Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencillers: Chas Truog and Paris Cullins
Collects: Animal Man issues 18-26
Published under Vertigo
Review by Aalok Joshi
As promised, this is the review of the last of the three collections of Animal Man by Grant Morrison (you can catch previous reviews here and here) which is quite superior to the previous two volumes, in that much it presents a series of events without missing a beat. Most earlier stories seemed like collections of single issues (which worked pretty nicely, in fact) but here it’s nice to see Grant tackle a serial storyline, well until the last issue at least, but here we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Dr James Highwater approaches Animal Man who is himself confused about the aliens in Africa (as seen in Vol 2) and is drawn by a paper trail to Arizona. In Arizona, on top of a mesa, they find ‘magic mushrooms’ laced with hallucinogenic drugs which take them on an acid trip, which is revealing, at the same time staggering, and Buddy realizes his connection to the morphogenetic field allows him to obtain the abilities of any animal, irrespective of his proximity to it, whereas once he had thought he could only do so for animals in the vicinity.
Back home, Ellen and the children are assassinated by Lennox, who took the contract from Mirror Master after his failure. Mirror Master helps Buddy gain revenge on the people behind the contract, while extracting his fee from them. Shattered by the death of his family, Buddy, under false pretense borrows a time sphere from Rip Hunter and goes into the past to attempt to protect his family. However, he is turned incorporeal, and is revealed to be the same character haunting the Bakers back in Vol 2.
The last two issues are probably the purest example of what Grant Morrison’s vision for Animal Man actually was. In the second last issue, Buddy visits limbo, which is where all the forgotten characters stay, until editors write them out into comics. The Monkey, who writes the characters out (veiled reference aimed towards editors?) is dying and Buddy needs to save it.
Characters I could recognize here in Limbo, as well as during the second Crisis include The Inferior Five, Ultra the multi alien, Captain Carrot, Ultraman, Ace the Bat Hound, the Gay Ghost (yeah, that’s right) and Mr Freeze.
The story finally opens into what Grant has been preparing for all along – Buddy meets his creator (Not much of a spoiler, considering that, along with John Byrne’s She Hulk, this was one of the earliest examples of a character breaking the Fourth wall, and Grant’s on the cover) and the series ends with Buddy Baker finally being reunited with his family. I won’t go into the details of Grant’s meeting with Buddy, suffice to say, it is tragic, poignant, real and meaningful. And yes, Grant has hair. The trade is titled appropriately – Can you have a bigger Deus Ex Machina than the writer actually entering and setting things right?
DC has done a good job at segregating the trades – the first volume contains contemporary superheroics, the second questions animal rights and cruelty to animals, while the third one is a metafictional/existential narrative – for the most part. Actually all of Morrison’s ideas run concurrent here. Morrison goes for a quiet conclusion here, as befits the story—-I don’t think it’d have worked well with anything else. Chas gives his series’ best on the last two issues which are in stark contrast to the earlier ones – he shows me here what he can do with realism. Again, I take back whatever misgivings I’ve had in the past with the art, Chas gets full marks. Brian Bolland’s covers give the series a completely unique identity.
Highly recommended—–from the start.
My Rating: 10 on 10
Contains full covers, 19.95 US$
Next week we take a look at SUICIDE SQUAD by John Ostrander & Luke McDonnell.