Thursday, September 6, 2012

Animal Man #0, Swamp Thing #0


With all of his work in revitalizing Grant Morrison's "Animal Man" by diverting from the post-modern superhero tendencies to a more organic series, Jeff Lemire has slowly piled up a multitude of retcons. With the #0 issue, both him and the book's new regular penciller Steve Pugh basically return to completely recreate the character's beginnings.  The character's ties to Swamp Thing are now an integral part of the story, which is still functioning in the superhero mold, but striving for a very different tone.

Lemire elaborates on Buddy's status as a semi-avatar, and how the stuntman landed an opportunity to fulfill such an important role in the life web that is the Red. Pugh is tasked with illustrating a dynamic action series featuring the eventual fate of the previous Animal Man, reminding the reader that he can still match the previous penciller's muscular and powerful art. The role of the Totems in the regards to the manipulations concerning the Baker family receives the bulk of the creative team's interest, and at this point, the explanations feel adequate, if overcomplicated.

Lemire is basically using the issue as an opportunity to revisit the original "Showcase" Animal Man story, showing where he diverges from the tone adopted by Grant Morrison. The writer still uses the yellow aliens of the original Silver Age adventure, but they are merely a part of the narrative designed to ease Buddy into his eventual role of the protector of the Avatar. It is not the smoothest of explanations, but it manages to acknowledge the character's beginnings as the company's animal themed superhero, without continuing to elaborate on the metafictional aspects of the premise.

In Lemire's hands, the superhero identity is merely another role that Buddy is playing, a much preferable one compared to the shortcomings of his acting career. The character does end up feeling infantile in the process, but the creative team try to ground his naivety as a part of his role of a loving father. The issue ends by returning to the aspects of the plot relating to Swamp Thing and the Rotworld crossover, but despite the continuity hurdles, Lemire and Pugh manage to make it feel much more essential than the Annual published a few months ago.


The prequel to "Swamp Thing" picks up from the aforementioned "Animal Man" Annual, and further reinforces the fact that Anton Arcane is a threat to both Red and the Green. The character, as depicted here, serves as sort of an eternal avatar of the Rot, with the mission to exterminate his opposite numbers in the other two pantheons.

Scott Snyder has Arcane narrate the issue, revising Alec Holland's origin to further tie in to the new overarching Animal Man/Swamp Thing mythology. The writer still allows for the previous Swamp Thing stories to have taken the place in the five year gap, but keeps focused on the forthcoming Rotworld showdown. Kano is traditionally a more subdued artist, but he adepts his style to incorporate unusual page layouts and the aggressive visceral approach of Yanick Paquette.

The maniacal glee of Arcane and many of the rampages depicted in these pages feel abhorrent, but bring little to the book besides the fulfilling the perceived genre requirement. The carnage, both shown and implied quickly rises to absurd levels, but thankfully, the Swamp Thing origin sequence serves to orient Arcane's madness and makes the feud between two characters even more personal.

Even though Holland's nemesis was absent from the introductory arc, the writer has used the last few issues to cement both the character's power level and the personal enmity he feels against the protagonist. Next month's beginning of the Rotworld crossover should also mark the first step to the character's temporary demise, as Arcane's continued presence overshadows any other Swamp Thing story the creators could be telling. It's unclear what the editorials plans are for Kano, but the artist certainly has much to offer, especially if allowed to work in the style that is closer to his own work.

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