Saturday, 19 December 2015

Animal Man Vol. 2: Animal Vs Man

Like the last volume, Animal Man does
indeed wear a shirt in this one- just less so.
Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II

Collects: Animal Man # 7-11, #0 and Annual #1

Background Information:

For five years, Buddy Baker was convinced that aliens gave him the power to adopt the abilities of any animal close to him. In the last volume, Buddy found out that his powers actually come from extra-dimensional force controlling animal life known as The Red. This force is trying desperately to restore the balance between them, the plant life-force known as The Green and the force controlling death and decay called The Rot.

The Rot is gaining power, and has been hunting Buddy and his daughter Maxine- the Avatar of The Red. In the previous volume, Buddy fought one of the Hunters Three- soldiers of The Rot. He and Maxine survived, but only just.

Review:

It's a weird thing to say that a book about going to another dimension made up of flesh and bone while a demon inhabits the heroes body feels like a natural next step, yet that is exactly what Animal Vs Man is. Where most second volumes from DC have felt forced and self-compromising, Jeff Lemire's second collection of Animal Man issues builds on an already-solid first volume.
See? Not just a shirt; a whole costume!

So, the monsters of The Rot have not stopped chasing Buddy and his family and now the Hunter that
we thought Buddy had defeated last volume has taken Buddy's body for his own. Instead of using it to eat all the ice cream he can possibly handle, the Hunter uses Buddy's body to attack the Baker family. In the meantime, Buddy finds himself in The Red's own version of the afterlife, complete with goat/man guide. Buddy, naturally, wants his body back and The Red is the only thing that can give it back to him.

To be totally honest, this is a less scary volume than the previous. Whereas Volume 1 nailed the inherent creepiness involved in telling what is essentially a zombie story (and, might I add, it did it better than the first volume of The Walking Dead ever did), this one just can't build the tension right. The elements of fantasy and horror are still there- and they're still strong; they're just unbalanced. You either see lots of the fantasy with nil horror, or the exact same horror you did in the last volume with very little fantasy. It leads to a volume that falls just short of its predecessor and it's a shame.

But it only falls just short as this volumes true purpose shines through very clearly. See, this isn't really a story about Animal Man fighting The Rot. It's a story about how The Red operates and how Buddy upsets their way of doing things. Here, Buddy openly goes against everything The Red sees as proper- he makes demands, defies orders and refuses to go down as the disappointment.

I'm seriously worried that DC thinks aiming for a female
audience means "less shirts on buff dudes",
And it's here that Lemire does something that only few can do; he tells a deeply political story without showing his political bias. After reading this volume, I couldn't honestly tell whether Lemire was left or right-leaning. That's something that few writers can achieve (I'm looking at you, Mark Waid, Jason Aaron, Brian Michael-Bendis and Chuck Dixon) and it's a talent that deserves to be celebrated.

The art here is just as great as what we saw in The Hunt. Bright colours undercut the dirty, gritty lines and makes the darker twists generally unexpected. Where artist Travel Foreman shines, however, is in his depictions of Buddy's new connection to animal life. Animal Man's body now changes to resemble any animal he adapts the power of. Now we see him with an ape-like head, bulging arms and literal crows feet. It's weird and wonderful and I'm desperate to see more.

Animal Vs. Man is less scary than the first volume, but SO much better at mythos-building. It gets a four out of five literal crows feet.

****