Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Classics - Animal Man #1

Grant Morrison is getting a lot of attention these days for his work on the Batman mythos, so just for fun I dragged out (what I believe is) his first work for American comics - Animal Man.

The success of Alan Moore on Swamp Thing kicked off the British invasion of comics, and Morrison was one (if not the) first to achieve the kind of acclaim Moore earned. (By the way, I should mention that Morrison is Scottish.)

Animal Man was certainly an unusual choice for a first project - that hero has always been a lower-level character, having (up to that point) only made a handful of appearances since his origin in the '60s. And let's face it, his power - being able to mimic the abilities of animals nearby - is pretty bland.

But Morrison was sharp enough to realize that almost any character can be interesting with the right approach. (Certainly the Swamp Thing had only received sporadic attention before Moore stepped in.)

This first issue (cover dated September 1988) is extremely laid back as it sets up the premise. Buddy Baker is living a normal existence with his wife, a son and a daughter. His activities as a hero have been limited, and he's decided to put his powers to work again in hopes of making a decent living to support his family.

So he spends some time testing the limits of his powers, which allows the reader to learn more about them, too. We also see the introduction of a mysterious character who will eventually cross paths with Buddy - though not in this issue. Longtime readers will have no trouble identifying that character.

The comic ends with a shocking scene (although it was more shocking in 1988 than today) and we realize that this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill superhero saga.

Future issues took the character into even stranger territory (and some of the events actually made some readers angry as they shook up the post-Crisis reality). Morrison was off to a great start with this comic, and he'd fly even higher in the years ahead.

The art for this issue is by Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood, and I like their work a lot here - it's solid, well laid out and features clean, professional storytelling. The art only suffers in comparison to the incredible cover by Brian Bolland.

This series quickly became a favorite, and you never knew what to expect with the next issue.

I love that in a comic!

Grade: A-


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