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.


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.


Monday, 7 December 2015

Spider-Man 2099 Vol. 1: Out of Time (Marvel NOW!) Review

Starring the time period that definitely
ISN'T on the cover.
Writer: Peter David

Artists: Rick Leonardi and William Sliney

Collects: Spider Man 2099 #1-5 and Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2099 excerpt).

Background Information:

The Spider-Man of 2099 is a creation of the 90s- one of the few to remain unhated since the era passed. The story goes that in 2099, Miguel O'Hara got his genes spliced with that of a spider, and became that era's Spidey.

With us so far?

Good, because in Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man, Miguel was transported back to our time because some truly whacky things were happening with the space-time continuum. During that time, he became stranded there and found himself having to protect his great-grandfather, Tiberius Stone.


Not knowing where a series is going is often a good thing. Not knowing if the series really wants to go anywhere? Not so much.

That's the feeling I get when reading Out of Time; a book that shows plenty of potential for the series- but doesn't convince you that writer Peter David even cares about capitalising on it.

Is it just me, or would all the Spider-characters make awesome
So Miguel is now working at Alchemax- a relatively young company now that will become an evil
monopoly by 2099- and hasn't he just achieved every millenial's dream?! He's entered the company on an executive level and done so just by showing up. After a futuristic cop tries to kill Miguel; forcing him to take him on as Spider-Man, Alechemax boss Liz Allen figures out that her out-of-the-blue worker and the Spidey with a skull on his chest are one and the same. She comes with a proposition: work for Alchemax as Spidey, or get outed as the same.

Have a guess which one Miguel choses.

To be fair; this is a good status-quo. Liz is clearly in control here, and Miguel has no choice but to follow suite. It leads him, for example, to follow Tiberius into what is either the Middle East or South America for the express purpose of selling Spider-Slayers. It also allows him to see the other super-types that Alchemax has under their employ. Here's a clue: they're bad people.

David has also written a great supporting cast here. He's been wise to keep the supporting cast relatively small. We're introduced to Tempest, a landlord who's been diagnosed with leukaemia and therefore doesn't let others get close to her. We're also re-introduced to Lyla- Miguel's wrist-mounted Siri-like hologram. It's her interjections and take-everything-literally mistakes that bring some of the more sunny moments to this book.

This could all work into a situation like what we have in DC's Grayson, where the title character is now working within the evil group to bring it down, but we don't get that here. David created the original Spidey 2099 character in the 90s, and presumably knows Miguel's relationship with Alchemax isn't great. It feels like a lost opportunity.

Spider-Slayers take tag seriously.
And I don't think David is likely to take advantage of this. The series is set to be re-numbered after volume 2 (which is based more around the Spider-Verse crossover) and bring Miguel back into the future. I don't think one volume is enough to really capitalise on the really intriguing status-quo that David has set-up. I know it's unfair to judge one volume on what comes next, but when you get invested in a series, you want a guarantee that your investment is going to result in a fully-realised story and it doesn't look like it will be.

The art is fine, but unmemorable. There's nothing particularly ugly here, but I couldn't tell this artwork from the myriad of other art styles out there. It thankfully doesn't get in the way of David's writing, though and even allows it to be as witty or engaging as you can. Here, you're reading a story more than looking at pictures.

It's a rare moment when I have a five-star love for a book but know that there are legitimate flaws. As much as I love Out of Time, I still have to give it a three out of five wrist-mounted Siris.