Animal Man: Origin of the Species

25 Jun

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Chas Truog, Tom Grummett

Published under VERTIGO

Collects: ANIMAL MAN issues 10-17, origin story from SECRET ORIGINS

(SPOILERS continue, though no interior pages this time around! )

And I continue into Vol 2 of the unbridled harrowing rollercoaster ride that is Animal Man. I think the only problem I’m going to have in this series is I’m going to hate to see it end. But end it must, eventually.

After a roaring first volume (here) the second trade begins with the origins of Animal Man and a three part story also featuring Vixen. That’s right, origins, both pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths & post-Crisis. The origin doesn’t change much, but it’s really fun to see Grant acknowledge COIE (here). He introduces a group of yellow aliens who call Animal Man the ‘Traveller’ and speak of morphogenetic grafts that need to be changed, essentially performing ‘surgery’ to make Animal Man conform to the new ‘Continuity’. Vixen comes to Buddy, seeking Animal Man, on the run from her captors, hirlings of Hamed Ali, “He who never dies”, an obscure B’wana Beast villain. The story is fun, and this is where the weirdness actually begins to come out. John Highwater is introduced, who feels that he is slipping out of reality (shown as parts of him being plain sketches). A few memorable scenes include the Mad Hatter being aware of his existence as a comic book character and the Psycho Pirate being aware of the Crisis—muttering ‘Worldswillliveworldswilldie’ the catchphrase of COIE, ‘One and two and Ess and Ex and three and four and Prime and’ thus enumerating the Earths of the original Multiverse, and saying “If I go to sleep they might decide to remove me from the continuity and then I’ll never wake up” and “Did the Wolfman give you my name?” referring to the writer of COIE, Marv Wolfman. So here, the aliens are used as a continuity maintaining internal device, while a reference is made to the creators outside the printed page. Forget it, maybe I’m thinking too much into this.

The next issues deals with Animal Man helping Mike Maxwell, the original B’wana Beast choose a successor, and spooky happenings taking place at the Baker residence. The spooks issue features some radically different art from the otherwise clear linework delivered by Mr Truog.

The next three issues are where the meat of the story lies:

Buddy, with the help of Dane Dorrance, leader of the Sea Devils and Dolphin helps save Dolphins from being slaughtered as sport in an Alaskan village by the sea.

The Time Commander tries to unite all time, bringing creatures from all ages to the present, even making dead humans come back to life. This issue features some humourous moments, like Metamorpho falling asleep in the shape of a chair, Elongated Man talking to Sue while being in the Men’s room (this has to be seen to be believed) and both of them arriving to the scene of the emergency as cartwheels. Oddly enough, this humour is decidedly different from what went on in the Justice League International (here) at that time.

The last issue of this trade features Buddy helping to set free animals used for senseless laboratory testings, while accidentally being instrumental in injuring firemen by not halting a chemical fire in the same laboratory.

The tone of the last and third last issues reminds me of that of the first four issues. And touches on some matters closer to home. I’m an animal lover, and for the first time I’m seeing someone in popular culture take a stand for animal rights. Not only does Grant point out why animal testing is useless for certain drugs, he also points out where animal testing might be hazardous for the drugs to be used on humans which happened in the Thalidomide incident where the drug had no effect on offspring of pregnant animals but pregnant females gave born to deformed children after taking the drug. Comics might be very well treated as fiction, but this happened for sure. I’m not saying Animal Man is a guide to life, nor is Buddy Baker, or for that matter Grant Morrison the Messiah, I’m just saying, this book made me think about something, and reinforced my decision.

The stories are still top notch. The art keeps on getting better. Grummett does good job on a couple of issues, but Mr Truog has progressed by leaps & bounds. The Dolphin issue makes it clear, he was born to illustrate Animal Man (forget if I said anything contrary last review)

My Rating: 10 on 10. Run, run to the local comic comic book store to get this one. Buddy Baker stopped eating meat & wearing leather—–so I can guess we won’ t be getting an Absolute Edition any time soon….so this one’ll have to do.

Contains all covers, 19.95 US$

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