Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 02.01.2012 – Animal Man #6

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Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 23.6%
 
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Animal Man_Full_6
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by JOHN PAUL LEON, TRAVEL FOREMAN and JEFF HUET
Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN

Size: 20 pages
Price: 2.99

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing about comic books, it’s that in this day and age, it’s tremendously hard for a publisher and a creative team to consistently put out a monthly, quality product. Now that’s not saying that everyone involved doesn’t try incredibly hard. But in this day and age, there are more obstacles than ever in front of the publishers and creators. Artists take longer to finish their work; writers get backed up on their workload and fall behind; technology, as much as it helps and has helped to advance the industry, can sometimes get in the way. And above all, the audience is as fickle as it comes. As much as we love to praise our heroes in the comics and then come down on them like harsh critics, we do the same to the creators and publishers. So when I see a book that’s dedicated to working within the system to produce quality, I have to admit, I’m impressed. This week, Animal Man #6 stepped up to the plate and did just that.

Here in 2012, after over 70 years of the American comic book industry, it’s time we’ve accepted the fact that the legendary run between an artist and a creator on one ongoing book is a thing of the past. It’s never going to happen again. I’ve accepted it, it’s time you accept it as well. We’ve seen the legends like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee create some amazing work on a consistent basis, but that was during a different time, in a different place. The game has changed and now we need to adapt and evolve.  We’ve seen various publishers take different approaches to the ongoing monthly comic and the conundrum of dealing with managing their creators as there are a myriad of ways to manage the artists duties on an ongoing monthly title.  The use of a fill in artist has become accepted. Someone to step in and do an issue or two, while the regular artists catches up.  Marvel’s taken the approach of rotating artists on story arcs, so that while one artist is working on one arc, another artists is on the next. It appears that DC Comics approach, generally, appears to have a fill in artist step in and keep the story moving forward as we’ve seen in books like Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing.  But with Animal Man #6, I was surprised and relieved to see the approach be taken in a way that could be celebrated, not complained about.

After the first 5 issues of Animal Man, I thought to myself, man Travel Foreman is killing it on the art. Every month the issue has looked great and it’s been as big of a part of the identity of the title as the story that Jeff Lemire is weaving, as it should be in comics. But I wondered, how much longer could it last? We’ve seen fill in artists creeping into the DC books of The New 52, surely it was just a matter of time.  I’m sure they could find an artist who could ape Foreman’s style, but that would most likely fall short. Animal Man #6 this week was the issue that would answer my question and after reading it, I have to applaud the team behind Animal Man for handling it in classy manner.

Animal Man #6 takes a page from the book of Starman and the work of James Robinson, as I recently celebrated in my last Pick of The Shade #4. As opposed to bringing in a fill in artist to just tell the next chapter of the story, Lemire teams up with stellar artist in his own right, John Paul Leon to give us a glimpse into the past of Buddy Baker (Animal Man) in a very clever way.

When Animal Man #1 launched, the issue began in an equally clever manner with a text piece of a magazine interview with Buddy Baker discussing his life as a super hero and his recent turn as an actor.  With Animal Man #6, the issue revisits that concept by showing us the independent film that Baker was in.  Illustrated by Leon, we see the movie “Tights” which stars Buddy Baker as a down on his luck ex-super hero.  The movie becomes metacontextual in and of itself by having the comics’ current super hero alter ego, playing an ex-super hero and at the same time having a very similar feel to the realistic super hero concept that has been popular in entertainment recently in such things like Kick-Ass and Heroes.  John Paul Leon delivers his own special brand of art here, giving us a clean, slightly realistic cartooning style that is different enough from Foreman’s art that you, the reader, understand that we’re looking at something different here. Leon’s expressions and cinematic feel make his illustrations perfect for the job.  It’s not until more than 2/3 of the story do we get a subtle nudge as to what’s happening, as one panel is interrupted with a “Buffering” effect that seems very similar to watching video on the web or a streaming device. A few pages later, we’re interrupted again, but this time with a “Low Battery” message and then after a page turn, we’re back to art by Travel Foreman as we see Buddy and his family, on the run after the events of the first 5 issues, and Buddy’s son Cliff (the one with the mullet), was watching his dad in the movie on his handheld device.  See what I mean? Clever.

After the beautiful work of John Paul Leon, Travel Foreman returns us to the present moment of the Animal Man comic and we get a feel for what’s happening as we roll towards the next issue and the next story arc. And with that, Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Travel Foreman, inker Jeff Huet  and letterer Jared K. Fletcher show us how a fill in issue is done.  Bring in a quality fill in artist, keep us in the world of the characters and relevant, and take something that is regrettably needed (the need for fill in issue) and turn it into something fun and special. Something that can trigger conversation and enjoyment from the fans, which is really what it’s all about.

Ron Richards
Seriously though, can we lose the mullet?
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I haven’t gotten to this book quite yet, but glad to hear it’s good. This series has been one of my favorites of the New 52, and I think it will stay that way for some time.

  2. RandyFlagg RandyFlagg says:

    It was such a fully-realized side-trip. The cover, credits sequence and buffering all worked together seamlessly.

  3. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Leave the mullet alone. Let the kid be who he wants to be.

  4. I dropped this book because I was behind on some stuff and needed to cut some books. But now I might have to pick it back up again because of how many good things I’ve been hearing. Besides, I’m about to drop Detective, so I have room for another book.

  5. Crap! I made a second thought on this earlier in the LCS cause I planned on dropping the title after issue 5. Looks like I’m heading back there tomorrow.

  6. The preview for this issue looked really interesting. Mainly because it didn’t have Foreman art on it (but reading this made me a bit sad he does appear towards the end of this). I think I am mainly going to stick to trade on this series but this sounds like a real nice ‘one and done’ (aka filler) issue. Good review Ron.

    My POTW was another Jeff Lemire issue: Sweet Tooth #30. More great art and creepy storytelling by the almost ‘one man band’.

  7. JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

    Ok, I’ve got to say this was my least favorite issue of Animal Man to date. I’ve loved it so far, and if this had been a side/backup story that had been going through all of the issues thus far like what Detective did before the relaunch, then I would have loved it. But I went into this issue ready for a great continuation to the amazing story and I got next to nothing. I totally understand that it was a different artist, and I agree that this was a unique way to use a fill in artist, but I feel that it totally destroyed the pace of the series up until now. My POTW, hands down, was Swamp Thing #6.

    • Skyfire124 Skyfire124 says:

      Same with me Jim, I think I would have loved this story as a one shot in between arcs. I was all pumped and ready for what I assumed would be a Swamp Thing tie-in, or at least the penultimate issue with a final splash page with Alec Holland. I still think the story was great, and even a ho hum Animal Man ish is still better then the majority of what’s out there. My POTW though would definitely be this week’s Swamp Thing.

  8. stuclach stuclach says:

    I don’t think I enjoyed this issue quite as much as you (possibly because I’m so eager to see the main story progress), but I agree that this is a really cool way to handle a fill in artist. I really want to see how that movie ends.

  9. Reminded me a lot of the movie Super, (which I don’t really recommend.) Maybe my Super flashbacks were tarnishing my view of this issue. I thought it was pretty good though all said. Nice to see Jean Paul Leon back! Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix anyone???

  10. Mr.J Mr.J says:

    Did anyone else notice that nod to Grant Morrison’s run in that finale panel?

  11. party party says:

    I was a little disappointed by the content of “Tights” but overall I do have to agree this is one of the neatest uses of a fill-in artist I’ve seen. I almost always pick Animal Man when it comes out, but I had to go with Venom this week. Tony Moore did a great job, and that last page got me so excited for the rest of the Circle of Four.

  12. I appreciate the approach Ron has taken for this review, but I feel it’s an understatement to simply refer to Leon’s work as “fill-in” (although I understand it from the industry side). It’s kind of like saying Darwyn Cooke ‘filled in’ for JLA in its ‘off’ months by doing New Frontier. Leon is such a great artist and comic storyteller that any new work by him can be appreciated on its own merits. I think I’m probably being precious but Hey! Good art! Good series, good comic, wins all round.

  13. rocknrolla says:

    This may have been my favorite issue so far. Really enjoyed the movie and the guest artist jpl, then snap back to reality, and the art during the movie and actually the content of the movie was more “realistic” than what’s actually going on. I love this book it’s smart and crazy.

  14. RedBaron504 RedBaron504 says:

    Just seemed like useless filler. It didn’t really contribute to the story or character development. A drunk deadbeat dad gets beat up for trying to stop some teens from loitering? Not particularly original or exciting. The buffering gimmick was creative. The art was so-so. Maybe this aside will tie into the rest of the story in the future but I just didn’t see it in this issue. Looking forward to getting back to the action and fun family dynamic that really makes this book great for me. The movie within a book seemed like a fun way to the artist a break but it just wasn’t executed well in my opinion.

    • party party says:

      I tend to agree somewhat. It was mildly amusing, and I kind of liked seeing the movie Buddy made, but it was pretty disappointing at the same time. It would be cool if they expand on it more later, but I really would have preferred the main story to just continue with the fill-in artist this issue.

    • Buffering is a tendril of the rot.

    • Blargo Blargo says:

      “It didn’t really contribute to the story or character development”

      I felt there was a potential parallel between Cliff and Jamie. Plus you could argue Cliff watching the movie was an attempt to better understand his dad.

    • acowell429 acowell429 says:

      @ blargo. I completely agree. I seems as if buddy has a closer relationship with his daughter than his son. if this is the case Cliff watching the movie to glean a better understanding of his fathers life as a super hero ties nicely into the story and provides a backdrop to the rot story line. Must me hard on Cliff knowing his sister and dad have super powers and he does not.

    • RedBaron504 RedBaron504 says:

      They seem to be teasing in Swamp Thing that Cliff maybe has powers.

    • Blargo Blargo says:

      @acowell: Pretty much exactly what I was thinking.

      @RedBaron: I don’t recall that…

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