Comic Review: Animal Man #21
In the wake of Cliff’s death, the world is reacting to Buddy Baker the celebrity, as he’s just been nominated for an Oscar for his work in the film Tights. Prompted by his manager to get back to work in the film industry, Buddy decides to get back to work, but it’s going to be in a spandex suit with a giant ‘A’ on its chest.
I’m going to start by saying that this is the best issues of Animal Man since issue #1. If anyone was at all worried that the quality of the series would falter after Rotworld finished, they were very wrong. The new focus that Lemire has lent to the series has made it feel more like a superhero book, but it’s still not the average superhero book. But when has an Animal Man series ever been the average superhero book?
In short, the plot deals right now with, as I said, Buddy being nominated for an Oscar while grieving over his son’s death and then deciding to go back to superhero-ing. On his first night out, he goes forth to investigate a series of disappearances of animals from homes and from zoos, simply to find an extremely disturbing answer to “whodunnit?”
Meanwhile, we check in on Ellen and Maxine, who separated from Buddy after Cliff’s death. Ellen is dealing with things in her own way, which is very humanly discussing with her mother, but Maxine has other things in mind, which leads towards a very interesting plot line. It looks like we’ll finally be seeing some action from Maxine as “Animal Girl” in the future, which is very exciting considering the book has teased that she’s supposed to be the focus since it debuted almost two years ago.
The way that each character involved acts in the wake of family tragedy is so distinct and appropriate that I have to commend Lemire for his work. He’s always made the book a joy to read, but I think this issue illustrates much better that he knows what makes each character tick, and he can write them just as well as anyone who has written the book in the past.
One of the best parts of the book, though, are the “tweets” that appear on the first two pages and scattered through the issue. They work somewhat similarly to the magazine article featured back in issue #1 to kind of give the reader an idea as to Buddy’s place in the world. People know him and are familiar with him, but many of them are just fans of his work in film. They react to his Oscar nomination, and just like in real life, there are the detractors, and there are compassionless people who hound him for getting attention after his son’s death. The “tweets” really ground the world that the characters are living in, making the suspension of disbelief that much more easier. Essentially, I want to say to readers of the issue not to skip over these “tweets” as they were purposefully placed there to tell part of the story. Unlike the “tumblr” posts we see at the beginning of each issue of Young Avengers, which just rehash the plot in a fun way.
Finally, Steve Pugh is on top form here. His work seemed a bit out of place over in the Rotworld arc, but in here is where he shines. He illustrates the dark place that Buddy has found himself in (both physically and metaphorically) so perfectly that I’m surprised Lemire didn’t give him more scenes like this to begin with. To make up where Pugh finds his weakness a filler artist, Francis Portela, is brought in to illustrate the scenes of Maxine in The Red. Portela’s work is great, and I think the idea of allowing Pugh to focus on his strengths really lent a lot to the quality of the issue.
As I said, this is the best issue of the series since #1. The story, the dialogue, the artwork, and everything are all in top form, and I really can’t think of anything negative to mention. This is a piece of work, and if you for whatever reason decided to drop Animal Man, I highly recommend revisiting the series because you’re missing out on something more than special.
GO Rating: 5/5