Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Comic Reviews: Animal Man 1 & 2

Volume 1

    I had a harder time getting into this than the recent Swamp Thing.  Part of it is that the Animal Man character doesn’t capture me at all.  He feels like the victim of decades of bad writing or at least inconsistent writing.  He was a super hero, a stunt man, an actor, and who knows what else.  None of which seems to lend him any depth.  Nor does the tale of his daughter being the avatar of the Red raise any especially interesting story potentials.  In fact, it feels like the same old, same old.  If she were ten years older, it would start smelling of Joss Whedon (he tends to limit his idiot savant/ultimate engines of destruction who only look like unassuming young women to the hormonally confused and terminally hipstery teen years).  Actually, it already smells of Joss Whedon.  His daughter spouted plenty of snarky comments that didn’t befit a kid of four years.

    However, I’m still interested in this whole Green-Red-Rot conflict and what might happen when Animal Man and Swamp Thing come together.  Or, Animal Man’s daughter and Swamp Thing, as she seems to be the real power player here (of course).  In this volume, we’re introduced to the Hunters Three, a triumvirate of hungry monsters looking to get their rotten claws on young Maxine.  Blah, blah, blee, blee, and they’re riding away in an RV with a mystical cat, being chased by a hoard of monsters.  OK.  Sadly, there’s not much to it.

    The art is disgusting.  Now, the art is supposed to be disgusting, but even getting past the content of the images, I found the art distractingly unpleasant.  Characters rarely look the same from panel to panel, and I had to go on costume cues to keep track (Animal Man is even suddenly bald in one panel…though that may be in volume 2).  Large sections looked like the artist spilled his inkwell all over the page and didn’t bother to clean it up.  The four year old girl seems to shift ages from 10 to 30 with every panel (never looking like a four year old).  At least there’s shading, I guess; something that seems to have become hip to skip in a lot of comics.

Volume 2

    Not far into the second volume, I was getting sick and tired of every one of the characters.  Animal Man is a sniveling cry-baby.  His wife is a fickle moron.  His kids are idiots.  And his mother-in-law is an old hag.  While basic plot idea is interesting, I don’t want to read about these people anymore.  It suffers from the same issues too many comics suffer from, especially those that have family dynamics.  The characters seem to spend most of their time bitching and moaning at each other, and not enough focused on what’s happening.  When the hoards of monsters are at the door, it may not be the time to bring up a bunch of family problems.

    I did enjoy the flashback story in the middle, about the Rot incursion in 19th century Canada.  It has a nice Lovecrafty vibe to it at the beginning.  However, it wraps up too quickly and seems to have nothing much to do with anything.

    Otherwise, while the general story builds toward the team-up with Swamp Thing and the eventual war of Rotworld, Buddy’s family becomes somehow more infuriating.  By the end of the volume I felt like I was watching the worst X-Files episodes, where Scully is staring at an alien spaceship and denying that aliens are possible.  Buddy’s wife has got to be about the worst character I’ve read in a good long time.  She’s the worst 70s movie cop-wife, who hates everything her husband does and makes everything imaginable somehow about her (see Vic Mackie’s wife on The Shield for a modern equivalent).  He needs to go to work, she feels abandoned.  He tries to save people from monstrous beings, she demands he walk away.  The apocalypse is happening around them, and she’s upset that he’s not spending enough time at home.  Rotten animal demons just ate a cop in front of her and her kids, and she’s blaming it on her husband’s decision to try to help.  Everybody is trying to protect her daughter, and she’s complaining that she doesn’t want to be involved in other people’s problems.  I’d say throw the bitch to the Rot, but I don’t hate the Rot enough to subject them to her.  Obviously, I would not recommend reading this one.  However, it seems to have a fairly devoted fanbase out there, so maybe there’s something in it for people that I’m not picking up.

Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt
Author: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3507-9

Animal Man Volume 2: Animal Vs. Man
Author: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3800-1


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