Somehow, I missed the fact that Alberto Ponticelli would be penciling this issue, and it ended up being a pleasant surprise. He is the perfect artist to introduce the new transformation aspects of Buddy's animal powers, making them as bizarre and horrifying as they would be in real life. Even Cliff, right after having his life saved by his father, can't help but point out how gross the whole thing is. This title has been a blend of the superhero and horror genres from the start, and Ponticelli's artwork only heightened that effect.
And not just when drawing Buddy as an animal/man hybrid, either. Socks' larger form, the Tailors in the Red, and the Rot-infested Buddy all looked wonderful but creepy, fascinating and unsettling all at once. The strongest page, though, was the splash of Buddy falling back to Earth from the Red. The giant, twisted tree was as gorgeous as it was imposing, and it filled that moment with weight and significance. In general, Ponticelli's art made Animal Man as a character and this specific issue feel powerful and important. Perhaps even more than it actually was, in terms of story.
Because the events of Animal Man #11 weren't especially thrilling. Buddy is given a new form, just as we were promised last month, and while this provides us with some excellent visuals, there's nothing unexpected about it. The same is true for what follows. Buddy defeats his most immediate opponent fairly easily and saves his son. This victory and rescue were both inevitable, and, again, nothing about how they were carried out was all that interesting. It was fun to watch Buddy utilize his new abilities so skillfully and violently, but all of the surrounding dialogue felt stale, and afterward we get like a minute of happiness followed by another nudge in the direction of the impending "Rotworld" crossover. Which left me with, more than anything, a feeling of Get on with it already!
We're practically a full year into this series, but it sure doesn't feel as though we've gotten a year's worth of stories, and it is this most recent arc which is to blame. So its finale, while visually compelling, was primarily just a way for Jeff Lemire to tie off all of his wheel-spinning threads and actually begin to once again move his narrative forward. A necessary task at this point, but not one which makes for all that exciting an issue.