“Animal Man” continues to be one of the strongest offerings of the new DCU 52 thanks to the interesting and consistent work of both Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman.
In this third issue of “Animal Man,” Buddy Baker and his daughter Maxine arrive at The Red Place thanks to Maxine’s urging and guidance. There Buddy and Maxine meet the other Animal Men, also known as Totems, and learn much about “the life web” and more importantly, what Maxine is destined for. Meanwhile at home, Ellen and Cliff are under attack by one of “The Others” that stayed behind to destroy Ellen since she gave birth to an Avatar of The Red (i.e. Maxine).
Jeff Lemire’s story is particularly strong when it’s dealing with Buddy Baker and his family, most especially his daughter Maxine who is precocious without being annoying. The whole family dynamic is very real and well-realized. Even just three issues in, it’s nearly impossible not to care about the lot of them. This issue, unlike the first two, is a bit heavy on the exposition as we get some prophecy-focused info dumps from the Totems to move things forward, but it’s all reasonably intriguing and Foreman’s art makes it impossible to get bored.
Where “Animal Man” is really excelling is on the art, thanks to Foreman’s strength with the surreal and psychedelic elements present in Lemire’s story. Foreman’s imagination seems to have no bounds and the choices he makes are interesting and freakishly compelling. Foreman’s interpretation of “The Red” and the Animal Men that dwell there as well as “The Other” is quite horrifying and does much of the heavy lifting in the story. Foreman has a loose, scratchy, freewheeling style that’s straight up ballsy. He gives everything an urgency and intensity that words alone could never convey. Lovern Kindzierski’s colors are an excellent complement to Foreman’s work, unafraid to follow him as he cuts loose, but willing to keep things appropriately subtle when the story calls for it.
This title deserves all the praise it’s getting as it’s a solid, emotional, and thoroughly engaging book that is both complex enough to engage readers familiar with the characters, but simple enough to be new reader friendly. “Animal Man” stands out as one of the best books of the new DCU and it shows no signs of stopping.