Review – Animal Man, Volume One

A series that I would have never considered reading before I got a very well written comment.

A series that I would have never considered reading before I got a very well written comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction:

I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t know enough about the DC universe. We all know who Batman and Superman are, but there are a lot of more obscure heroes that have great stories that deserve to be heard. I have watched Cartoon Network’s DC Nation and saw the goofy little short that featured Animal Man on many occasions. I thought that Animal Man was a Beast Boy knock off and didn’t really deserve my time. However, when I put up my review of the New 52 Teen Titans, I got a very interesting recommendation from a blogger that goes by wwayne. I then decided to pick up the first volume of the New 52 Animal Man and was very pleasantly surprised.

Not your Cartoon Network superhero.

Not your Cartoon Network superhero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary:

Imagine yourself with a normal life. You have a steady job, a beautiful wife, and your life couldn’t be happier. Then, you wake up one morning and your body feels odd. Through your curiosity you discover that you have new abilities that some would even describe as super powers. Now your life seems to be on a whole new level of awesome. You are young and the world could use some help keeping the corruption of the streets at bay. However, you have a family and this new-found responsibility as a hero seems to be keeping you away from your normal responsibilities. You were brought into this world without a super mentor. Schools don’t teach you how to balance crime fighting and your family life. No one has guided you in finding out exactly how to use your powers to the fullest. No one teaches you how to pick up the pieces when your life begins to fall apart. This is the unique element that is brought to us in the Animal Man comic. Our story begins with Buddy down on his luck after slowing down with the hero gig. Things are starting to show promise, but Buddy’s powers are starting to act funny. He brushes things off until Buddy’s worst fear comes true when his daughter develops powers similar to his own. Things get pretty crazy as Buddy goes on a journey to find the truth behind the nature of the powers that he and his daughter possess.

That is one huge cat.

That is one huge cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Characters:

Buddy Baker is Animal Man. Buddy is linked to what he calls the life web and uses it to borrow the abilities of the animals in this world. Animal Man is a former stunt man who became a hero, then an animal rights activist, and finally decided to get into acting. Even though he tries to do what he can for his family, the hero gig doesn’t pay and the tumultuous life that comes with it does not meld well with a family. Ellen Baker is Buddy’s wife and shows great love for her family. Even though she is happy to see Buddy spending more time with the kids, Ellen does notice how much Buddy misses the superhero life. Clifford Baker is Buddy’s son and your typical teenage boy. Cliff gets a thrill from his dad’s hero work and is a little too obsessed with his video games. Maxine Baker is Buddy’s daughter and a huge focal point of the story. Maxine is a young girl that has begun to develop powers that link her to the red which is the true identity of the life web. The young lady is a new avatar of the red which makes her the most important individual in an upcoming war against the darkness. Ignatius, otherwise known as socks, is a former avatar of the red who has left his home in order to train Maxine for the war. The characters shown to us thus far have a very deep connection to one another and it is making for great character development early on.

The lesser known heroes are fighting the good fight.

The lesser known heroes are fighting the good fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impression:

Animal Man really surprised me. The best part about this series is the look into how a family reacts when the head of the household is a superhero. We get a very real look into the struggles that Ellen faces as Buddy’s wife when dealing with an inconsistent income and the constant fear that he won’t come home from a fight. Also, we see how being a hero outside of the Justice League can have its issues. Buddy lacks the aid of other heroes when dealing with his crime fighting and is not always taken seriously due to his known identity as a stunt man. Once again DC has given us a very edgy series and I am really enjoying the connection to nature.

The world requires more than just us humans to survive.

The world requires more than just us humans to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Say:

Go out to your nearest comic book provider and give Animal Man a try. It is showing itself to be an emotional journey told with a writing quality that deserves recognition. I am very happy that I picked up a copy of Animal Man Volume One and would like to thank wwayne for the recommendation. I love DC and would love more people to recommend series in the New 52 for me to read.

Check out wwayne here!

Do not question the council.

Do not question the council.

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12 responses to “Review – Animal Man, Volume One

  1. I recently read Animal Man Vol. 1 as well and enjoyed it alot. In the first issue, Buddy does do some crimefighting, but after that it’s not your typical superhero comic. It’s sort of like family drama meets metaphysical underworld.

    • It is because of that very unique mix that I am really enjoying Animal Man. I have been waiting for a series that really gets into the strain being a superhero can put on a family.

  2. Thank you for the plug and for talking about me as a source of inspiration.
    I’m really glad you enjoyed the series I recommended you. It’s always a pleasure to see that something you like is appreciated by other people as well, and they tell you “I liked it!” not because they feel obliged to, but because they sincerely think that.
    Hope to read a new post from you soon! : )

    • No worries. I like to give credit where credit is due. I did really enjoy Animal Man and I am open to any other suggestions you may have.

      • “I am open to any other suggestions you may have”: Well, a series that perfectly ties with Animal Man is Swamp Thing. It doesn’t have much of the family drama that makes Animal Man special, so I’m sure you would enjoy it less, but both of them are… how could I define them? Weird in a delightful way, that’s the best way to describe them.
        Some scenes of Animal Man, like the one of the pregnant hyppos or the fight at the hospital, are fixed in my memory, I vividly remember them after months and I think I’ll never forget them.
        Thank you for your reply! : )

        • I totally agree. I still imagine the fight scene inside the red. On Swamp Thing, I will give it a try.

  3. I had a lot of issues with Animal Man. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t really give us the everyman superhero it tried so desperately to achieve. He seemed too perfect, too nice and peaceful and caring. It was like having hippie Superman. He never loses his temper, or says something dumb, or makes big mistakes. The closest thing to a flaw that Animal Man exhibits is that he’s not all that powerful, and he’s dealing with very powerful forces. And even then, it never feels overwhelming to him, Animal Man manages to take everything in stride like all of these terrors just come with the territory.
    Yeah, he seems to take issue with the forces bringing his daughter into the fray though isn’t it such a cliche to make a “chosen one” that, surprise, is a child? But eventually, even his cookie-cutter “mysterious child prodigy” daughter isn’t disturbing Animal Man. There just didn’t seem to be real human reaction and interaction in the series.
    Speaking of inhuman, I’m very polarized on the art. When something needed to look horrific, the art was executed perfectly. Now when regular humans needed to display regular human emotions, we were instead treated to stone faces and expressions that didn’t in any way make us feel like that person had just felt anything that humans feel.
    Now, my review sounds pretty critical, but my overall rating? 7/10. It was readable beginning to end, and the story line actually makes me want to continue the series. Plus, I started reading comics in the 90s, so I know what shitty comics REALLY look like(lookin at you, Rob Liefeld)

    • I didn’t have that big of an issue with Animal Man’s character. I would say that spending years fighting things in the DC Universe would make it so that horrors didn’t really surprise you. It isn’t like we are looking at a story that takes place in the beginning of his career. On the note of character flaws, I am not a fan of perfect characters, but I don’t think every single character needs a major flaw thrown out there like that right away. He is trying and basically failing to keep his personal and hero life separate the way that he promised his wife that he would. That coupled with his powers not being ridiculously over powered are enough for me to say that he has his weaknesses in a world where heroes like Superman exist.
      Even though it is cliche to have a child be the chosen one, I am happy that we are getting to see Animal Man interact with his family. His wife is going to have to make some tough choices moving forward when it comes to protecting her children which isn’t something that we get to see very often. I just picked up the second volume and I am hoping to see more interactions between Animal Man and his wife because I think that we are going to get some real emotion moving forward. I won’t argue with you when it comes to the art though.

      • Being underpowered isn’t much of a flaw. I don’t need some Alan Moore, drunken abusive character flaw. It’s the fact that he fits every characteristic of the perfect family man. It was a little like watching a family sitcom. The family is wacky, but extraordinarily stable. We didn’t even get the family sitcom character flaw of the father being a little dumb or foolish, nope, he’s perfectly capable in that regard. I find myself not really sympathizing with Animal Man only because he has no real character struggle.

        • Do you need a character struggle when you see what he is going through to protect to protect his family. It isn’t like he is completely perfect so what is wrong with that? It isn’t like people like Animal Man, minus the powers, don’t exist.

          • Fair enough, but I feel like the character himself is not interesting. Animal Man will always rely on the story as long as the character is so bland. It’s the problem of DC. Too many guys like Superman with flawless personalities. If they don’t have epic conflicts with evil, they have nothing to do with themselves.

            Spider-man always struggled with balancing his personal and superhero life. Wolverine struggled with his past, and how it followed him everywhere he went. DC has only a couple examples of this and it’s no coincidence that their biggest example is also the character that carries the whole damn company, Batman. Batman had the struggle of abandoning his identity as Bruce Wayne, only keeping up a facade that his loved ones would latch too, trying to pull him back into humanity. He has hardcore PTSD and even a little dissociative identity disorder.

            Characters need a subtle underlying theme to their character, or else they stop feeling human. It doesn’t need to be much, just an overall purpose to the character. Swamp Thing in New 52 has a calling towards nature that he tries to ignore so he can try to get back the life that his calling robbed him of. In the first book, he learns that he has a responsibility above himself, that he must act and sacrifice his own pleasures because if not him, who? You don’t immediately read into all of this, but it’s there, and it makes the series powerful, even if you don’t realize it at first.

            • Well, Batman carries the company for obvious reasons. The problem I have with DC is the fact that some of their best stories are the ones that revolve around their lesser known characters. Unless you have the will to go out and look for them, then things will pass you by. Swamp Thing isn’t necessarily on the radar of your casual readers.
              The thing with Animal Man is that the story isn’t focusing on Animal Man himself. The family dynamic is what I am seeing as the pillar of the story and that is why he doesn’t need these character flaws and whatnot that are specific to him. I will not doubt the quality of Spiderman and Wolverine, or the fact that Swamp Thing is better than Animal Man, but the story is functioning differently than those. I like the fact that the family dynamic is a focus in Animal Man because it is different.

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