Re-launching a beloved title isn't easy, but "Animal Man" #7 is another reminder of how well Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh have proven to be up to the task. This latest issue is a mixture of everything that worked well in previous incarnations; a strong family component, super-powered moments and an increasingly creepy portent on what's to come. At the same time, it still feels fresh and original.
Lemire's script gets down to business quickly, establishing the current "on the road" status quo for Buddy Baker and his family, as well as recognizing that once more, Animal Man is part of the DC Universe instead of being firewalled off under the Vertigo imprint. As a result we've got references to the Justice League and the Flash, even as we're offered up a reasonable enough idea for why the Bakers aren't chatting with Superman about the problems with the Rot. We're still getting the feel that this is a superhero universe, though; we see an Animal Man t-shirt on one person, and Cliff Baker's attempts to play the "my dad's a superhero" card to impress girls proceeds with predictably bad results.
We're also getting a good mixture of family dynamics. Buddy and Maxine are so often paired off together that it's refreshing to get an issue where it's Buddy and Cliff, while Maxine is back at the trailer with Ellen and Grandma. Watching Ellen's mother being unable to handle the situation they're in is reasonable and also slightly refreshing; it's a realistic response to the craziness they're in. We're also reminded once again that while Buddy might be the superhero in the Baker family, Ellen is a force to be reckoned with in her own manner and without Lemire turning her into a stereotypical shrew or harpy. As always, though, it's Maxine that shines and from both the innocent present day version to the potential future of the character, her scenes stand out the most.
Pugh draws the majority of the issue (with exiting artist Foreman drawing a handful of pages bookending the comic) and it's great to have him coming on as the regular artist again. The sea of bones surrounding the camper is wonderfully eerie and I feel there's a fullness to his characters that works well with Lemire's scripts. It's nothing against Foreman, who has provided some truly terrifying drawings in his own right on "Animal Man," but Pugh is quickly proving to be a strong fit for not only the fantastic but the mundane elements too.
"Animal Man" #7 is another strong installment from all parties involved and it's refreshing to see readers have quickly figured out this is a book to watch. Each issue makes you anxious to see what's next for "Animal Man." Knowing that there's an upcoming crossover with "Swamp Thing" is just the icing on the proverbial cake. If you're not reading "Animal Man" yet, this is a great place to try and see for yourself.