Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Animal Man 1 – 4

Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Travel Foreman

On a long hiatus from comics I decided to go with a non-superhero affair. Yes, Animal Man does have inhuman abilities…but from everything I’d been hearing the New 52 Animal Man is a strange trip. I’m laughing now because you’ll never find somebody who reads Animal Man and says, “Yeah I’ve heard that story before.”

Animal Man is surreal creepiness in print. The art may make a person vomit. The color palette and use of said spectrum is minimalistic and beautiful. The actual visual direction is where someone may turn their nose at Animal Man. It’s hard to go a mere two panels without seeing something that looks like a Google search for car crash photos. Grotesque images, blood and exposed organs cover pages like sauce on spaghetti.

It’s most certainly a jump into the abyss of a creative human mind. And mean that in a good way. There’s nothing I can recollect that quite compares to Animal Man artistically; it’s some of the most disturbing physical shots of anything I’ve seen in any medium. Yet it serves to tell the story: it’s not for shock value.

Buddy Baker as the titular character of Animal Man doesn’t know how he obtained his bond with the beast kingdom. Punching criminals in the face was Buddy’s early years. Turning to acting, and even becoming an animal rights activist is his current life. Even without full knowledge or understanding of his ability to copy the innate attributes of any animal, he settles down and starts a family and just tries to live a normal life.

What follows in the first four issues of Animal Man is an Alice in Wonderland like tale – just with a lot of exposed human intestines. From Animal Man’s eyes bleeding profusely, to his daughter using necromancy and sheltering animals raised from their very graves, nothing is ever a non-surprising moment.

Animal Man isn’t for everybody and I honestly don’t have negative or overwhelmingly positive feelings either. The tale to this point has stretched out into another ethereal plan of existence where Animal learns that a war is coming. He’s tasked with protecting “The Red”, a secluded area of existence, from “The Rot” or the infestation that seeks to devour and corrupt. What?

Not that the story is too heady, but it’s out there, really out there -- In some other atmosphere of human consciousness. Or, it’s just difficult to wrap ones head around what Jeff Lemire is going for. Is Animal Man a good story or so off-putting that it will turn people away? I don’t even have an answer myself. It’s an interesting first four trades, nothing is cliché or contrived, it’s all creative. And for that Animal Man is one of the more exceptional new comics from the New 52 DC run.

More than worth a passing glance, Animal Man is among the most unique comics you’ll ever come upon. It’s no bread and butter, man wearing tights and punching goons adventure. Reading Animal Man is like riding in a really nice car…actually, I can’t make any type of analogy that makes any sense to this warped narrative!

Those feeling DC has fallen into a stale rut since launching its new line (I personally only like a handful of the New 52) Animal Man may be the thing that makes you realize why you read these things in the first place…that or you’ll be very uncomfortable reading and looking at each page. Either way Animal Man elicits an aura of imagination and I can’t help but applaud Jeff Lemire – even if I think he was on something while writing this!

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