Once upon a time in 1988, a then little-known writer named Grant Morrison took an obscure, D-list, DC Comics character named Animal Man and turned him into something wonderful over the span of 26 classic issues. Other writers such as Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch and Jamie Delano followed, but none of them seemed to give the character that creative spark than Morrison did.
Until now, of course.
Four issues into the second volume of Animal Man, writer Jeff Lemire has taken elements from Morrison and Delano's runs and fused them with his own style to create one of the best titles of DC's "The New 52." Back in May, before the relaunched DC Universe was even announced, I wrote about how great it would be if DC formed a new "Vertigo 2.0" imprint that brought back the edgy superhero titles that DC's Vertigo line made so well back in the '90s. Well, they didn't create a separate imprint, but they did form a group of Vertigoesque titles called "The Dark" that are essentially the same thing apart from nudity and the occasional F-bomb.
Lemire's Animal Man is definitely dark compared to most DC superhero titles and reads as though you can easily see it being adapted as a weekly television series on AMC or FX. In this issue, Buddy Baker, the animal-powered superhero known rather appropriately as Animal Man, has entered a surreal realm known as The Red (created by Delano) with his young daughter Maxine. Maxine, it turns out, is definitely a daddy's girl with emerging animal abilities of her own, making her a very important Avatar of The Red that must be protected at all costs. It seems an evil force of darkness called The Rot wants to take control of Maxine in order to spread its influence throughout the web of all life.
Hmmm...A dark side to a powerful Force that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. Sounds a little familiar.
Working with Lemire is artist Travel Foreman, whose dark, stylish style gives the book a somewhat Bill Sienkiewicz appearance. Foreman seems to revel in drawing ugly, grotesque monsters, adding to the Vertigo feel and complementing Lemire's script beautifully. His depiction of Maxine often makes her look ten years old instead of four, but Buddy's wife Ellen has been updated nicely for 2011 while son Cliff looks very...Cliff.
With the addition of a Red protector/instructor for Maxine in the form of a talking cat named Socks, it seems Lemire intends on developing her as much as he does Buddy, if not more so. This first story arc ends next issue, but "The Hunt" is just the introduction to what appears to be a long-running supernatural/dark fantasy saga. Animal Man, once again, is the superhero comic for those poor souls who hate superhero comics and I for one, couldn't be happier about that.