Taking a break from the depressing aftermath of Cliff Baker’s death, Jeff Lemire returns us to a story we last saw in #6, the movie career of Buddy Baker. This means that most of this issue is us seeing the film he was in, ‘Tights’, where he plays a washed-up superhero called ‘Red Thunder’ in a depressing drama reminiscent of The Wrestler. I really enjoyed this when Lemire did it in #6 and it’s just as good here, especially since John Paul Leon is drawing the movie sequences.
This issue features the rise of Red Thunder, as he becomes famous. Lemire gets some fun commentary and digs in on reality TV and the nature of fame here, and we also get a shout-out to American Vampire, which is very cool. And then of course the fall, where Red Thunder loses his fame and has to fake his own death. I think it was very effective to end the movie sequence on Red Thunder’s son, paralleling him with Cliff. Buddy is watching the movie, and he and the audience are thinking of Cliff rather than the fictional kid (they are both fictional, I know, but you know what I mean, one of them is double-fictional or something).
Then at the end, we find out that Buddy has been nominated for an Oscar for the movie! I love this idea, Lemire introduced the idea that Animal Man was a hero with a big connection the media early on, what with the evolve or die t-shirts and of course the movie, but it kind of got lost in the mix with all of the big Rotworld stuff, so I’m glad to have it back. This was just a great, almost self-contained superhero story, if you read this and #6 together it makes a great short superhero story. I hope there’s more Red Thunder to come, it’s a cool idea to do every year or so, and man, I’ll take JPL art however I can get it.