The big change on this issue is the addition of Rafael Albuquerque on art, with colorist David McCaig. This art is nothing less than breathtaking. Albuquerque's style really fits this book, which in the past had some great creepy artists on it like Steve Pugh and Travel Foreman. Albuquerque doesn't go for the gross-out style which we've had in this series, but his art certainly is haunting here, which is the perfect fit for the tone of this book. One of the coolest panels is Brother Blood rising out of a pool of blood with this insane look on his face. It's the type of panel that will show up in your nightmares. McCaig's colors really add another dimension to the art. His work in one particular panel, where Buddy is talking on the phone, really caught my attention. The shading on his face and colors are awesome. The light from the phone, isn't the same color as the interior lighting, so it's going to look different and McCaig nails it.
Aside from the art and the colors, the lettering in this issue is actually a stand-out portion of the issue. Lettering isn't talked about that much in comics, but here Jared K Fletcher does some really cool things. There's lots of variations in size and font, especially when one of the Splinterfolk is talking. It's really cool to see a letterer make this many different decisions that all really work within the context of the story.
Onto the actual story from writer Jeff Lemire! There is a huge change in dynamic in this issue as Animal Man and the Totems are no longer in control. Brother Blood is now in charge, and it's really starting to feel hopeless for all the protagonists in this series, even though they spent so much time battling and overcoming the Rot in the previous major storyline. The issue leaves the reader off at a tough spot for Buddy. It's not a giant reveal or something major spoilery, but Buddy has some major decisions to make in the future. Speaking of Buddy, we finally get to see he and his wife reunited here. It's a really nice scene, and reassuring, on some level, with fans of the series.
Awesome AMERICAN VAMPIRE reference in this issue as well.
Once again, Villains Month interrupted a story line, and it disturbs the flow of the story. It's been two months since issue #23 came out, and while Lemire does a good job and giving the reader a recap, without actually doing an opening page recap, it still feels like forever since we had an issue, even though there wasn't a delay.
Minor gripe, but I kept noticing that Albuquerque kept signing his name on panels in the issue. By "keep," I mean it happened three times, but it was a bit distracting. I've seen other artists do it in the past on splash pages or two page spreads, but two of the times this happened, it was on smaller panels.
It may have had a month off, but this issue of ANIMAL MAN was exciting and disturbing, in a good way. Everything has changed for the worse when it comes to Buddy as Animal Man. Brother Blood has taken control, and at some point, a powerless Buddy will have to stop him. the art, colors, and lettering are all top notch. This issue fires, creatively, on all cylinders. If there's one book you really should be picking up this week, make sure it's this one.