Reborn In the Womb Of Mother Earth
With Travel Foreman's full departure from the series, we have Steve Pugh's first cover, and it's not really that great. The layout is very sporadic, not well thought out, and the whole image just feels a bit crowded. However, I do really like the way Hunter/Buddy is chaotically fraying apart, and the skeletal design on the bottom of Cliff's sneaker is definitely genius.
What's strange about Travel Foreman's departure, is that instead of the expected 100% Pugh issue, we get full interior art by fill-in artist Alberto Ponticelli. Ponticelli is no stranger to Lemire and weirdness, doing his main work on Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., but his art feels a little rushed compared to usual. Ellen especially has a very weird face, overall it's the more normal moments that look really off with Ponticelli's art.
This is a perfect celebration of the near finale of a full year of storytelling, and the last leg before the beginning of Rotworld, with Buddy Baker getting an upgrade at the hands of a clever tie-in to Morrison's run. Animal Man is remade after his old body is taken by The Rot, and since he's had some major growth since his initial creation, and a stronger connection with The Red, his new body has new abilities, notably limited species-shifting. Animal Man's actual process of rebirth is really intense, and utterly perfect in setting the stage for his return debut.
There's also a good sense of evolution, as the new Buddy Baker must defeat the corrupted former Buddy Baker to save his family and begin his war with The Rot. We also get to see Socks display some of his old abilities, but sadly he's still no match for anyone else involved.
I'm a bit confused as to why the last page occurs the way it does, Cliff has thus far shown no true connection to any of this in his own self, so why the events occur to him in the last page make no sense.
In Conclusion: 4.5/5
The new art was pretty abrupt, and a little off-putting, more-so during the more normal scenes, but overall it's an amazing representation of all that's happened to Buddy along this first year of the New 52, and a final preparation for the ultimate test that it's been building up to.