Written by Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 05:20
52 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC's New 52 and seeing how they're faring now that they're underway, why they're worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.
Buddy Baker was a stuntman who developed an ability to take on the characteristics of animals after encountering an “alien ship” in a forest. With his newfound abilities, Buddy became Animal Man, a hero with a not-so-secret identity who juggles work, responsibilities as a hero, animal activism, and a wife and two kids.
Previously on Animal Man: Covering Issues #1-#6
Everything was going great for Buddy: he had a movie coming out, his animal activism was going well, and he even had time to slip in some superheroics. That was until his 4-year-old daughter Maxine developed powers of her own.
Maxine quickly demonstrates the ability to animate dead animals, change a human hand into a chicken foot, and knowledge something called the Red Place. At the same time, Buddy's eyes keep bleeding and tattoos form on his skin, which Maxine insists is a map to the Red Place. Buddy takes her there, only to learn that Maxine is the avatar of the Red, the lifeforce of all animal life on Earth, the same Lifeweb Buddy's powers are connected to. To help her with her training, a denizen of the Red Place, a cat named Socks, comes back to Earth with them to train her.
Unfortunately, there are other powers at work. The Red is under siege by the Rot, the force of death and decay. The Rot's agents, the Hunter's Three, former avatars of the Red in their own right, come for the Bakers. Maxine is able to send two of them away inside the Red Place, but when Buddy and Maxine come to the rescue of the rest of their family, Maxine makes the mistake of summoning animals to aid her father in the fight. As the animals consume the Rot, it takes them over and begins to spread to all nearby creatures.
According to Socks, there is only one way to stop the Rot now; the Bakers need to find Alec Holland, the avatar of the Green.
Creepiness: If you like horror, then Animal Man is a great comic for you. Every issue contains at least one image you wouldn't want to see right before going to bed, and the covers themselves are equally as disturbing. The horror theme of the Rot spreading, like a zombie virus among animals, is pretty terrifying in its own right. You haven't known fear until a zombie grizzly is charging down on you.
The Bakers: A superhero with a family who knows about and accepts his alter ego. That's the basic idea since the beginning of Animal Man and it's still true in the relaunch. Within an issue or two, you fall in love with each of the Bakers and their respective quirks. You especially have to love Ellen Baker, who both manages to keep her husband in line while at the same time kicking some ass in her own right. Who needs animal powers when you have a car and a shotgun?
Socks: They have a cat who dispenses sage advice. 'nuff said.
Deus Ex Maxine: Back when I first heard Maxine Baker was going to develop powers, I was pretty excited to watch those early steps, but she's rather quickly become some kind of deity, as far as the DC universe is concerned. Issues 2-4 have Maxine solving almost every problem. Fortunately, it's been made clear in Issue #5 that this will not always be the case, as her inexperience led her to single-handedly helps the Rot cripple the Red.
The Art: Travel Foreman's style takes some getting used to. While his style works great for super-creepy scenes, it is rough when it comes to normal people and ordinary situations. There have been times when I've had to stop and figure out whether something supernatural was happening to someone's face or if it was just the artist's rendition of an expression.
The Red and the Green: Perhaps the most exciting thing looming in the future of Animal Man is the crossover with Swamp Thing. Both have already been mentioned in one another's titles, and it's well established that the Red and the Green have to work together to stop the Rot.
The Rot: The Hunters Three have been terrifying villains, and, though none of them are probably “truly dead,” it's going to be exciting to see what other horrors the Rot can throw out, especially now that it's gained more power, thanks to Maxine's actions.
Maxine's Fate: Maxine is already crazy powerful, but who knows what she'll be capable of once properly trained. What will happen to her when the battle with the Rot is finished? Does Maxine go back to normal? Will she take her place in the heart of the Red? Or, will she have to balance the two worlds of animal deity and soon-to-be kindergartener?