Jeff Lemire (Animal Man, Essex County) returns to his indie roots with a haunting graphic novel about a man so trapped in the past he ignores his own future. With sparse, raw art and a close focus on protagonist Jack Joseph, Lemire crafts a moving, mysterious tribute to fathers and sons.
DC ends one of its underloved cult titles with a feature-length ad for another underloved cult title.
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.
Over on Animal Man, Jeff Lemire is telling an extraordinarily well-executed horror/superhero mash-up with artist Travel Foreman. Foreman’s spare, chilling art fits perfectly with the story Lemire is trying to tell. I say all this because, as I put down Lemire’s other title in the New 52, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I’m having trouble deciding why I’m not enjoying it. Lemire’s script is full of inventive ideas. Alberto Ponticelli’s scratchy, cartoony art seems like the perfect fit for this pulpy monster adventure. And yet, for me, they aren’t cohering in an enjoyable way. Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #3 continues the series’ trend of being just good enough to make me come back for more.
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.
Flashpoint has had a lot of highlights. Unfortunately, most of those highlights have not exactly been positive ones: insanity, poor storytelling, laughably overwrought cliffhangers and more are what we’ll remember about Flashpoint, while it’s sporadically good tie-ins will be forgotten. Two of the stronger tie-ins, Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown and Emperor Aquaman, ended last week. Here’s a review of both.
Ah, what might have been. Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 gets at the heart of the conflict between monster hunter Maria Shrieve and our lovable Creatures of the Unknown, and it’s a fantastic idea: after the original Creatures were shut down and betrayed, Matthew Shrieve assembled a new team of monsters to find them, one that included Medusa and Solomon Grundy, among others. These creatures betrayed Matthew and murdered him, leaving his daughter to seek revenge.
While lebeau continues to give you a fantastic title-by-title breakdown of the upcoming relaunch, I’m going to take a slightly different take on things. With the full solicits revealed, release dates included, we now have a slightly better idea of what to expect come September. So I’m going to break down the solicits by release date, talk a little bit about what I’m going to get – and what I’m going to skip – and why, so you’ll have an idea of what some of the books that will definitely see coverage here will be… and which of your favorites you can heartily mock me for skipping.
So, with that brief introduction, on to week one of the solicits, otherwise known as… September 7th.
Generally speaking, tie-ins to big Events fall into two different camps. The first, and more common, follows a character central to the series in an important story. This can be hard to do: what, after all, is the line between important enough to warrant a tie-in and what is TOO important to leave out of the main title? The second involves a character peripheral to the action of the main series who just… lives in the created world. His adventures reference the main action, but don’t matter to the story. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1 is the latter sort of story.
Sweet Tooth is Vertigo’s newest series, and it continues in what is pretty easily my favorite new trend that isn’t actually a trend in comics: the $1.00 #1. Sweet Tooth, both written and drawn by Jeff Lemire, is the story of a young man with antlers raised in the Nebraska wilderness, starting just as his sheltered life there is coming to an end. As an opening issue, there is definitely enough to grab a reader, though the slow pace suggests something that might read better in trade.
Lemire gives us very little with this first issue, only hinting at the tragedy that caused a number of people across the world to be born with animal features in the recent past. Instead, the story largely follows Gus, the antlered boy, as his safe-but-dreary existence hidden away from the world comes to a slow, sad end. It’s a surprisingly slow, melancholy opening issue, with the only real action or conflict coming in the book’s closing pages.
Like the story itself, the art is fairly non-traditional to Vertigo. Lemire’s style is cartoony and angular, and though it occasionally comes across a bit stiff, it fits the story well: it’s sweet and dark, with a homey feel. The look and feel of the book is so different from what we’ve come to expect from Vertigo that it seems inevitable that the book will have a short lifespan, but the opening issue nonetheless displays a fair amount of promise.
– Cal Cleary