By: Jeff Lemire (story), Steve Pugh (art), Lovern Kindzierski (colors)

The Story: And now you know why Animal Man never channels the powers of a chicken.

The Review: Considering the popularity of this series, you can’t deny Lemire has done a good job making its star accessible to people who’ve never heard of him in their lives (read: most people).  That said, it’s always been obvious that longtime fans, particularly those of the Morrison era of Animal Man, had an “in” on the character the rest of us do not.  In that sense, these #0 issues can handily even the field between old and new readers.

Here we see Lemire integrating both old continuity and the new mythology he’s laid down, and the effect seems very unified and sensible.  Like Action Comics #0, you don’t see much in this issue that previous ones haven’t alluded to already, but Lemire clarifies some of the reasons behind certain changes and developments.  You get a sense of that these past events tie into the current “Rotworld” arc, but only in the vaguest terms.

All you really know is that Arcane has always been a thorn in the Red’s side and that he has a long-term plan in mind.  Clearly he has a specific purpose in mind for Maxine, otherwise he wouldn’t let the opportunity of nipping the newest Avatar in the bud slide.  We’ve seen a lot of nightmare imagery on this title where Maxine gets turned into a force for the Rot.  It’s a cinch to predict that Arcane plans to get an edge on the Red and the Green by having two avatars of the Rot fielding this war.

Interesting stuff, but not really enough to make a worthwhile issue.  To supplement the esoteric material, we get a glimpse into Buddy’s pre-Animal Man days.  Comic book writers should take note of Buddy’s unusual job and familial lifestyle and how Lemire uses both to support the story.  It just strikes me as odd how few superheroes have actual civilian lives anymore, and when they do, it doesn’t play much of an important role.  Lemire has actually made Buddy’s film career a storytelling device and the title feels more fleshed out for it.

As for the family aspect, the Bakers’ tight-knit relationship has always been a bedrock for this series, but now we see cracks within that may expand to bigger conflicts later.  Much as Buddy obviously adores his family, he’s not entirely willing to give up everything for them.  Ellen voices her concern about his superheroics: “You’re a father.  You have responsibilities.”

Tellingly, Buddy avoids the point in his response.  “Come on, Ellen, Cliff loves this!”  There may be nothing untrue about the statement, but he’s clearly projecting his own feelings in this case.  Take that together with the reflections of Buddy we got in Tights, the indie movie he starred in #6, and you get this broader picture of a man who really had nothing going for him before he got his powers.  It’s also clear that love of family alone can’t fill that space.

Pugh has always done well by this title.  He captures the sophistication of another decade.  Back in the day, against the excesses of the Liefields and Lees, his polished, elegant look must have been impressive indeed, and even now the classical form of his figures has an undiminished beauty, a little too poised and static though it is.

Conclusion: An enlightening reintroduction of Animal Man to a new generation, with strong art.  For the loyalists, there’s stuff to enjoy, but it won’t be quite as substantial.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Ah, a time when Cliff had a normal haircut.  Those were the days.

– Ellen’s a—what, cartoonist?  Graphic designer?  Whatever the case, this should be a wake-up call to certain writers that not every female character in comics has to be a reporter.

– “Superhero Buddy Baker Leaves Wife for Chimp!”  I’m guessing Ellen’s reaction upon seeing that headline was some shade of nonplussed.