As someone not particularly versed in the history of Animal Man and thus not terribly attached to it, I found Jeff Lemire’s take on Buddy Baker’s origin in “Animal Man” #0 satisfying.
For a relatively new reader of “Animal Man,” Lemire’s story for Buddy Baker and the world he inhabits was easy to follow and made a lot of sense, especially for a character and book that has been through a lot of reinventions and tweaks over the years. Lemire’s origin concepts tie strongly into the ongoing larger story of The Red, The Green and The Rot, (and thus Swamp Thing) and Lemire’s explanation for how and why Buddy received his powers works. The issue is heavy on exposition as a necessary device, with the Totems of the Red overseeing everything, narrating changes to come and what strings they will now pull, but Lemire does his best to fill in some action to break up the telling with a look at Buddy’s early days and some family drama.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this issue, there’s also nothing that makes it a must read. Unlike books like “Dial H” which dropped awesome new surprises, this zero issue feels like it’s there by editorial decree to clean things up and help new readers jump on. It’s successful in that clean up, but it’s just not a great comic that begs to be read again.
Steve Pugh’s art is good, but there’s not a lot to do here with an emphasis on talking heads (even if those heads are cool totems) and an almost sweet recap of Buddy’s early years. Like Lemire, Pugh tries his best to break the story up with some action and drama, but there’s nothing particularly compelling here and fewer opportunities than usual to do the disturbing visuals the book has become known for. That said, Pugh’s giraffe totem is super cool.
On the whole, this is a solid origin issue, but there’s nothing must-read about it. Compared to Lemire’s very good run on “Animal Man,” it feels like a little side-step that we just have to get through before returning to the great stuff. While “Animal Man” #0 is a strong entry among the DC zero issues I’ve read so far, it’s a weak entry among good comics in general and Jeff Lemire’s work specifically. It will be good to get back to business as usual on this book next month.