Thursday, 4 June 2015

Animal Man Vol.1: The Hunt (The New 52) Review

Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt (The New 52)
I swear, he actually has a shirt.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Travel Foreman

Collects: Animal Man #1-6

Background Infromation:

Buddy Barker can take on the powers/abilities of various animals. He does so through the morphogenic field; something he calls "the life web", which connects him to all animal life. Before the New 52, Buddy was under the impression that he got this power from aliens.

If you only know Animal Man from this...


...then you don't know Animal Man.

Review:
Only bad books get cancelled... is one of the least accurate statements I have ever heard. Sure, if a book isn't selling, publishers have the right to cancel, but sometimes that means getting rid of really, really good books in the process, and Animal Man, if The Hunt is anything to go by, is one of those really good books.
See? There's a shirt!
So, wierd things have been happening to Buddy Barker. His eyes are beeding, he has grusome dreams and... let's see... what else is there... oh yeah; his daughter, Maxine, finds herself able to summon the skeletons of dead animals.

See, even though Buddy thinks he got his powers from aliens, he actually got them from a force called The Red, the force connected with animal life who disguised themselves as aliens. Maxine is the Avatar of The Red and Buddy is tasked with protecting her from the forces of The Rot, who emobody death and decay. This evil force have sent three hunters to kill Maxine, though, Buddy has to work fast to keep Maxine safe.
Okay, excluding Justice League Dark, I have a soft spot for DC's horror line. Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing was just brilliant and honestly, so is this. The real hero of the volume is Jeff Lemire's ability to build up tension. We start with a first volume, that, I'll admit, feels pretty dry, but by the end, Lemire has raised the stakes.

And then he brings on the scary; monsters hiding in plain site, dialogue that sends chills down your spine and causes you to jump at the slightest noise. I can't recall the last time I found a comic this terrifying, but this one definitely takes the cake.

Of course, horror doesn't actually work if you don't care about the characters. A monster killing an empty shell, no matter how gory, doesn't terrify you the same way that almost capturing a character you care for does. Lemire's delivered in this area too; giving real life to Buddy's family. That's right New 52 haters; DC actually allowed a character to not only be married, but to have two- yes, two- kids. And what a family it is; each member has their own real voice. They aren't just there to be "the family member". Buddy's wife, Ellen, is a powerful figure in and of herself. Maxine has just the right amount of innocence, and Buddy's son, Cliff, has all of the over-the-top enthusiasm you would expect from a kid whose dad is a superhero. It's a great cast that serves the horror story perfectly.
See? Another shirt! This book has shirts!
The real fine point about this volume, though, is the art. Travel Foreman draws some amazing character designs, cheif among which are The Rot's Hunters. I imagine that under any other artist, these designs would have looked silly. I'm ready to admit that there is a fine line between silly and terrifying, but it's safe to say that Foreman gives us plenty of the latter. All of it's helped with these washed-out colours that more often than not betray the darkness and become blissfully unnerving.

I plain cannot fault The Hunt it gets a perfect five out of five dogs left on the street.

*****

+ Scary as hell (I mean that in the most literal sense).

+ Family dynamics that make us care.

+ Grotesque character designs.

Alternate Option: Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones

Another brilliant horror title that ties into Animal Man.