I know I’m probably in the minority for this, but for my personal taste, CGI is doing a lot to strangle horror more than any genre except (maybe) sci-fi action. There’s something fundamentally unreal about CGI that always brings me out of a movie when I realize that Nameless Teenage Girl #5 is screaming at… nothing, really. No, give me something like Rob Bottin’s frankly terrifying effects in Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing, or H.R. Giger’s chilling, memorable design for Alien. They occupy the same world the actors do, and for whatever reason, that ups the ante considerably for me. Comics have a distinct advantage there: anything the artist draws should look like it occupies the same world as the rest of the cast. Get a talented creators and let him play around with some designs, and you’ll get something horrifying. All this leads up to this: the first few pages of Animal Man #3 offer up some of the most inspired, horrific creature design I’ve ever seen in a comic book – and the rest of the issue manages to match it beat-for-beat in intensity.
Animal Man and his daughter Maxine have reached the Totems in the Red, but all is not well: the Hunters Three are in hot pursuit, penetrating to the Heart of the Red. Well, not entirely. One of the Hunters has broken off, and is pursuing Cliff and Ellen in the real world, determined to wipe out Animal Man’s entire line and make sure the Red has no defenders left.
Though the story is simple, the execution is confident. This issue, like the last one, periodically veers a little too far into expositional territory, explaining what the Red is and how it has changed Buddy’s life, but it moves away from that fairly quickly. Like other effective horror comics, the way it twists basic ideas – here, the human figure and parenthood – into chilling, life-or-death scenarios and images is effective and creepy, and it doesn’t let up. From the grotesque mutations Buddy undergoes in his attempts to defend Maxine from a fate she shouldn’t have to handle to the visage of the hastily-constructed human forms of the Hunters Three falling apart, Animal Man #3 plays with the fluidity of the human form
Fantastic writers have argued whether comics can be scary for some time now – check out this fantastic post over at The Groovy Age of Horror for a good discussion on the subject – but I tend to think they can. No, they won’t startle you. You’ll never find yourself jumping up in shock. But they have all the requisite tools to unsettle, to undermine the way that you look at the world and to provide you with a glimpse at something genuinely alien. Though many readers will pick up and put down Animal Man #3 without issue because it’s not the right kind of scary, to some, Travel Foreman and colorist Lovern Kindzierski’s fantastic design work and excellent structure combined with Lemire’s wonderfully bizarre take on the superhero genre will be inspirational. Action and horror are difficult genres to combine – action suggests power, while horror suggests powerlessness – but Lemire and Foreman are crafting a thrilling, chilling, altogether fulfilling blend each month in Animal Man. You won’t be able to put it down.
- Cal C.
Animal Man #2
Animal Man #1