Although I have been loving Jeff Lemire on both Animal Man and Justice League Dark, I was worried about how the quality of this issue would be. The last time Animal Man had a standalone issue, where we saw Buddy Baker as Red Thunder in the fictional movie 'Tights', it was a weak issue that had trouble finding its motivation. I am glad to report this is not the case with Animal Man #0. This, while working as a done-in-one adventure dealing with Animal Man's origin, still manages to keep the ongoing story of the title energized. We see how Buddy's origins are tied into the situation his family now finds itself in.
Lemire's script expands on the revisions to the history of Animal Man which had been brought up in passing before. It was great to see how Lemire mixes the mythology of The Red into the traditional origin tale about intergalactic alien scientists. The humor here is plentiful and well executed.We see Buddy robbing banks in a chicken suit and being duped to a comically easy extent by the alien ruse he encounters, all quality gags. That levity is much needed in an issue that even by the standards of Animal Man has a massive amount of gore.
You can't bring up the gore hear without mentioning Steve Pugh though. His work continues to be consistantly disturbing and beautiful at the same time. I never thought I'd say this, but I think he may have even replaced Travel Foreman as my favorite Animal Man artist. He is an all around talent, he is great at creating bazaar otherworldly creatures, but still is able to pull of near photo-realism when it comes to woodland critters as normal as coyotes and bunny rabbits.
This is certainly not the best issue of Animal Man since the New 52 started, but unlike the previous stand-alone adventure it does belong in the upper echelon of the series and as required reading for the true fan. There are a few surprises in this book early on but its mainly old information, so you won't miss anything story wise if you skip this issue. But doing that would be doing a disservice to yourself. For those who haven't been reading Animal Man this is a great jumping on point. You won't understand the complexities of the plot or the bonds between certain characters as well as the frequent reader will, but you will still find a lot to love.