DC Comic’s issue 12 of Animal Man, written by Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder with art by Steve Pugh, begins part one of the Rotworld prologue.

For readers new to either series, it would serve you well to go back to the re-launch of each title because this arc has been building for the last year. Important character developments have transformed Buddy Baker and Alec Holland, resulting in a test of their courage and resolve as they attempt to halt the Rot’s invasion of the Green and the Red.

Animal Man’s last issue finished with Buddy’s son Cliff being afflicted by the Rot before Buddy dispatched the last of the Hunters Three, leading him to team up with Swamp Thing. Both writers capture the sense of urgency and panic Buddy’s family is going through as they consider their options in dealing with Cliff’s affliction and the constant pursuit of the Rot. The dialogue in the opening scene is poignant and connects on an emotional level.

Perhaps the best moment that reflects this is the exchange between Buddy and his mother-in-law. To date, she has been his harshest critic because of the danger his power invites upon the family. Few comics look at the personal lives of their characters the way Animal Man does. Lemire and Snyder create emotional tension and release that gives this issue a great deal of depth.

Having read the titles from the beginning, this has been Lemire’s strength and probably a continuation of his earlier explorations into the family dynamic of the Bakers. Snyder, who has a knack for writing horror in the vein of Stephen King, adds that much needed element as Animal Man and Swamp Thing find each other in time to journey into Rotworld with the hopes of restoring balance.

The descriptions of death and their fear permeates this particular scene, making it fraught with peril and terror. Add in the fact that their respective loved ones are in mortal danger as they await their return, and an ominous sense of the macabre finishes this issue that continues in Swamp Thing #12.

Two of DC’s biggest heavyweights, Lemire and Snyder have written something greater than their considerable sums with this foray into the Rotworld. Each writer has propelled their respective titles to this point with an interesting mix of horror, heavy philosophy, and well executed stories that have become trademark strengths of both writers.

Steve Pugh deserves considerable acclaim for his masterful job of capturing the full gamut of human, and some less than human, emotions. His opening scene with the Baker family captures the essence of the script and conveys the deep emotions of the family with every gesture, glance, and movement.

His visual concepts of pain, horror, and fear vividly convey the dark, creepiness that each hero must face while journeying to the deepest depths of terror. The scene where Swamp Thing and Animal Man swim through the murk of water that leads into Rotworld masterfully uses blacks to convey the unknown peril that awaits them. Their facial expressions convey a deep fear that lets the reader know that they are surrounded by evil in its greatest form.

With the power of three, Rotworld is a success that achieves an amazing amount of genius storytelling in a densely packed 20 pages. I grade Lemire and Snyder’s efforts an A+, 5 out of 5, and a perfect 10 that would sweep the Olympics if they had a comic book event. Steve Pugh’s A+ follows them in a photo finish that has them all winning my award for possibly the best overall issue of a comic I’ve read this year.