Evolve or Die
Sigh. Look, it's better than the Green Lantern banner because I get the point of this one. It's not hyping a movie that didn't need extra hype, and its for a good cause. But it doesn't change the fact that the "We Can Be Heroes" banner is a huge detriment to the covers its on. Actually, this cover doesn't suffer as much for it, Future Maxine looks strangely proportioned, which actually looks good even though the anatomy is bad, but it also stretches out the feel of the cover, and make the image feel like its unaffected by the banner.
The most important thing I can say about this issue is that it nearly alleviates my fears about Steve Pugh taking over art duties from Travel Foreman. Pugh tries his damndest to make sure his work on this title resembles Foreman's. Or maybe its the colorist who keeps it up. The biggest noticeable difference is that Foreman goes for simplicity. His line work is generally not too complicated, a lot of things are represented by single fluid lines, but Pugh uses a lot more sections of several lines. Muscles are a little more defined, body shadows are created with scratchy line work instead of color gradient. It's not like what Pugh does is 'bad' but it creates a definite contrast to Foreman. He can still draw things 'grotesque' but Foreman's simplicity made things 'creepier.' It also tones down the contrast to Swamp Thing. Animal Man and Swamp Thing have been having this amazing yin-yang of styles. Animal Man was drawn with simpler lines, lots of color, less details, more emptiness, white gutters, etc. Swamp Thing was dark, almost claustrophobic. White space was not allowed. Everything had to be filled in with black or plants. Everything was drawn with heavy shading and detail. Animal Man maximized the used of white space, and Swamp Thing made sure no space was unoccupied. Pugh's artwork adds some more detail, and messes with the balance just a bit.
This issue really reinforces one of the main aspects that set this series apart from the beginning. It's not just a superhero comic, it's not just a superhero / horror blend; it's not even 'just' 'not an ordinary superhero comics.' It's also heavily a family drama. Buddy and Maxine have been out and about finding the Red, while Cliff and Ellen were attacked at home. Cliff is Buddy's kid too, but he's never felt a strong bond with his dad. Even back in Morrison's run, Cliff was the one who acted up a bit, snuck cheeseburgers, and felt alienated. So this issue dedicates a nice chunk of time to having father and son bond. And it feels so real. Ellen and Buddy reinforce 'no junk food' when Cliff goes to buy groceries. So what does he do? He buys junk food. And he goes out to flirt with some girls, and he's truly teenage awkward. And Buddy helps him out. And Ellen's mother is in the mix back in the RV, really messing with the family dynamic. She externalizes all of the stress and tension in the family.
The only real problem I have with this issue is Buddy's dream sequence. He dreams of the future, or goes there, or something, and.... he doesn't really learn much. I mean, The Hunters Three will still be fighting Swamp Thing and Maxine and Ellen and John Constantine if Buddy doesn't protect Maxine? I just didn't really see the point, or any kind of justification of why or how it happened. The design for Future Maxine was great though, really interesting. But also, it was too ordinary. There was nothing that really set it apart like the dream sequence from the first issue.
In Conclusion: 4/5
I mean, ok sure. There was a million things to like about this issue as usual. The flow was excellent, Pugh's art is pretty much a fine successor to Foreman, family stuff, etc. Oh and Socks is great too. But the dream sequence threw me off, despite being well paced, because it had no explanation and no purpose. It didn't seem to matter, just to ramp up the tension, except I don't feel it did that either.
On a side note, right after reading this issue I found out why Travel Foreman's leaving Animal Man, and I now have to say A: DC is in no way to blame, and B: Nobody should whine about it anymore because its completely understandable. Steve Pugh's not Foreman, and he never will be, but he's a damn fine choice for a replacement.