As I read Animal Man #5, I couldn’t stop thinking about David Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s older films often dealt with the way repression and science could meet to do horrible, horrible things to the human body, and the disgusting, visceral thrills of films like The Fly or Crash (the one about car crash fetishists, not the crappy one) are not that far removed from, say, the frankly terrifying transformation Buddy’s face undertakes as the Rot briefly captures him. Lemire and Foreman are taking a look at nature and parenthood the same way Cronenberg often looked at sexuality and repression: by making physical all the fears and perversions people have about these issues. And it works very well here, as Lemire continues his strong run on DC’s coolest new title.
The two major plotlines of the series so far – Buddy and Maxine’s exploration of the Red, and Ellen and Cliff’s desperate escape from the Hunters – collide and resolve here, and rarely in good ways for our heroes. Ellen rushes off, shotgun in hand, to save her son, but soon Buddy has to rush off to save her, and then Maxine to save Buddy. The Bakers are outmatched, and, just like the conclusion of this week’s Swamp Thing #5, the Rot spreads faster and stronger than they can account for.
Lemire’s introduction to the Baker clan has been fraught with danger, but has also introduced – possibly more so than any other title in the New 52 – a fully realized, interesting group of strong characters. Lemire adds another member to the slowly-growing cast with Ellen’s judgmental, befuddled mother, a character who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the competent, driven cast, but who very well may provide some fascinating drama in the months ahead.
Of course, without Travel Foreman’s art – though fill-in artist Steve Pugh does very good work on his pages – I don’t know that the series would be having quite the impact it does. Foreman is just as comfortable drawing realistic, recognizable facial expressions and body language as he is drawing otherworldly perversions of the human form, and his chilly, sparse artistic style lends itself well to both action and horror. Foreman is unquestionably a talent to watch for the future.
It looks like we’re headed towards a crossover with Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing (as many people predicted months ago). It doesn’t surprise me, and if the book had to cross over with anything, Swamp Thing is probably the best choice (though there’s potential with Wonder Woman). But Animal Man‘s blend of body horror, family drama and superheroics is fairly unique to comics, and I’m not sure how the bizarre, off-putting tone will survive out in the wider DC Universe. However, Animal Man #5 continues the series’ boundary-pushing adventure, and the title remains one of the most chillingly readable comics in recent memory.