There was a time when Animal Man was just a nobody superhero. He had the power to use the abilities of any animals within reasonable range, which is actually a pretty cool power, but Buddy Baker didn’t have a lot of interest or personality until Grant Morrison took over. Morrison took Animal Man from nobody hero to vegetarian political crusader who fought some pretty strange villains and ended up becoming the only hero we know of in DC Comics who is actually aware that he is a comic book character. Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man is frankly the shit, but it didn’t take long for the character to become relatively obscure again.
A few years ago, the weekly universe-wide series 52 made Animal Man into a main character again, as he had a pretty major plot that involved among other characters Starfire and Adam Strange. After that, he had small roles in the Blackest Night crossover and James Robinson’s Cry for Justice miniseries, but this new Jeff Lemire-penned comic is the first time we’ve seen Buddy have his own book in quite some time. Although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Morrison days, there is a lot to enjoy about The Hunt.
The basic plot revolves around Buddy’s daughter Maxine discovering that she has powers, apparently passed down from her father somehow (despite him receiving them from aliens and not from genetics). Things pretty much go crazy when he finds her in the back yard digging up the skeletons of dead animals that she then turns into zombie skeletons. Some kind of strange web-like map appears on Buddy’s skin and his daughter informs him that in order to save the world they have to follow the map into a place called the Red. That’s about where it stops being vaguely coherent and becomes a surrealistic horror adventure into some kind of hidden nether region. I would suggest I have to read it about five or six more times to even have a vague idea about what is going on but it is definitely amusing and amazing in the way of Salvador Dali.
There are some lovely nuggets here for fans of the Morrison run on the book, but it is definitely easy to jump right into. The art is trippy and wonderful, and it is clear that Lemire has a really good grasp of who Buddy Baker is and how to make him tick. Although some reviewers are praising The Hunt as the best book of the New 52, that is going a bit far. There are certainly some issues of coherence here, but its enjoyability far outweighs its weaknesses.