I don't know what it is, but Animal Man hasn't felt the same since Rotworld began. Well ok, I kind of know what it is, and that's Steve Pugh's artwork. It's strange, he's had to do LESS pages since Rotworld began now that Timothy Green II's handling the 'present day' storyline, but it feels like he's gotten LAZIER instead of more detailed in the pages he does. Beast Boy's face tends to look super awkward, the background are more empty, yet make things feel crowded with dull colors, and much of the battle looks muddied and simplified.
It might not be Pugh as much as it might be Lovern Kindzierski on the colors. One or the other or the combination of the two give this issue a painfully static and awkward feel. Everything just feels so flat and fake and stiff. Meanwhile, Timothy Green II's artwork on the Present Day segments are bright and vibrant and still just the right amount of twisted, I almost want the two artists to trade roles.
It's a shame, because there's a lot of good things going on in the plot. Lemire subtly ties into his Justice League Dark with Felix Faust as a willing leader in the Rot, and scratching the surface of some clearly upcoming exploration of Black Orchid's backstory. Maxine has some pretty shocking encounters back in the present, and I'm especially excited to see how she interacts with the person she meets. Also I have to give Lemire credit for doing one major thing Swamp Thing hasn't yet, and that's demonstrate details about the few people living who aren't fighting to save the world, or those like Felix Faust who willingly joined the Rot, and thus seems to have far more of his sentience intact. What's REALLY intriguing is who they meet in the end, I'm really curious to know how they've survived, plus the group there has one of my favorite underused villains, and I don't think we've seen him before in the New 52 but he appears to be pretty well intact.
In Conclusion: 3.5/5
I HATE to give this score, but 4/5 just seem a bit too high when the dulled colors of the art really hindered this issue's ability to be gripping and compelling. There were plenty of good story elements, even some bits Swamp Thing hasn't touched, but Swamp Thing has such vibrant and expressive artwork that it makes Animal Man look a little bland and outdated by comparison. It's a shame, really, Pugh was doing fine before, but I think at this point I'd rather he be replaced on this series, he just doesn't match up with Lemire's writing.
I also gotta say, at first I was trying to figure out if there was a reason Lemire used the heroes he did for Rotlings, because they weren't exactly the biggest threats, and only one had any semblance of interesting significance to Animal Man; but they shared a connection of being written or drawn by Rob Liefeld in the New 52. Then I found out about the tirade he took out on Scott Snyder a few months ago and I love the 'Take That' Lemire's given here.