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Tag Archive: Animal Man


Liberator Issue 1 cover

Although the mainstream and critics will likely ignore Black Mask Studio’s new four-issue mini-series Liberator because it deals with politics head-on, it should be on your list of the best comics of 2013.  Fully funded from a successful Kickstarter campaign, with profits going to animal advocacy causes, Liberator puts its money where its mouth is, centering on two realistic heroes approaching their noble and hard-fought causes in different ways.  If you’re tired of the same old superhero vigilante with little but blowing up alien worlds at stake, maybe Liberator’s tantalizing tagline will help pull you in: “Real heroes don’t wear capes… they wear ski masks.”

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Green Arrow 17 cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Today DC Comics switches gears with its New 52 Green Arrow title, with writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino re-starting the series in a new storyline called “The Kill Machine.”  Lemire is best known for taking the obscure DC Comics character Animal Man and turning his story into one of DC Comics’ best reviewed series.  Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino is best known for his haunting run on the New 52’s I, Vampire, and his great covers for a short X-Files comic book series, with a style he seems to be carrying forward in Green Arrow Issue #17, released at comic stores everywhere today.

With Issue #17 Lemire seems to be taking some tips from the Berlanti/ Guggenheim/ Kreisberg playbook. Their highly successful Arrow TV series on the CW Network follows Oliver Queen as he deals with the events he faced on the mysterious island where his yacht Queen’s Gambit marooned him, and where he honed his physical skill as archer and fell into his current psychological state.  The TV Oliver Queen is echoed in Lemire’s lead character although differences show through–Lemire’s Oliver seems a bit younger and impulsive whereas the TV Oliver relies on his charisma and is more measured in his actions.  But you can’t say more about that by way of comparisons with only one issue to go on.  Fans of the Arrow TV series should keep an eye out for a familiar villain element in this first issue.

Sorrentino X-Files cover A

An example of some of the excellent past cover art of Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino.

“The Kill Machine” finds Oliver responding to the loss of Queen Industries by the trustee managing the company since his father’s death–his father’s best friend.  Lemire is overtly giving his Oliver a clean slate, destroying the world Oliver knows and removing any relationships that might reveal Oliver as anything but a lone wolf.  In this way it will be interesting to see how much of Mike Grell’s original stories of the urban archer shine through.  Grell’s Oliver, through dozens of issues of amazing stories beginning in the late 1980s, was the last time the character was completely redefined.  Can Lemire reinvigorate Green Arrow and still keep true to the character’s long history?  He has developed several issues beginning with Issue #17 so we will learn the answer as we keep up each month with the series this year.

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By C.J. Bunce

With the Before Watchmen series announced last month “coming soon to a comic book store near you,” now there is more reason than ever to catch up on the current exploits of one of the characters that inspired Doctor Manhattan himself, Captain Atom.  Of all the 52 of DC Comics New 52 series, Captain Atom is one of the titles I am still reading after 6 months, up there with All Star Western, Batgirl, Batwoman, Justice League Dark, and Wonder Woman.  Yes, I like it better than all the Batman titles I tried on for size and the much praised Animal Man.  Captain Atom has probably gotten lost a bit in the shuffle between umpteen Bat-titles and all the Justice League headliner superheroes.  So if you are someone whose pull list hasn’t dabbled yet into the rest of the DC universe, this is the first book you should grab to get caught up.

The trade paperback to be published later this year will compile the first six issues, written by J.T. Krul with art by Freddie Williams II, plus it will include additional materials.  Spoilers ahead!

In Issue #1 we meet the New 52 Captain Atom in a story along the lines of those found in some other New 52 titles–we fear that which we do not understand–as Captain Atom is attacked by those he wishes to protect.  Captain Atom can absorb energy in great amounts but to protect the eastern seaboard he must harness the energy of both a volcano and a nuclear reaction.  Uncertain of his abilities, neither he nor his supporters know what can happen.  As to comic book intrigue factor, Captain Atom’s abilities offer a “Wonder Twins” meets MacGyver brand of problem solving–and decisions that could result in his own destruction.

Of course with unprecedented devastation, including natural and man-made disasters, society does what it does best, cast blame, and Captain Atom becomes a target in Issue #2.  We learn his back story–that of a Captain, Nathaniel Adam, a volunteer in an experiment gone wrong–and that his new “condition” was inadvertently created by a Stephen Hawking-level genius named Dr. Megala.  Where some New 52 titles offer no origin story or bombard you with back story, Captain Atom gives readers just what they need to push the story forward.  If you liked the superhero-themed TV series Alphas, you will see Captain Atom exhibiting a “seeing” ability much like Gary, the autistic character on the show (for me the best character on Alphas).  One of Freddie Williams’ best images to-date is in this issue, an incredible multi-layered splash page of Captain Atom reaching between two worlds, into this new realm of being, laid out over the shadow of the mere mortals mocking him.

Captain Atom struggles with similar, but different, conflicts as Superman in Issue #3–you have all the power but not all the time to fix everything and a superhero must make choices.  Honing in on a boy with cancer, Captain Atom moves from volcano blast to Fantastic Voyage–battling an equally large war but on a microscopic scale and moves on to try to literally take on everyone’s problems.  In his first team-up, with Barry Allen’s Flash, possibilities of JLA partnerships are opened up for future issues.  Behind the scenes there lurks a grotesque abomination in the streets that surfaces in the background of each issue.  Unlike the grotesque art in the pages of Animal Man (where I just couldn’t continue moving forward with the series because it looks so…ugly… and I can hardly wait to read how Jeff Lemire takes on Justice League Dark), here the grotesque is more stylized and nuanced–less off-putting for the average reader.

In Issue #4 the inevitable surfaces as the “Captain” in Captain Atom takes front stage and we see that Atom must face similar pressures as Steve Austin in Phil Hester and Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man series–the influence of the military industrial complex surfaces with questions harkening back to 1930s science and the ethics of mass destruction.  Captain Atom is a classic superhero in every sense, only he has more than the one-note power you find with other superheroes, such as the Flash with merely fantastic speed. Atom here could take on the Earth’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel, because of the enormity of his power, and yet he suffers a social fate similar to Rogue from the X-Men, he can change matter, he can absorb energy, he can be everywhere.  But can he fix everything?

With the end of Issue #4 and the beginning of Issue #5, Atom becomes scarier and the reader joins the naysayers on the question of whether Atom should continue on unimpeded when he’s unable to control his power.  In Issue #6 Atom faces himself and his biggest threat, and a double-page spread shows the mirror reflection of Atom and his enemy.  Both villains who were initially typical baddies: a pain in the ass general and would-be Jack McGee/Ross archetype (from Marvel’s Hulk) and a monster of sorts, are written to be somewhat sympathetic in the end.

J.T. Krul writes a complete story in the pages of Issues #1-6 with the creativity seen in his Fathom and earlier Green Arrow work that eclipses his work on the current Green Arrow series that he also has been writing (I chalk that up to a Green Arrow character at a stage in its history where there is not much exciting that can be done by anyone).  There is plenty of character development in these first six issues.  The climax of this first Captain Atom story involves another team-up, a surprising one at that–that forecasts and unleashes endless possibilities for future issues.  And we are left with a great cliffhanger to boot.

Williams’ illustrations are refreshingly unique in the New 52.  He varies his styles and drawing and painting techniques in way I have not seen anywhere else.  He doesn’t just draw panels like he is getting directions from a script and plodding ahead.  The pages are nicely balanced, employing what reminds me for lack of a better phrase as “special effects”–bubbling imagery of  dematerializing hands, edges that are almost undefinable for Captain Atom himself to give the feel of heat and energy, panel borders that converge in a way similar to what J.H. Williams is doing on his Batwoman series.  And kudos to Jose Villarrubia for his coloring, which really draws out Williams creative effects and highlights Captain Atom in particular.

One last thing–although it is neither targeted to young readers nor a mature title, Captain Atom could be recommended for every age.  Compared to other New 52 titles, you won’t find here pole dancers (Voodoo), human skin removed and used as a mask (Detective Comics), rivers of blood (Animal Man), or T&A overload (Red Hood and the Outlaws).

I am looking forward to the continuation of this series with Freddie Williams as series artist and J.T. Krul as writer.  Their contributions combine for a solid series and these first six issues, with one complete story from beginning to end, will make a good read for those who pick up the trade paperback when it becomes available.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(With spoilers)

One of the promises by the editors of the DC Comics New 52 was that any new reader, young or old, could pick up any #1 of the new issues and be able to delve right in, without any prior knowledge of the characters.  This was a good opportunity for me to browse the racks for something different, something I might not normally check out.  So I picked up a copy of Animal Man #1. It’s a good example of a new title that gives you enough back story and dangles a bit of things to come to get a reader hooked.

What the first DC 52 issues demonstrate is that Marvel Comics should do the same thing.  Every time I check out a random issue of Spider-man, Thor, or Captain America, I either get the feel that I have read this character so many times before there is nothing new here, or that the issue is in the middle of some complicated Marvel Universe event that I would need to buy every tangent title before I could figure out what is happening.  But back to Animal Man.

Issue #1 begins with a New Yorker magazine type interview with Buddy Baker, a washed-up ex-stunt man turned superhero turned animal rights activist turned movie actor who recently acted a part like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, mirroring the phase of life Buddy is in.

Buddy appears to be near some life changing turning point, is involved in a lot of self-reflection, and by all accounts is teetering at the edge of some midlife crisis.  Buddy has a wife of several years, and kids, and hasn’t engaged in much of the superhero biz for a while.  But he hasn’t hung up his super suit just yet.

Like Mr. Incredible at the beginning of The Incredibles, Buddy decides to go out on a mission, but afterward gets indications that his powers are affecting him in a bad way.

At home, his daughter has a room full of stuffed animals and she just wants to adopt a pet dog.  And we get to learn why Buddy is a superhero after all.  And we get indications that this series may not only be about Animal Man–a family member may have inherited some of his super abilities.

The story unfolds nicely, written by Jeff Lemire.  But whereas I like Travel Foreman’s panels with Buddy in superhero mode, his dialogue panels with the family in conversation are very minimalistic and seem like filler pages included to get us to the next big story point.  Some of it may relate to the equally minimalist colors used.  And the cover is just wrong–it makes Animal Man look like he is in some kind of gory bloodbath.  What the image reflects is his tie-in to the lives of animals throughout the world.  The color is important, it just has a strange vibe compared to the actual story.

I like the idea of a superhero family tale in the DC universe like that used in The Incredibles.  I like Buddy’s powers–he seems to be one of the Wonder Twins from The Superfriends tv show who could take on the abilities of any animal when needed to save the day.

As a non-Justice League, non-main DCU character title, Animal Man has gotten off to a nice start.