Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman, John Paul Leon, Jeff Huet
Color Art by Lovern Kindzierski
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Release Date: May 2, 2012
Cover Price: $14.99
Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman is easily one of the best titles of the DC Relaunch. The comic does everything it should. What Lemire does in The Hunt is craft a perfect, classic, horror story. The comic starts normally enough in the vein of the radical Animal Man who fights on behalf of animal rights, but it quickly takes a dark and twisted turn that takes Buddy Baker’s life and places it on its head by involving his family closely with his power set. We are also introduced to a group of hunters that are looking for Buddy Baker, but more importantly, they’re looking for his family members.
Animal Man pays tribute to Grant Morrison’s run on the character by holding Buddy Baker’s family in check as the most important thing in his life while also keeping the rebellious, punk rock nature by keeping him as a vegan and also having independent, DIY sensibilities. Lemire casts Buddy Baker as the star of an independent film entitled Tights about a former superhero whose powers aren’t quite there anymore, who tries to come back to crime fighting to impress his son. His involvement in this film, accompanied by his Punk sensibilities make him a youth culture icon. Interestingly enough, and I assume intentionally, many readers view the character the same way based on some of the less, let’s say mentally explorative events of the Morrison run. The reason that this was the right move on Lemire’s behalf is that many people, myself included, hold Morrison’s Animal Man in high regard. But this book doesn’t pander to the Morrison set, which is precisely why this comic stands out on its own as one of the best comics currently coming out.
But the best thing about Lemire’s Animal Man is that it sucks you in. The comic involves you to the point where you truly care and feel for all of the members of the Baker family. At each reveal, no matter how disturbing, the comic isn’t about shock. The comic, at its heart, is a book about characters. I’m a huge Lemire fan, and the reason for that is that he writes his characters with an incredible depth and emotional attachment that when something bad happens to them, you feel like a close friend of yours has been attacked, which is both a treat at some times and a burden at others because while it makes for great comics, it also makes for a heartbreaking read.
While this comic would certainly be great based on the writing alone, the art from Travel Foreman takes the book into an incredibly high stratosphere of quality. I remember the first time I opened the book and stared at the opening pages, my jaw literally dropped. I was stunned at how amazing this book actually looked. Travel Foreman brings a specifically indie comic style to the book so that you honestly do not feel like you are reading a comic from a major publishing company. Foreman’s line work sometimes has a sketch quality that wouldn’t necessarily work on any other title, but considering the background of the character, it fits perfectly.
John Paul Leon and Jeff Huet also have an incredible addition to the story by providing the art for Tights, Animal Man’s movie within the last issue collected in the trade paperback. It’s a darker, smoother, more noir style that mimics the look and feel of an independent film. So, basically it works perfectly.
In Lemire’s Animal Man, the mantra of the youth culture is “evolve or die,” which applied to the characters, it represents growth, adaptation and change or on the other hand death. If applied more figuratively to the approach of the creators, I would say that Animal Man is part of the evolution of storytelling. It provides an edgy feel, while not focusing on shock, and while there are horror elements throughout the comic, that’s not what it’s about. This is one of the few “cape” books that doesn’t look or feel like anything else. And if the choices are either evolution or death, I choose to evolve alongside Animal Man.