adamwarlock's Animal Man #7 - Animal vs. Man, Part One review

A smooth artist transition maintains the high quality level.

I was initially concerned when I'd heard Travel Foreman would be leaving this title. It's a great book for its writing and its art both, yet I still felt that with Foreman's departure, something that makes the book as good as it is would be lost. Thankfully, this is not to be the case. While Foreman is still on board for about 4 pages of this issue, and presumably the next, the majority of the issue is drawn by incoming series artist Steve Pugh. I'm familiar with Steve Pugh and have liked his work well enough in the past, but I wasn't sure his style would gel so well with the distinctive look that Foreman has given this title. My doubts were unfounded.

The transition between Foreman on page 3 and Pugh on page 4 is smooth to the point where you have to really strain and nitpick to allow the change to draw you out of the moment. Pugh has either doctored his stylings just a tad to suit the look of what's come before in the book, or his natural style was a far better match than I had anticipated. Whatever the case may be, this book loses very little (perhaps nothing) in its overall quality for the artistic change. There is but a small tradeoff: Pugh's depictions of "The Hunters Three" and the horror elements in the book don't seem quite as horrific and grisly as Foreman's... but on the other hand, Pugh pays much more attention to putting detail into backgrounds where Foreman focused largely on the characters and often left filling in the rest of the panel to the colorist. The grisly horror elements in the art that Foreman so excelled at were a big part of what I was loving so much about the book, but Pugh is nearly as good in this regard and he draws a more complete picture of characters occupying their surroundings.

Writing and story-wise, the book is likewise still very strong. There was a cheesy transition a few issues back that introduced the concept that this book would be officially crossing over with Swamp Thing, that felt somewhat hamfisted. The impending crossover is handled much more organically in this issue as story elements of the two books are more gradually coming together; including a surprise cameo from John Constantine, who, while connected to the Swamp Thing mythos, has not officially regained that connection within the continuum of "The New 52".

One other highly appreciated thing in this issue is a moment or two of levity. Up to now this book has been wall-to-wall GRIM, and the fact that in the midst of continuing GRIM, writer Jeff Lemire manages to work in a few lighthearted tension breaker moments without completely derailing the narrative is a strong sign of his capabilities. If this title had maintained its steady flow of nonstop horrors that just get worse and worse, it might have started feeling a tad old before too much longer. It makes the title feel much more realistic that the family at its core still maintains their family structure in the midst of this crisis, and doesn't arbitrarily become some sort of makeshift military unit.

Animal Man remains not just one of the best books of "The New 52"... but one of the best monthly books on the racks today. For this and its likewise phenomenal "sister title" Swamp Thing both being in the first week's releases from DC each month... I'm always VERY excited to get to the comic store that particular Wednesday.

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