Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt

When Animal Man’s world is turned upside down he will sacrifice everything to save not only his family but the entire world.

Before DC’s New 52 launched I decided that I was going to buy every issue #1. I wanted to give each comic a chance to prove itself but to be perfectly honest I already had a list of comics with which I never thought I would make it past the first issue. Animal Man was one of those comics. As I began pouring through the first few pages I was not too impressed. Here is Buddy Baker, the “everyman superhero,” living a pretty bland life. His wife Ellen does not approve of his superhero lifestyle but she is supportive. His son Cliff is slightly rebellious but he looks up to his father. His daughter Maxine, who he calls “Little Wing,” is equally persistent and adorable like most little girls. Everything about his life is… typical.

When Buddy responds to a disturbance at a downtown hospital he quickly learns that something is wrong. At the hospital Buddy confronts a grieving father who has lost his child to cancer. This poor man is confused and believes the hospital has hidden his child from him. Armed with a pistol the father takes the children’s ward hostage and Buddy, as Animal Man, is forced to stop him before he hurts anyone.

Then it happens.

A-Man? You okay?

A-Man? You okay?

Buddy’s eyes start to bleed. This is the first sign that everything is not right in Buddy Baker’s world and things are about to change in a very dramatic way. Medics find no cause for the bleeding and Buddy insists not only does he feel fine but he feels better than he has in years. That night he is plagued by nightmares in which he is attacked by dark entities which call themselves The Hunters Three. He wakes with a start and is called outside by Ellen who is frantic. There in the yard he finds Maxine surrounded by the corpses of neighborhood pets which she has returned to life.

Basically writer Jeff Lemire and artist Travel Foreman lulled me into the domestic peace of Buddy’s life and then shattered it. I loved it! Animal Man jumped from the drop list to the top of my “Mandatory Purchase” list. Issue #10 of this comic comes out this month and I am still as much a fan now as I was in the beginning. Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt collects issues one through six of the ongoing series in a single graphic novel.

We have learned much about Buddy Baker’s world since the beginning of the new series. In the old DC universe Buddy’s powers were the result of genetic tampering by an alien species. The new series has not thrown that out but instead revealed that the aliens were merely the illusion which a cosmic entity known as The Red used when it bestowed its powers upon Buddy. The Red is a fundamental aspect of life which is tied to animal life everywhere. This cosmic force is balanced by two other aspects known as The Green and The Rot. The Green is tied to plant life and The Rot is decay or death, a necessary component of life. As it turns out Buddy is an avatar of The Red and he was transformed so that he could prepare himself to protect a more powerful avatar who come after him, his daughter Maxine. Avatars of the aspects exist to maintain the balance between them. When one of the aspects grows too powerful the avatars of the other two band together and restore the balance.

The Rot consumes all...

The Rot consumes all…

This time it is The Rot which is growing too powerful. It has begun to infest The Red and The Green while it also spreads its influence in the material world. Maxine is powerful but she is not yet ready to fulfill her responsibilities. Buddy must protect his family while they try to find the avatar of The Green, Alec Holland (who we known as The Swamp Thing). Somehow they must restore the balance before it is too late and The Rot consumes everything.

Jeff Lemire writing is engaging in a way which most comics lack these days. He breathes life into each character he introduces and then keeps them breathing through each and every panel. Likewise Travel Foreman’s unique talents add just the right amount of supernatural horror to the comic keeping readers engrossed with his visceral visuals. Between the two of them and the rest of the talented crew working on this book Animal Man is destined to become a classic and an important part of every comic book reader’s collection. Pick up a copy of Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt for yourself.