REVIEW: Animal Man #13

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Buddy Baker returns from The Rot. Once he gets back to Earth he finds that everything has changed: A planet in ruins, Steel is an android, mass hysteria, cats and dogs living together. What else does he find in this newly whacked-out world? Read on to find out!

ANIMAL MAN #13
WRITER: JEFF LEMIRE
ARTIST: STEVE PUGH
COLORIST: LOVERN KINDZIERSKI
LETTERS: JARED K. FLETCHER
EDITOR: JOEY GAVALIERI
PUBLISHER: DC COMICS
COVER PRICE: $2.99

Previously in Animal Man: Buddy and Swamp Thing ventured into The Rot and the crossover we’ve all been waiting for kicked off.

WOULD IT REALLY BE SO BAD IF HAWKMAN ROTTED AWAY?

Buddy lands in the middle of an ecologically devastated wasteland—right near a zoo, appropriately enough. He scans the area and comes to two crushing realizations: This post-apocalyptic necropolis is, indeed, Earth, and that all the animals, at least those within range of his powers, are dead. His hopes are briefly raised as he looks to the sky and thinks he sees a bird; but it’s not a bird, nor is it a plane… it’s Rot Zombie Hawkman.

The story is mainly Buddy trying to figure out what’s happened to him, where he is and what’s going on. Consequently it doesn’t dwell in any one place for two long. The story shifts almost immediately after Buddy meets some of Earth’s remaining heroes and a new status quo is established as we’re taken to the secondary plot involving Buddy’s family. Cliff has disappeared and Ellen’s not taking this lightly, especially with Buddy’s absence. She’s angry but not frantic and she bothers to stop and think about the best way to find her son.

Lately I’ve seen Ellen as a kind of Leonard McCoy archetype—the sane everyman whose world involves a lot of crazy superhero/alien doings and such. She’s jaded enough not to be rendered awestruck by amazement and can handle herself when problems arise; it’s always awesome to see her not needing to rely on her superhero husband. Ellen doesn’t know exactly what she’s going to do when she finds her son, but she knows how she’s going to do it and won’t take no for an answer. I usually dislike B plots, but this one was a delightful exception. Oh, and Constantine makes an appearance and is a total and complete jerk/insert your word of choice. Only 50 percent of the previous sentence could possibly be construed as a spoiler.

I guess if I had to pick out one thing I didn’t like about the writing, it would be that Buddy felt just a little dumber than usual for the first half of the book—maybe I’m imagining it, though.

WHERE’S THE VAULT DWELLER?

The art in this one is fantastic. Steve Pugh captures the essence of the “Fallout”-style wasteland with his vast expanses of ruin and decay unmarred by even a single intact building. Rot Zombie Hawkman was the kind of nightmare fuel that, were I a younger lad, would have kept me wide awake. In fact, his vacant eyes, desiccated skin and mindless rage might still be enough to keep me from getting in a good nap these days. Overall this title has done a good job of taking creepy and  disturbing imagery right up the line beyond which things become disgusting and, as I get older, I’m thankful for that.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two-page spread when Steel recounted the past year’s history. It was a nice at-a-glance of exposition and gave the reader a good idea of how quickly things fell apart without being tedious.

I had two issues with the book’s art, however minor they may be. The first is Buddy’s face—when he first starts realizing what’s going on his face just radiates bewilderment when, knowing Buddy, it should probably be radiating concern for his family. Maybe the trip back from The Rot messed with his head a bit, but Buddy Baker, especially lately, always keeps his family’s well being at the top of his mind. It’s only later in the Red Kingdom that he starts showing regular and appropriate emotions through his facial expressions. The second is the Red Kingdom itself—it’s essentially a refugee center and, yeah, I can see the tent city and whatnot, but it felt too much like a Wakanda and not enough like a New Caprica. I’m really just scrounging for something negative to say, though.

Additionally, the panel and border work was pretty mundane but that’s by no means a crime, especially when their content is so engaging.

BOTTOM LINE: THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY WAYS TO SAY AWESOME

I give Jeff Lemire a lot of credit for a lot of things and issues like this are why. He’s telling an engrossing superhero crossover story with tons of characters without losing focus on the driving dynamic of “Animal Man,” namely the Baker family. That’s what sets this book apart and will keep me coming back to it even though I’ve kicked to the curb most other cape books—buy this book. Five stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

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