BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

ANIMAL MAN: SPLINTER SPECIES

Animal Man vol 4 cover

When the new 52 debuted with Animal Man on the list, I was pumped. I’ve always liked that character, even back when he was just a back-up feature, a lightweight hero with kind of ridiculous powers. Buddy Baker was just a guy’s guy who ended up putting on a costume and battling bad guys.

I liked that.

The first two volumes of the new Animal Man by Jeff Lemire were pretty solid, too. They were both full of wild stuff I DID NOT see coming. Lemire took his readers down a rabbit hole and exposed them to a whole new world in the Red. I went willingly, gawking at everything he put on display.

Then volume 3 happened and I wasn’t so happy. *SPOILER ALERT*

Animal Man vol 4 page 01

I was really upset that Cliff died. The plot just didn’t make sense to me. The Rotworld sequence ran long, got too spread out in some ways, too many guest stars, and then – when I was way exhausted from making my way through everything – Cliff gets killed. It was like a kick to the groin.

I honestly wasn’t looking forward to volume four that much. Even if Lemire found a way to do a reset on Cliff’s death, the way he did for Buddy’s daughter Maxine, I wasn’t too interested. Then the loss would have been an artificial emotional cudgel.

Animal Man vol 4 page 02

So I approached this volume with trepidation. As expected, the graphic novel centers on Cliff’s loss and how it has destroyed Buddy’s marriage. In fact, I felt like the story actually WALLOWED in the event way too much. The cult people Buddy goes up against actually offer a distraction from all of the darkness.

Although the preceding volumes have all been graphic in nature, this one seems to raise the bar. Or maybe I’m only sensitive to it in light of the other material being covered. I liked the early adventure of Animal Man against the spider queen, and it was nice seeing Maxine so sure her brother is not truly dead, but it looks like that quest to return him to life isn’t gonna pan out, and if it did, the dead in the first place would simply be cheap theater.

Animal Man vol 4 page 03

Volume 5 is going to be the last of the series, and I’ll pick it up to round out the series, but I’m not looking forward to the darkness I think is going to continue.

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