Firstly you should know that I'm a person who's never read a canon DC comic before. DC's 'fabled new reader', if you will. So I approached this comic with no preconceptions whatsoever, other than knowing it has an existing run by Morrison that set the bar pretty high. And boy oh boy, it does not disappoint: this comic blew me away.
Right from the start, the title character is established as a man who's not new to the superhero scene, but has taken a break from donning his costume to spend time with his wife and kids. We're introduced to Buddy Baker; Family man, Animal Man.
Of course, being a new reader there were gaps in my knowledge, and after reading the first issue I'm still unenlightened. This is an inevitability with DC's approach of skipping the origin to get straight to the action, but for now it leaves important questions unanswered. What led our hero to becoming this Animal Man? Did he witness his parents being shot as a child on a visit to the local zoo? And which was the radioactive animal that bit him?
The powers themself are explained well in the first confrontation. When faced with an armed lunatic he does what any sane man would do; gets onto all fours and barks at the attacker. It left me wondering, is that entirely necessary? He's clearly superhuman, but we do later discover that Buddy is deeply troubled- how are we to know that his powers are animal-based at all? Is he just acting out his animalistic roleplaying desires? Only time will tell.
Obviously, there are evident parallels to BraveStarr.
"Speed of a puma!"
Animal Man #1 brings a welcome depth , as underneath the whimsicality of the character's concept lies themes of an inner turmoil of uncertainty, signs of weakness, and relatable character flaws such as inexplicably bleeding eyes.
There's no hero like a flawed hero.
Towards the end of the book we're given a chilling nightmare sequence that really showcases Travel Foreman's art; a Sin City-esque insight into Buddy's mind, filled with a macabre ambience, symbolism, and foreshadowing of events yet to pass. For me, it's this that really made the comic. Foreman's unique blend of raw yet realistic art brings it to the page perfectly.
Ultimately, Lemire delivers a fast-paced, perfectly crafted story that crams enough plot and variation into the story to give the reader a decent idea of the kind of ride we're in for, and everything seems as promising as it could. Coupled with Foreman's art, it'll leave you wanting more. And that's not even to mention the cliffhanger we're left with.
Animal Man #1 is probably the best comic book reboot about a troubled animal-based superhero that I've ever read. And in my opinion, the best of all the reboot titles so far. It's really that great. DC, you did good, because this is how you make a comic book.