This week has without question been the toughest week to choose a single book for my staff pick. However, after reading countless blogs, articles, and watching numerous interviews about the New 52 there was one book that stood out above the rest. That book is none other than fellow Canadian Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. Lemire has received a lot of attention over the past year with his Vertigo ongoing series, Sweet Tooth, and his collected edition of Essex County, nominated for Best Canadian Read. Now, Lemire ventures off into a darker, yet oddly vibrant world to bring back one of the most notorious characters in the DCU. Lemire promises that this is not only a superhero book, but it’s equally a horror story that really dives deep into the abyss of the DC universe. Animal Man is one of the first overtly deemed superhero/horror comics in a long time, and it’s already stolen the hearts of many. Read on for the skinny…
“Buddy Baker has gone from “super” man to family man–but is he strong enough to hold his family together when Maxine, his young daughter, starts to manifest her own dangerous powers? Find out in this dramatic new series from writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Travel Foreman.”
Animal Man has an enormously rich history, much of which is owed to Grant Morrison who brought Buddy Baker into popularity in the late 80s. This is the same time that Alan Moore was working on Swamp Thing, and Neil Gaiman was bringing Sandman to fruition. This was an important time not only for comics, but also for the development of horror as a legitimate artistic genre drawing upon the fears of the real world. Without these books, neither comics nor horror would be where they are today.
Morrison’s Animal Man ranks up there with the other works being written at the time, known for its extremely experimental style. Although Lemire’s new series marks a new beginning for Buddy Baker, it’s important to know the past of the hero. If you haven’t had a chance to read Morrison’s 80s run on the series I strongly advise you pick that up as well this week for some context and background on the character. I could go on for days talking about Animal Man’s past and how remarkable the character is, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.
If you don’t already know Jeff Lemire from his Vertigo work, you will soon. He’s well known for his sketchy art style, but his writing is worthy of equal praise. Never failing to combine heart-wrenching characters with a melancholy atmosphere, his books suck you into an emotionally driven world. Lemire rarely steps into the zone of non-creator owned books, but he’s said that Animal Man is the one character that “feels like it writes itself. It kind of flows through me like I’m just the next in line to document the lives of The Baker Family”.
On top of Lemire’s wonderful storytelling ability, artist Travel Foreman has one of the most distinct styles in comics. As you can see from the cover art and the previews, he’s just got something to his work that makes it stand out, yet is oddly inexplicable. The fine character lines combine with textures that seem to wash right into the background. As Animal Man gets darker and darker as the series continues, Foreman’s artwork will likely stand out as some of the finest of the New 52.
Aside from Animal Man, the one other book that stood out to me this week was Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing. It’s well known that Snyder and Lemire have a raging bromance going on, and there have been hints at an Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover event, planned in the not-too-distant future. As with Swamp Thing’s natural force connecting all living matter, known as “The Green”, Animal Man also taps into a “Morphogenetic field” of his own known as “The Red”. A crossover event between “The Green” and “The Red” would be like Christmas! It would combine two of the most awe-inducing horror heroes and bring together the delicious young team of Lemire and Snyder.
There are loads of new books coming out as part of the DCU relaunch…well 52 to be exact…and there’s bound to be something to suit everyone’s tastes. If you’ve always been a comic reader and you’re looking for a break from the typical heroes, Animal Man is one you can’t pass up. If you’re completely new to reading comics, you can’t go wrong with Lemire’s Animal Man. Let me know what you’re stoked for in the comments or on Twitter!
’Animal Man’ #1 drops Wednesday September 7th from DC Comics! (MSRP $2.99)