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The Harvey Award nominations were released this week and Animal Man was a double nominee with “Best New Series” and “Best Writer”. While it’s no surprise the series has been nominated, it’s been showered in critical acclaim and has been one of the real success stories of DC’s relaunch, what is surprising, is that it is DC’s solitary nominee in these categories. In fact the only other nominee for the publisher in the entire list, was for artist J.H. Williams III for his ground breaking work on Batwoman.
However a second look at the list, these nominations make sense. These titles are pushing boundaries and trying to do something different with the comic’s medium and that’s why they are being acknowledged. Whatever your opinion of the series, it can’t be denied that Animal Man is one of DC’s most unique and outlandish titles. When writers take on a Batman or a Green Lantern, they more or less know what is expected of them, there is a certain “template” in place but when you’re presented with a C-list superhero, not many people have heard of.....
Well if you’re Jeff Lemire, you let your imagination run wild. If there is one thing Animal Man isn’t, it’s predictable and this issue is no different. Still inside the Red Kingdom, Buddy Baker meets the Royal Tailors to mould him a new body. As always, everything Buddy does is for his family and his desperation is visibly apparent as he struggles to save his son. This family dynamic and the wonderful characterisation has been the key to the comics’ success. There is a powerful moment when Buddy is giving the reassuring, regulation, superhero speech to his wife, Ellen, and she reacts, “don’t give me any of that superhero crap, I can’t take it anymore”.
It’s this honest reality that makes this series so refreshing. It’s hard to find the glamor in having a messiah for a daughter and a superhero husband if you’re being hunted by a horde of hideous ogres. Ellen is a strong female character but Lemire is starting to show cracks in her armour as she slowly becomes exhausted with it all. All this family want now is a shred of normality in their lives but that seems a million miles away.
While all these family moments get a firm thumbs up, there was something too messy and disorderly about the faceoff between Buddy and the rotten imitator. Alberto Ponticelli steps in as penciller for this issue and there are some stellar panels but others just felt uneven and chaotic. All too often Buddy feels overly disfigured and it can become a little unsettling.
Animal Man won’t be for everyone. It’s a book of extremes and this will no doubt divide opinion but unless you try, you won’t know if you’re missing out on something great. Yes he’s not an A-lister found on the front pages of the news or gossip columns having a cigar with Puff Daddy, but sometimes the real gems are found in the middle, next to the faulty horoscopes and cheesy dating columns, you never know!
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