Animal Man #4 by Lemire / Foreman
Possibly the most pleasant surprise to be found among DC's new 52 has been two of the less heralded additions to the line - Jeff Lemire's Animal Man and Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing. Two titles that deal with the supernatural side of the D.C Universe, their opening storylines have gradually intertwined to the point where the new D.C Universe's first crossover appears to be forthcoming.
Animal Man's first four issues have seen the veteran superhero's seemingly idyllic family life put under considerable strain, his daughter Maxine having appeared to inherit his animal based powers. Maxine's gift has made her an object of desire for 'The Red', the supernatural power that is the source of Animal Man's powers, with the powerful pre-teen key in its struggle to defeat the plague-like 'Rot'. This issue sees her struggling to rescue her father from the Rot, while another one of its diabolical agents pursues the rest of her family.
Placing Animal's Man's daughter at the forefront of the book has certainly been an unexpected move by Lemire, but is a more than welcome one. What could have been a somewhat cliche family dynamic has become much more interesting - helped by the fact that Maxine is a charming and likeable character in her own right. Animal Man himself has seemed like a slightly peripheral figure at times, but it is pleasing to see the entire family given a role to play in the series. The pacing of the issue is excellent too - a lot of plot is packed in without it ever seeming rushed, and the story moves along in exhilarating fashion.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this issue is the macabre tone that is prevalent throughout. Travel Foreman's art is an acquired taste and his human figures do at times leave a little to be desired, but he provides a great take on some of the more supernatural aspects of the issue. Foreman is also a better storyteller than it might appear at first glance, and he handles what could be a confusing plot in style. Lemire's humour too, is subtle but ever present - the issue is far from slapstick but there is a surreal undertone that is played with in a pleasingly light hearted way at times.
Animal Man is not flashy, and I do not doubt that Lemire is yet to play his full hand. Ably assisted by Foreman, he is telling a slow burning story, that may yet become something of an epic. Perhaps not the capes and japes superhero book that you might expect, but a great read nonetheless, and for my money the most consistent book of the last six months.