"Animal Man" #10 by Jeff Lemire and Steve Pugh puts forward a lot of questions and mysteries, but after this issue the most prevalent question for me is how long can the lead character being a tourist in his own book remain interesting? Fortunately Lemire and Pugh are incredibly talented creators, so they're making this work, but to be honest, the idea of every little thing being explained to Buddy is wearing thin, especially without the delightful Maxine (aka Little Wing) commentary now absent.
Lemire's "Animal Man" continues to be one of the stronger books from DC and it's had the benefit of a phenomenal opening artist in Travel Foreman. Pugh has picked up the art chores on this book effortlessly, but Lemire and this book are falling into a rather bad pattern of Animal Man having very little agency in his own title. It certainly fits Lemire's supposed plan on a larger scale and I'm willing to give him a little rope, but several issues deep of Buddy just feeling like the inconsequential guest star in his own title and it's getting tiresome. I suppose for newer readers (like me) it's a good way to explore the world of Animal Man so everyone can get up to speed, but ten issues in, I need to feel like Buddy is a hero and right now he feels like dead weight. Hopefully that will turn into a wonderful reveal as we continue, but I find myself itching for that moment.
Pugh's art is, on the whole, gorgeous. He manages to capture both the extreme insanity of "The Red" with the creativity (and gruesomeness) required, but has no problems with the every day scenes either. This is a great looking book. Pugh's "creatures" are sublimely disgusting and gorgeous, but he never forgets his attention to detail when it comes to his more ordinary characters. For example, out of all the cool stuff Pugh draws in this book, my favorite panel is Maxine's expression when she orders Zatanna to let go of her mommy "or I'll turn you into a toad." It's good fun stuff.
The panel layouts are not always to my taste, but they're not so disruptive that they interrupt the flow. One design element that did stop me right in my tracks in a negative way is Pugh's depiction of Madame Xanadu. She looks like she just came from major breast implant surgery with typically comic book water balloons strapped to her chest - and they must be implants because no natural breasts in the world sit the way Xanadu's do. She's clearly not wearing a bra given her ridiculous outfit and looks absolutely out of place and bizarre. Xanadu does not strike me as a character that would ever consider breast implants (She's going to live forever -- what if big breasts go out of vogue?!) and as a result, while it's not a choice that ends the world, it did instantly yank me out of the story, and leave me scratching my head.
Interestingly enough, like Buddy's tourist behavior in the book as depicted by Lemire, "The Red" is also wearing thin. I suppose weirdness around every corner can become tiresome too because my eyes honestly wanted to rest while reading this issue. The coloring didn't help. As a fan of monochromatic palettes, I appreciate that Lovern Kindzierski is not holding back and I think that's the right decision, but there's something almost thin and flat in the colors of "The Red." I can't tell if it's something with the inking not being strong enough or the colors not having enough depth (even if it's all red depth) but something is keeping this book from being as beautiful as I want it to be.
"Animal Man" has been a strong book from go, one of the best of the New 52 and a book that developed one of the greatest new characters of the DCU in the form of young Maxine. It will serve the book well if Lemire can finally move Buddy into a little more active and intelligent role in his own title, rather than being the guy that has to be told everything all the time.