Back in February, I announced the upcoming DC Annual Titles including my speculation of what exactly they would involve. By now, everyone knows what annuals to expect and some, such as Teen Titans Annual #1, were released earlier this month. There are more on the way (sadly no Demon Knights Annual…oh well) but this month I figured I’d give Animal Man Annual #1 a shot. I bought the collected volume of the first 6 issues of the New 52 Animal Man a few weeks ago and enjoyed it a lot and, given that this is a stand-alone story, I figured I could pick it up even if I’m a few chapters behind the main story. Is this title from the first wave of New 52 Annuals worth reading?
Animal Man Annual #1 is a frame story: “Socks,” former Avatar of the Red, tells Maxine Baker, the current avatar, the tale of when champions of The Red and The Green teamed up to take on The Rot. For those with little/no knowledge of the mythos, The Red is the term for the web that connects all animal life, The Green is the term for the web that connects all plant life, and The Rot is the essence of death and decay. None of the three are inherently good or evil, and all must exist in balance with the others. Currently in the story, and in the past, The Rot became too powerful and threatened to overwhelm the world. The tale recounted involves rural Canada in the late 19th century as a small town is assaulted by The Rot, while a previous Swamp Thing and Jacob Mullin, Knight of the Red, ally to fight off these horrid invaders. But can anything truly stop the true power of deterioration?
Jeff Lemire’s writing is pretty interesting. Vast concepts like life and death are usually abstracted to an intangible level, but Lemire succeeds in bringing these ideas forward in a comprehensible and interesting manner. The plot itself is a great way of discussing the Avatars’ past and show that the current conflict in Animal Man and Swamp Thing has been brewing for ages. Lemire does a good job revealing emotion through the characters’ manner of speech. There are a few amazing lines, such as when Mullin finally accepts his role in this battle. Overall, the writing is fairly good.
The art in Animal Man Annual #1 is quite good and is very different than what comic fans usually see. Timothy Green II’s style is gritty and strange, perfect for a story about rotting monsters and shape-shifters. The images are powerful and disturbing, but this is great for a story like this. Lovern Kindzierski makes these factors stronger thanks to strong, contrasting colors; the choices for the rotlings are especially great, making these enemies really look like rotting meat on the page. The art at times is sickening, but I say that in the best possible way; for a tale like this, there’s really no better way to handle things.
Animal Man Annual #1 is a great read that is a creative look at aspects of the DC Universe most people never think about. The issue is crafted in such a way that only rudimentary knowledge of Animal Man and Swamp Thing is necessary; anyone can read it an enjoy. I will say, however, that this issue isn’t for everyone: if you’ve got a weak stomach, avoid this at all costs. Otherwise, dive in: this is a great read and I think it’s worth checking out.
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He hopes fans of the Animal Man short on DC Nation don’t pick this up and expect humor and smiles…