From the “The Dark” group of DC’s New 52:
Animal Man was created in the mid 1960s, but was a little used and somewhat silly Silver Age secondary character until revived by Grant Morrison in the late 1980s, eventually moving to the Vertigo imprint in 1993 where the emphasis was on adult horror stories.
You know you’re in for something different when the entire first page of the first issue of a new comic book series is text—an infodump masquerading as a faux magazine interview with the main character. But is it different good, or different bad? It turns out to be different great.
Animal Man #1 is a legitimate standout, with a unique look and tone. It combines the best of superhero and horror storytelling in an exciting and poignant tale. Buddy Baker, AKA Animal Man, can replicate animal powers, either separately or in combination. The night after responding to a hostage crisis, he enters a surreal dream state that foreshadows a horrific new antagonist. Artist Travel Foreman deftly moves from a clean, expressive style for the real world scenes to a more abstract, emotional style for the dream sequences. Writer Jeff Lemire has established richly nuanced characters in a compelling story, and presents an intriguing cliffhanger to bring the reader back for more. Animal Man is an ambitious book that deserves to be a breakout hit among the New 52.
Stormwatch was created in 1993 by Jim Lee & Brandon Choi at Wildstorm, which was acquired by DC in 1999. Warren Ellis subsequently took it over and renamed it The Authority with a bunch of new characters. Many of those characters, along with some new ones, form the core of this relaunch.
Stormwatch is a covert group that has been protecting the world from alien threats for centuries. It reminds me a lot of TV’s Torchwood, except with super-powered agents. The first issue quickly introduces several members of the group, perhaps too quickly and with too much exposition. The main plot revolves around them trying to recruit a reluctant new member to their ranks to help fight a new menace in the Himalayas. A secondary plot shows one of the team on the moon that has ominously come alive.
Writer Paul Cornell is a popular veteran of comics and TV (he’s written for Doctor Who), but in at least the first issue of Stormwatch he just tries to cram in too much. There are multiple scene changes, references to obscure past events, and a lot of new characters to keep track of (not to mention a confusing footnoted reference to something that happens in Superman #1). Artist Miguel Sepulveda doesn’t help matters with his dark lines and heavy shadowing (some of the obscurity may be due to the coloring) that is not particularly stylish. While not a complete disaster, the success of Stormwatch will depend, I think, on how well they can integrate it into the main DC superhero continuity.