Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 09.07.2011 – Animal Man #1

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

1563
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 64.7%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by TRAVEL FOREMAN and DAN GREEN
Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

When DC Comics announced their line wide relaunch, amongst the 52 titles there were many known quantities.  The Batmans and Green Lanterns and that ilk.  Even with the hinted changes to Superman and Wonder Woman, there was still a bit of a known quantity going into the relaunch.  For me, being a periphery DC Comics fan, it was the unknown quantities that had me the most curious.  There were titles announced that honestly surprised me to see them on the list, and one of those was Animal Man.  But then I heard of the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Travel Foreman, and Animal Man moved up amongst the titles I was most anticipating.

As we’ve waited for the DC relaunch to happen, I’ve been surprised by the comments made by fans about Animal Man.  Even though Animal Man was created in the 1960s, he’s been forever defined to me by Grant Morrison’s run on the character in the late 1980s, one of the early titles that would later shape the Vertigo imprint.  But then I read many of your comments and how you enjoyed Animal Man from his role in the weekly series 52 a few years back (also written by Grant Morrison, along with Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka).  I enjoyed that too, but it never surpassed the landmark run of Morrison’s in the 80s, but that’s just me.  Regardless, Lemire and Foreman were taking a character that, while many of us know who he is and the legacy before him, there’s a possibly larger audience that’s never been exposed to an Animal Man story.  And so their challenge of launching this series becomes, like many of “The New 52”, a difficult one in winning over both long time readers and fans (like myself) as well as introducing the character to a brand new audience.  It’s a tight rope, and one I was a bit worried about.  But looking back it on it, it was probably silly of me to worry, because Lemire and Foreman not only took up the challenge, but far exceeded my expectations.

We revealed in late August that Conor and myself had the opportunity to read the first 20 books of “The New 52” in late August.  Coming out of that sneak preview session, Animal Man #1 stood out to me immediately as the best book of the bunch. So much so that I had to hand it to Conor and demand he read it immediately, just to confirm my feelings.  But, I didn’t just give it Pick of the Week based on that. I still wanted to give every one of the 13 books released by DC Comics, as well as the other books I purchased from other publishers a fair shot.  After I made it through my stack earlier today, I picked Animal Man #1 up and read it again. With some time passed and the excitement of “The New 52” lessening a bit, I wanted to see if my initial gut reaction was right.  Boy, was it.  So I read it again.  And again.  I’ve now read Animal Man #1 four times and I can unequivocally, it truly is this week’s Pick of the Week.

So you may be wondering, “How did Lemire and Foreman pull it off?” Simple. They took the essential existence of the character of Buddy Baker, alter ego of Animal Man, and introduced us to his world that was reminiscent of what’s been in the past, while forging something completely new.  Any reader, regardless if they’ve read any Animal Man comics in the past, can pick this up and get a sense for who Animal Man is, what his powers are and an idea of what’s to come in this series.  Lemire is downright sneaky in his approach, starting us off with a prose piece in the beginning that perfectly sets things up to introduce us to Animal Man, the person.  Mind you, I tend to hate prose pieces, especially for the first page, but this one worked  completely.  Then Lemire introduces us to the real world of Animal Man, that of a husband and father and a man struggling to find his place in the world.  We are then whisked off as Animal Man dons his costume and is the super hero that we expect when reading a super hero comic from DC Comics.  And then…it takes a turn.  It takes a turn that I was not expecting and one that peels back the light and airy veneer that Lemire and Foreman set up and gives us a taste of the dark and down right chilling world that we’re going to be introduced to in this comic book. Ending with a story twist that I didn’t see coming and foretells the future of Animal Man and his family.  It’s downright poetic how easily Lemire is able to pull this together.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised at how good Lemire’s story is.  I’ve been a fan of his since his first work, but now with Animal Man #1, his emotionally optimistic, and yet dark at the same time, storytelling abilities combined with the art of Travel Foreman is how Animal Man #1 is able to truly shine.  Those of us in the know have been aware of Foreman since his work in the early 2000s on the extremely underrated Cla$$War.  We’ve seem him more recently at Marvel Comics here and there, but with Animal Man #1, it’s clear that he’s arrived.  Remember the name Travel Foreman, because you’re going to be hearing it alot in the future.  His ability to depict the ho-hum of the Baker household, to the action as Animal Man goes to work, to the intense detail and reactions as the story takes a turn to the dark, to the chilling dreamscape of Buddy Baker’s mind, there is not a single page where Foreman didn’t wow me on some level.  Lemire and Foreman have the makings of being an epic creative team that I think we’ll be talking about for years.

As we set out on this brave new world of DC Comics, I’m delighted to see one of the unlikely books from one of my favorite creators emerge as one of the top books. Lemire and Foreman’s approach to modern super hero storytelling within Animal Man shows a mature mix of what we know and can expect from the character, balancing the act of breaking out of the shadow of Morrison and other previous creators while at the same time including aspects from the past that made Animal Man one of DC’s special characters. Based on this first issue, I have no hesitation in saying that Animal Man #1 is the breakout hit of DC Comics’ “The New 52” and just reset the bar for modern super hero stories.

Ron Richards
That kid STILL has that damn mullet
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. No surprise here, given Ron’s praise for this book the past few weeks. I enjoyed the story, but don’t love Foreman’s art. I can see possible greatness in there, particularly the beautifully and uniquely drawn black and white dream sequence. But in other parts the art felt lacking in depth, too much color shading and not enough lines, particularly in the first few pages. Regardless, it was a fine first issue and I’m fully expecting to pick this up every week.

  2. 100% Agree. This book was fantastic!

  3. This book was fantastic. A very strong Pick of the Week.

  4. I loved reading this book. Out of all the books I have read from the new dcu so far, Animal Man was the best. Looking forward to #2.

  5. No one ever mentions the run by Jamie Delano and Steve Pugh. That was one of the best from Vertigo when it launched. It really took it in a cool new direction, ala Swamp Thing.

    • I actually liked the stuff after Morrison by Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch and Steve Dillon much better. I’d bought a whole box of AM issues at auction that was mostly sequential up until 50, and then after that went a bit skewiff so I never checked out the Delano/Pugh stuff. They had great covers though!

  6. Ron has picked a book starring a character that was primarily associated with Vertigo for many years.

    ……………….Is it just me, or did reality blink for just a moment?

  7. Haven’t read this yet. But I am very much looking forward to it. Jeff Lemire is great. And this seems the perfect type of superhero book for him to do.

    I did just want to point out though how impressive it is that this book has over 1,000 pulls. Animal Man. 1,000+ pulls. That is usually a feat saved for giant event books and only the most popular of big two characters. Just goes to show the influence this site has. That’s crazy and awesome at the same time. Ron and Conor got people very excited simply by saying how great the book was. Yeah, other people on the net have helped. But still. Wow. Behold the power of the cult of iFanboy. Comic book publisher’s, make your payola out accordingly. 😉

    On a side note. What odds would you give that a non-new 52 book gets a POW during the next month? The way things are going right now, Marvel or someone else is going to have to put out an amazing book to be able to trump the DC locomotive currently running roughshod through comicdom. I’m still skeptical as to whether or not this relaunch ends up having any substantial lasting long term effect. But you gotta admit, there is no arguing against how big of an immediate impact it is currently having. Marvel and everything else almost might as well take the month off. Good on DC. Just hope they can take advantage of the attention they’re getting.

  8. My store sold out so i’m gonna have to pick one up next week or go to another shop

  9. I was so happy with this book. Between this, Swamp Thing, Action Comics, Batgirl and the last page of Detective, DC had a kick-ass week!

  10. Great choice Ron, and spot-on review.

    It’s funny, I read every issue of 52 as it came out and I can barely remember Buddy being in there. But boy, those Morrison/Truog/Hazlewood isues – and the glorious Brian Bolland covers that framed them.

  11. I missed getting this, but more store had a tone of copies left so I’m not worried. My library has all of the Morrison Animal Man trades, which I’ve always meant to read but for some reason haven’t gotten to. Should I read those first to enhance this issue, or would it be better to just read this issue first and then eventually read Morrison’s run whenever I get to it?

  12. All the #1 issues was making my store owner nervous.

    Hard to track how well #1 issues will sell even though they usually sell the highest numbers.

    What do you do when DC puts 52 #1s?

    Glad I don’t own a store.

    Damn, I’m tempted to check this book out.

  13. Holy shit, this book was amazing. I have not finished reading all my books yet, but this one is going to be hard to beat for pick of the week. I have to give DC credit for taking a chance and putting out a book like this. Good pick, Ron!

  14. This was one of the new DC books I was simply curious about, but I have to agree it was easily the best book this month ( last two months actually). Was worried Ron was going to go Moon Knight crazy again.

    As for the fellow above who said a Marvel book had no chance this month..sorry but is there a Marvel book you think was better then this ? Because if there was I want to read it !!

  15. I liked it, but didn’t love. Intrigued enough to pick up the second issue. Foreman’s art was different, and agree with @Mr Logical on Foreman’s art.

    @ron, what made the prose piece completely work?

  16. Seriously, everything got rebooted and set in more modern times, but Cliff still has that damn mullet? It’s not set in the deep south for god’s sake, this is San Diego. Major fashion faux pas. All I’m saying is that that kid better get himself on a hockey team stat if he’s gonna be rocking that thing. Not. A. Good. Look.

  17. This was a fantastic issue, and my PotW too. The fact that we have Jeff Lemire telling what seems to be a creepy family story makes me happy, because he OWNS that kind of story. We’ll have awkward silences at the Baker dinner table before you know it.

  18. Having no history at all with Animal Man, Lemire was able to get me sucked in right away with a great starting story, and has me wanting so much more. I do have to say that the art really didn’t impress me too much until it got to Animal Man, with the animals we saw in previews, and when his eyes were bleeding, as we saw in previews. Other than that I thought the art was actually a little below average and me hoping he would only be on the book for one or two arcs. Hopefully the art will grow on me so these two can put out an epic run that we all know is possible with Lemire’s writing.

    (p.s. The dream sequence’s art was also great.)

  19. As a fan of lemire’s past work, I was really disappointed at how badly superboy whiffed, but It’s good to see that he is back on track!

  20. This was my most anticipated release of the new 52 next to Action comics and it delivered on every level. I was expecting greatness from the mind of Jeff Lemire as a huge Sweet Tooth and Essex County fan and this not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. The last panel of the book left me astounded and excited to the point of actual giddy laughter. With perfect execution on the part of Travel Foreman who’s gritty, creepy style sets the tone incredibly and Lemire’s increasingly brilliant creative mind at work I’m sure this series will continue to be great.

  21. I’m still going to have to put Detective Comics up as POTW. Classic Batman story with a thunder-punch to your balls ending, has to be the top pick for me.

  22. This was the best book this week, Detective and Action were pretty close. I love the creepy look and feel of this book.

  23. I had Swamp Thing as my top pick, but Animal Man and Detective were the others, and I think they were separated by only degrees. I’m pretty happy that one of them got picked. Action has me intrigued, but I’m not totally sold on the whole deal yet. Usually with Morrison it takes a couple issues for me to cast my lot.

  24. i could not be happier for lemire ,he really is one of the good guys in comics.

  25. I was fully expecting Action comics to be my POTW, but Animal man was easily the best thing I read this week, and I read some really good stuff. But this is the one that really hit me, and i have ZERO exposure to the character before this. Great review of a great book!

  26. First time I’ve ever read Animal Man, and was blown away. Can’t wait for Issue #2.

  27. Bought it but haven’t read anything yet.

    It will be hard for any book to beat Red Skull Incarnate if that book stays at the same level of quality as it has been.

    I realized I’m buying 3 52#1s a week for this month. I’ve decided that I will pick up one additional New 52 book based on the buzz at iFanboy.

    Animal Man was that 4th book this week.

  28. I’m a bit mystified why “Animal Man” was so devastatingly awesome. It was handsomely done, sure, but is the premise of husband/dad superhero that revolutionary? “Swamp Thing” this week was fresh, gorgeous, and read like a textbook Snyder story, which is why it was my POW.

  29. See, this is the danger of day and date digital. I have zero interest in Animal Man, am not a fan of Lemire’s work and have no idea who the artist is. And yet, after reading this glowing review, I’m now going to tap a button and impulse purchanse this book. My precious budget! Damn your eloquence, Richards!

  30. This was a very good review, I’m glad people seemed to have enjoyed this. But man…..I just can’t find much to like about this.

    I thought Lemire’s take on Buddy, outside from the family which is the strongest part of the issue, lacked for me. He didn’t do much to showcase his powers and he just came off as a lame hero in my mind. But the ultimate problem for me with this was Foreman’s horrendous artwork. Again maybe it’s just me but I found this to be a real ugly issue from beginning to end. Characters are woefully awful model, anatomy differs from panel to panel, and the eyes on these characters are scary to look at. It might have to do with how Foreman inks his own work, I don’t know. All I know is that I wanted this to work in the worst way but the art totally killed it. Just terrible.

    My POTW though was Action Comics #1. Morrison totally rebooted the Sups universe and in a good way. I like the new cocky Superman and I’m excited on where the story is gonna go.

    • Just saw this after I posted my thoughts. I noticed they almost mirrored yours. I agree 100%

    • I’ve gotta say I loved Foreman’s art. I too noticed the differing anatomy but I got the impression that it was an intentional stylistic element rather than a series of mistakes and while I can definitely understand why some people may find this jarring or unattractive I personally really enjoyed it.

      I’d have to say this would be my POTW too closely followed by Snyder’s fantastic Swamp Thing, Action Comics on the other hand did nothing for me. I also enjoyed Batgirl.

    • I didn’t see it as mistakes. I agree it’s a style choice but some of it I just don’t understand. As I mentioned below, the out of context facial expressions are more of a distraction for me than a unique expression. But I’m in the minority. Most are really digging this book. I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed it until the dream sequence.

  31. My POTW (so far) is “Action Comics” #1. “Animal Man” was ok but i still get all the buzz. Sure it’s different, but I found Lemire’s desire to be dark and disturbing came across as just weird. Maybe I’m just tired of “dark”.

    I also wasn’t blown away by Foreman’s art. I thought there were some truly ugly pages in there. Also some weird out of context facial expressions. Sure there’s nothing like it out there but I’m not that impressed with his style.

  32. Funny the first thought I had when I saw Cliff, was that freakin’ mullet too! Overall, I wasn’t terribly enthused by the art, but then that’s my own bias towards clean lines. That being said, I can see it growing on me as it does fit the horror turn, and the story was amazing. I’m looking forward to comparing Swamp Thing and Animal Man every month as they are bookending so nicely.

  33. And I couldn’t help but laugh at an animal rights vegan’s enemies are called The Hunters!

  34. fantastic art

  35. I was sure Action Comics was going to be my Pick. I loved it. That was until I read Animal Man. That ending may give me nightmares.

  36. I almost didn’t pick this up. Not sure why, because I love Lemire and liked Morrison’s Animal Man. I’m in. It’s probably my POTW as well, but I haven’t finished my books yet. The layouts in the kitchen sequence really worked for me.

  37. Even though it was Lemire, i thought i’d pass on this….but then some of that buzz came in and i convinced myself to take a shot. Man am i glad i did. Of all the new 52 books, this one feels like something fresh and new. The story was interesting and the art was really nice. Looking forward to where this could go.

  38. sorry to be posting this here but i just want to ask ron and the guys about my “problem”.im a new reader and i decided to give all 52 a chance.at least on the first story arc.did DC release any info on what issue does the first story arc on every title end?cause i dont want to be buying static shock (but my son might dig) or wonder woman and any other title i dont wanna continue reading.i live here in the middle east and i preorder on DCBS and my books arrive about a month or two late so i might be ordering issue 5 or 6 but the arc ended at issue4.so any help will be appreciated.

    • I would suggest giving a once over to the info about each issue at the DCBS site or in Previews when you preorder…..they usually will give you some idea as to whether an arc is finishing or launching.

  39. I enjoyed it kind of, but there is no way the kid of an animal rights activist would ask to *buy* a dog.

    I guess I just don’t believe the dialogue. Something that minor really wrecks it.

    • I would say activism comes in many forms, and we dont know what all Buddy is okay with vs not okay with. The dialogue also says they’d had a couple pets in the past that died, so a kid asking to buy a dog doesn’t seem so out of place….especially when you consider she’s probably only 7-8 years old here, not even a teenager yet. Kids that young will ask for things cause theyve not completely learned what the values are.

    • Skyfire124, fair enough on that point and I’d considered that she’s too young to understand the problems and cruelty associated with buying dogs/cats vs adopting. It was a tad confusing to see that within minutes of reading that he’s still an animal rights activist.

      I just wish she’d said “get a dog” or “adopt a dog” instead of “buy a dog.” An animal rights viewpoint doesn’t see animals as property, ever.

    • I’d go with her being too young part to appreciate those nuances. And while I’d agree in theory with an animal rights viewpoint not seeing animals as property ever, its a term that isn’t always used properly, similar to vegetarian or vegan, when perhaps they mean something else such as pescetarian.

  40. Huh, go figure. I really, REALLY liked the story, but I really didn’t like the art. Guess it’s one of those “different strokes” kinda deals. Don’t think I’ll be keeping up with this. My pick? It’s either Action Comics or OMAC, I was totally surprised by the last one.

  41. The owner of my LCS is militantly marvel, and stocks DC’s and indies just to humor me. He mocked me ENDLESSLY when I put Animal Man on my pull list and now I get to be smug until they cancel this book for being too awesome.

  42. Picked this up after it received the POW. I absolutely loved this issue. This is the best #1 I’ve ever read. When I checked out the preview, I wasn’t loving the art but after reading the full issue, the art is perfect for the tone of this title and the artist is a skilled story teller. Additionally, Lemire both establishes the characters and the status quo but also moves the plot forward and ends the first issue on a killer cliffhanger. I’m on board for the long haul.

  43. This was unsettling in all the right ways. I love the way those “animals” on the last page look. This should be an interesting ride.

  44. The new costume looks great. I forgot how much I missed “A-Man.” I’m really looking forward to this on-going. Also if the relaunch just happened and the JL has yet to be formed then why does Cliff (BB’s son) talk about the League and how A-Man should apply?

  45. This will be a very difficult trade wait.

  46. I think I know what’s going on. The infection in the red is Arcane, the old Swamp Thing nemesis from the stuff before Moore. In the Moore stuff Arcane was able to possess people by entering them as a fly. The flies are dead give away. Arcane is the infection in the Red.

  47. Story 5/5. Art 2/5. Travel Foreman is very, very hard to take. I’ve never been a fan of human faces drawn like shrews. Simple, single color backgrounds through pages of panels…just lazy, really. Please, new artist on the next arc.

  48. Hey guys, Animal Man was awesome for sure. I have a question…

    Anyone read Detective Comics and think the Joker had a Black Lantern symbol reflecting from his pupil towards the end? I know this is the POW tread….but I fogired this was as good a place to ask as any.

  49. figured*…ugh

  50. Maybe I should re-read the book. With all the love piled on it. I couldn’t stand it. The art, I did not like. especially that splash page with him flying in costume. The whole interaction at the beginning. One panel the wife wants him to be a superhero then the next she doesn’t then one panel he wants to, then he doesn’t the next. It seemed really disjointed. Then the next page. “I’m superheroing and it feels awesome” I didn’t know how to feel about him and his motivations and what the character was wanting. As much as all of you loved it, I disliked it that much. I guess different strokes… although normally I can see the redeeming qualities of a book when it is as well received as this one.

  51. Man i hope Jeff Lemire draws an issue!

  52. It was alright. I liked that it was very lowkey about itself, almost like some small town drama with a bit of weirdness going on, which I’m guessing San Diego probably isn’t. This was my first experience with digital comics and I’m not that impressed though. Such a weird format, using the constant double spread. Why not try single pages occasionally or single panels? Surely that can’t be that hard! And what the hell with the black bar down the middle, right through every panel! I know that’s not supposed to be there!

  53. I loved this comic so much. The story line was great and the ending was so gritty and dark. I wasn’t expecting that at all, especially from DC, but i’m into it. So I give this book 5 stars, its a must read!

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