Buddy Baker used to be a big time superhero before he decided to try something different. As Animal Man, Buddy can take on the characteristics of any animal he wants – and it certainly comes in handy in times of trial. Speed of a cheetah? Done. Strength of an elephant? Even easier. After doing his thing as Animal Man for a while, Buddy retired, even though he still puts on the old suit to help out those in need occasionally. But one night, after helping secure the children’s ward of a hospital, something strange happens to Buddy that sets into motion a chain of events that cannot be stopped. See, Buddy thought being Animal Man was just something fun. But being the keeper of the Red is a serious job. It turns out Buddy wasn’t really the chosen one; it’s his 4 year old daughter, Maxine. And everything must be done to keep her safe, because the Rot is coming for her, for him, for everyone. Just as Swamp Thing, the keeper of the Green, must fight against the Rot, so, too, must the keeper of the Red, to ensure rot and ruin doesn’t take over the Earth. But the Rot is very strong and Maxine has only just begun to display her powers. Buddy has to realize that everything is at stake if Maxine is destroyed and he needs to step up to allow her to become what the world really needs – not just a superhero, but a savior.
In this reboot of Animal Man for DC’s New 52 initiative, readers will become entranced by the fantastical story written by Jeff Lemire and transfixed by the otherworldly illustrations by Travel Foreman. This is a dark story. What the Rot does to the Red is much more visual and grotesque as compared to what the Rot does to the Green. Lemire’s story is a great one which begins with an “article” about how Buddy is putting his superhero past behind him for a possible film career. It starts off so innocently yet compellingly; when the madness truly comes to life readers have already been sucked into the story. Buddy is a well written character, so life-like and vulnerable. His naivete is so believable, and that trait makes him one of the most well developed characters I’ve read. Indeed, all of the characters have tremendous development behind them and readers will feel like they truly know this family and that the family is in real danger.
The illustrations are just as captivating as the story and fit in well with what is, at times, quite graphic imagery. This is a serious story and the illustrations are more of a stylized, realistic variety as opposed to purely cartoonish or typical comic book style drawings. The “things” that Foreman draws are things I’ve never imagined in my wildest nightmares and they fit perfectly with the terror and horror that starts integrating the storyline. The coloring is vivid. The Red has to stand out because of its importance to the story and it surely does. Emotions run high in this book and the characters are drawn in a way that conveys the enormity of the situation. Readers will be shocked and frightened, influenced by the characters’ well-drawn emotions. Panels are set in a traditional format. They are easy to follow and the thought bubbles provide just the right amount of written dialogue and narration to keep the story moving along.
A great read for older teens and adults who appreciate a good horror story – also a good recommendation for those who read and liked Swamp Thing, as the stories tend to overlap.