And That Is When I Would Disown My Child.
Jeff Lemire's Animal Man steps up to the front of the pack as one of the DC relaunches that genuinely feels like it is aiming for the objective of a newer and better DC Universe. Even better, it succeeds by blending family drama and horror into its superheroics, making it one of the new titles out there with a unique and quality feel to offer readers.
It's almost sad how Buddy Baker's family is being made such a pillar of what makes the character and this series interesting when comic creators so often flee from such things, especially DC in the rest of this relaunch. When Wally West formed a family, DC practically crapped themselves in panic over what to do. So crippled were they by the little box they felt all superheroes had to fit into that it never seemed to occur to them to simply "write it well." This arcane logic doesn't escape Lemire, though. Buddy Baker is a family man, and Lemire simply writes it well rather than treating it like a tumor on the character's mythos.
Coming into this relaunch, I am not much of an Animal Man fan. I read a few issues of Grant Morrison's acclaimed run and just wasn't grabbed by it. So when it came to animal-powered heroes, my interest usually gravitated more toward Vixen and her gratuitous cleavage. DC has taken that away now, so... Animal Man it is.
One thing I appreciate about Lemire's take on Animal Man here is that he embraces the concept of a celebrity hero but does so without going the obnoxious Booster Gold route about it. This is actually the total opposite of that. Animal Man has celebrity but remains very grounded and self-conscious about it. He enjoys it while feeling uncertainty about what is the best thing to do with it. Having a celebrity superhero who is not defined by being smug and arrogant is refreshing.
This is not a terribly exciting issue, but that's not a bad thing. I simply mean this is not an issue packed with action. There is a little, but this story is much more about atmosphere and tension. On one side of the story, we see that Buddy Baker has a pretty ideal life as a superhero family man, but on the other, we see some effectively startling things happen that we know will threaten all of that. This really is like the start to a good, intelligent horror story.
Animal Man is a surprise hit for me, because I haven't really cared for Lemire's previous DC work. This issue is a major departure from what I'm familiar with when it comes to him, but to be fair, I've never read Sweet Tooth. My opinion of him as a writer has definitely been changed with this issue.
Really, my only problems with this issue are very minor. I happen to prefer his old yellow and blue color scheme to the new look, and I think Lemire pushes up against the border of silliness sometimes when it came to Animal Man's use of powers. Neither really have any real impact on my enjoyment of the story.
With so many DC relaunches seeming either "same old" or nostalgic, Animal Man really stands out by presenting itself as a new and very creative take on an established character. It is definitely one of the first issues most worth checking out among DC's offerings this week, It may end up not being to your tastes, but you have to give it credit for trying something new in a high quality way.