Last month brought two exciting releases for DC Comics’ New 52 fans: the release of the Animal Man series’ first trade ‘The Hunt’, and Batman Annual #1, featuring the origins of Mr. Freeze. Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man revamp has received exceptional praise from DC fans for its absorbing plot and lavishly grim illustrations.
Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt
Name: Buddy Baker
Current Alias: Animal Man
Power: Ability to conjure the abilities of any animal
(e.g. strength of a rhino, eyesight of an eagle)
Currently written by: Jeff Lemire
and illustrated by: Travel Foreman
If you haven’t been reading the New 52’s ‘Animal Man’, GO. No. RUN. Run to your local comic store and purchase the trade ‘Animal Man Volume 1: The Hunt’.
The revamped Animal Man series is simply engrossing. It’s a dark series, and not in a sexy-gritty Bad Planet sense. It’s more like a blood-curdling childhood nightmare.
Buddy Baker is an actor, stuntman, family man and part-time superhero. In Animal Man #1, Baker’s son informs him of a hostage situation involving kids. Animal Man conjures the flight of an eagle, and soars valiantly to the children’s rescue.
The series begins light, whimsical even, with flat cartoon-like illustrations that beguile you into a seemingly routine heroic tale.
And then comes the gore.
The New 52‘s Animal Man is savagely bloody, with horrific imagery of skinless figures, and lakes flowing thick with blood. There’s an icy aura of dread evident through out the first comic, teasing you with hints of splatter, and a graphic nightmare sequence that will terrorize you to the core.
Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man seamlessly develops from a gentle tale of valor into an absorbing horror series- one of the absolute best the New 52 has delivered.
If you can’t find Animal Man Vol 1: The Hunt at your local comic store, there are stunning digital copies available on Comixology.
The New 52: Batman Annual #1: The Origins of Mr. Freeze
An advantage to this annual is you don’t have to read the 52 line to follow its tragic plot, just possess an adequate understanding of Bruce Wayne’s ‘lifestyle’.
Following a melancholy flashback, the annual examines an interrogation of Mr. Freeze in Arkham Asylum. Unsurprisingly, the super villain escapes with ease, and heads straight for Bruce Wayne’s laboratory.
Unlike Animal Man, Jason Fabok’s art is very textured, to the point where it may rouse vicarious shivers in the reader. And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rendition, the New 52‘s Mr. Freeze possesses a complex, darkly forbidding demeanour. Fabok’s panels flow gracefully, and he captures Mr. Freeze’s stark movements and chilling voice with artful detail.
The annual’s tale of origins, rife with symbolism and rousing action sequences, is an excellent addition to the character’s legacy.
If you’re a fan of Mr. Freeze, buy this annual.
Joanna Tsanis is a columnist for the Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter: @joannatsanis