy buying old comics for his son’s birthday and taking him on a casual flight are nice touches and show Lemire’s excellent characterisation.
The origin story itself is by no means a conventional one but feels as if Lemire possibly ran out of pages and consequently doesn’t make the story as comprehensive and memorable as it maybe should have. Pacing has been a huge source of frustration with this series the last few months leading up to the much hyped crossover with Swamp Thing, furthering the opinion that they ultimately do more harm than good to a story. Hopefully Lemire can steer the ship back on course and focus on what made this series great in the first place.
The artwork by Steve Pugh suffers from inconsistency in this issue. The opening few pages in the Congo jungle all seem a little chaotic and sloppy. Proportions seem to be out of place and poses seem stiff. On the other hand the panels which take place in the Red Kingdom are very well done. The Totems are haunting and eerie and is the type of artwork we have come to expect from series.
One year into the New 52 and it’s been a tale of two halves for Animal Man. It came straight out of the blocks as the breakout hit of the reboot. Now as it goes through a mild, rough patch can it get back to that acclaim it once had? Well with Rotworld beginning next month, we shall see if Lemire’s main course has been worth the reservation.
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