“A Strange Man on a Stranger Journey”
So reads the tagline on the cover of ‘Animal Man’ #3 and, as soon as you open the book, you’ll realize how true that statement actually is. This issue picks up moments after the close of ‘Animal Man’ #2 with Buddy Baker (Animal Man) and his daughter Maxine in the spiritual realm of “The Red”. The Red is the realm that links all animal life on the planet and, according to Maxine, there is something wrong with it. As Buddy and Maxine meet with the spirits of The Red to try and save the world, the three demons that appeared on Earth last issue are still trying to find a way to stop the Bakers. Their first idea… take Baker’s wife so that she can’t have any more super-powered kids!
I’ve never read anything from Jeff Lemire before but, after the first few issues of ‘Animal Man’, I am inclined to check out some of his other work. ‘Animal Man’, along with ‘All-Star Western’ and ‘Swamp Thing’ are rapidly taking the top spots in my favorite relaunch titles from DC.
For contrast and to show you how amazing a feat that actually is, my favorite pre-relaunch titles were ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘Batman’. Granted, I have always loved horror comics. But, other than old EC, Creepy, and Swamp Thing comics, I haven’t read a good horror comic in ages. That’s because horror is such a visceral experience that I think it must be difficult to translate to the comic book page. The medium doesn’t lend itself to jump scares like video or to long-winded build-up like written prose. But, when it’s done well, horror in comics can be some of the best and Lemire is proving himself a true artist of the genre!
One of the difficulties of horror in comics is that the visuals have to match the horror of the story. Too often, I’ve read a comic that should have been terrifying but cartoony or weird art missed the mark and it came off as funny or boring instead. That said, the scratchy yet detailed pencil work of Travel Foreman is an absolute perfect counterpart to Lemire’s eerie tale of the superhero battling forces of the supernatural. Rarely does a comic book’s images make me queasy. Yet Foreman has manged to do it two issues in a row. Last issue, it was the hippos that gave birth to the demons. This issue, it’s the demons themselves. Add with that the shocking image of Buddy Baker’s bleeding eyes back in ‘Animal Man’ #1 and you have some of the most horrific stuff I’ve ever seen in a comic book.
‘Animal Man’ isn’t going to be for everyone. Obviously, it’s not intended for younger readers. And some fans of straight-up superhero comics may not find it to their liking. But… If you don’t at least give ‘Animal Man’ a shot, you will be missing out on one of the creepiest and coolest titles of the DC relaunch.
ANIMAL MAN #3
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art and Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN