Monday, 11 May 2015

Animal Man: The Hunt

Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman Animal Man: The Hunt (2012)
Sufficiently impressed with Scott Snyder's revived Swamp Thing, I continue my cautious return to the DC universe with Animal Man on the grounds that it apparently crosses over with the aforementioned vegetable-based title and might therefore aid my appreciation of the same even if it turns out to be shit. I suppose given how many times Animal Man continuity has been subject to the reset button during previous runs means that one more revision isn't such a big deal. Most of the stuff introduced by Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano remains in the recipe, mostly just off camera so we don't have to get ourselves too bogged down in who or what B'wana Beast was supposed to be. It probably helps that the previous version of the comic came to such a terrible end with a storyline I had trouble remembering even as I was reading it and some of the worst art I've ever seen in a mainstream comic book - the stuff of superheroes drawn with leaky biro on the back of an exercise book during an unusually sucky history class. That thing really looked like shit by the end, and I felt dirty each time I bought an issue like the loyal completist moron that I was.

So even had all-new Animal Man been illustrated through the magic of the potato print, it still would have been ahead of the game. Happily it isn't illustrated by potato print, but rather by someone called Travel Foreman. Travel was a verb rather than the name of a person last time I looked, but I don't really care because the art is mostly great, probably better than it has ever been on this book. Foreman contrasts large areas of flat colour with scrabbly ink drawings achieving an effect - to well and truly nail my colours to the mast here - not unlike that of the cartoon strips in the 1976 Dr Who Annual or thereabouts. It manages to seem both ugly and beautiful at the same time, and doesn't really suggest comic book so much as illustration.

I'm still not sure about the actual story, or what's going on as yet, but it seems decent and has done nothing to annoy me, so I'll probably stick with it on the understanding of it most likely getting better as it continues over subsequent collections. I loved Morrison's run on this title, but the art always seemed a bit basic and crappy to me; and what followed Morrison was generally great, although I've never been that wild about Steve Dillon's art - it always felt competent, but somehow phoned-in and lacking feeling; so it feels like Animal Man has at least been done some justice, or at least has no significantly underwhelming links in its chain for more or less the first time; and, without making too much in the way of a massive statement, it feels like the book at last knows what it's trying to do.

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