Animal Man #7 is a bum out. It’s not awful. It’s not terrible It’s just a bum out. I suppose a hiccup had to come along. Especially when the first six issues of Animal Man were so brilliant. Part of the problem with this issue #7 is I read it after Swamp Thing #7, which was ridiculously good. Where Swamp Thing set up the power and tension of the coming war with The Rot, Animal Man #7 feels like a filler issue, as if writer Jeff Lemire wanted to hold off on his end game one more time.
First, let me get one thing right out in the open. The cover for this issue is a bunch of horseshit. There is no birth of “Animal Woman”, there is not sudden appearance of a new savior. Buddy Baker has a nightmare in which his daughter has grown up to become a superhero. In the dream, she’s battling The Rot and, as you probably guessed, falls victim to the evil and blames Buddy. He wakes up terrified and feeling guilty for being unable to protect his family. It’s a cool scene, but using it to shill the issue seems beneath the series.
Storywise, nothing happens. Buddy Baker and his family are on the run from The Rot. Their daughter Maxine is still the key to defending against The Rot and she’s still dragging around an ancient talisman in the form of a talking cat. The family stops at a rest area, they argue, tensions mount and finally Buddy has his nightmare about The Rot taking Maxine. Along the way, we get a few scenes of the creepy Rot Animals, but for the most part it’s the family dynamic. Thus far I’ve been a really big fan of how Jeff Lemire has woven that family dynamic into this bizarre story, but with issue #7 it falls flat.
The problem is that we’re getting the same dramatic ideas repeated. Lemire has established the tension over Maxine’s powers, the fact that Buddy’s mother-in-law blames him, how the son feels left out, and the strain this is putting on Buddy’s marriage. That whole thing has been well documented. Lemire needed to spend issue 7 dealing with The Rot by having Maxine grow into her identity a bit and have Buddy stop whining and get angry with those attacking his family. In Swamp Thing #7, writer Scott Snyder abandoned Alec Holland’s emotional back and forth over becoming Swamp Thing and pushed ahead into the next phase of the story. Lemire holds on for Animal Man #7 and it kills the momentum.
Another massive problem is the art. For some reason issue #7 has split penciling duties between Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh. I have nothing against Pugh, I’m sure in his own book his work would be tremendous. Here, it absolutely kills the issue. Foreman’s work is so central to what makes Animal Man work that Pugh’s work stands out like a sore thumb. With such a tedious storyline, Animal Man needed the Foreman genius to see it through. Lacking both plot development and any consistency in the art, Animal Man #7 is, well, a bum out.
(3 Story, 2 Travel Foreman’s Art, 1 Steve Pugh’s Art)