ANIMAL MAN: ANIMAL VS. MAN by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh, & Timothy Green II
Buy At Amazon: Animal Man Vol. 2: Animal Vs. Man
Animal Man: Animal vs. Man takes the read on an even darker turn in this new imagining of the life of Buddy Baker. The road trip from/to Hell continues unabated. I’m glad I decided not to list the book for juveniles because I personally think young minds are simply not ready for all the violence and gore in this one.
Parental aside: Seeing a horror movie with your kids at a young age is different (to me) because you’re there with them to remind them that what they’re seeing isn’t real. A comic book, read by an individual, is a much stronger, more immersive experience. So if your child is consuming questionable material, read/watch it on your own if you have to in order to understand what’s going on. Just my two cents. Things aren’t as scary when you can discuss them with your parents.
The art in this graphic novel changes slightly as Travel Foreman is joined by Steve Pugh, but if anything, the weirdness – if anything – increases on a geometric level. This is just a harsh and edgy look at a new world unfolding in the pages of Animal man.
Despite the inherent darkness in the book, author Jeff Lemire manage to get some quality time in with the Baker family. I love how even though their lives may be hanging in the balance that Cliff manages to be obstinate and self-centered as any kid his age would be. I also loved the moment Buddy gets to be the super-dad and raises Cliff’s street cred in one fantastic swoop that leaves a couple girls’ mouths hanging open in awe.
Socks, Maxine’s cat/avatar/guardian, has turned out to be quite a nice addition to the family, and unveils some surprises of his own that I really enjoyed. I’m not so certain about the addition of Ellen’s mother. Her character seems to hit all the familiar tropes of a superhero mother-in-law (can there really be such a thing?) but I think her presence, if not wholly original, strikes a familiar tone readers will enjoy.
Ellen, Buddy’s wife, really shines in this story. While Buddy and Maxine are off in the Red figuring stuff out, Ellen gets accosted by John Constantine, Zatanna, and Madame Xanadu. In the end, I was kind of frustrated by their presence there, though. They don’t really do anything or add anything to the story, but Ellen’s confrontation with them (and Maxine’s threat) are just fun to watch.
Of course, off in the Red, things are much more serious. There’s a lot of dark in this book despite the bright colors, and that heavy presence really started to weigh on me and I went through the pages. I think the series is definitely horror at this point, with the Baker family on the run and Buddy’s body hijacked, but there’s a huge emphasis on fantasy as well. Buddy’s travels and battles through the Red with the Shepherd are fantastic and pure quest trope fantasy. The bone sailboat crossing the ocean of blood is just iconic.
At the end of this volume I was again disappointed in the fact that events still haven’t come to a head. There’s still no rest for the Baker family, and Buddy is in a bad way. In real-time (buying comics monthly) this story would have taken over a year and a half, which, I think, is a lot to expect from readers. It’s even a lot to ask of a guy who can buy the graphic novels and read them one after another.