The penultimate issue of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man run wraps up the central threat of Brother Blood, as well as tying up a lot of the Baker Family drama at the same time. It’s going to be interesting to see what the final instalment is like, particularly as there is one big element hanging above Animal Man’s head.
The issue begins with our heroes in dire straits, Shepherd has been mortally wounded, and Brother Blood has his hand round Maxine’s neck. With the last of his strength, Shepherd sends a bone-bird-thing to find Animal Man and bring him to save his daughter. But of course, Buddy has his own problems to deal with, as he’s locked in battle with the King Of Limbs. The KoL however makes a few fatal mistakes, he underestimates Buddy and his new powers, and he also tells Buddy that he’s going to wipe out his daughter. Spurred on, Buddy (who is still in giant horned-gorilla form) rips out 2 of the King’s eye-horns and guts him with them. It’s pretty shocking and brutal, especially for a comic like Animal Man, but I suppose, to crib from an old phrase, you can take the comic out of the Vertigo line, but you can’t take the Vertigo out of the comic. The bird-bone-thing arrives, delivers Shepherd’s message, turns into giant non-bone bird and Buddy flies off on it’s back to save Maxine.
However, Maxine may not actually need saving, as she gets her own big hero moment, channelling the strength of a Gorilla to save herself and Socks from Brother Blood’s grip and reclaiming her control of The Red. This was a really great moment, especially when Maxine exclaims ‘I’M ANIMAL GIRL!’. It’s times like this when the static nature of superhero comics really bugs me, because it would be awesome for Maxine to eventually actually become a superhero called Animal Girl (or Woman), but we’ll just have to settle for dystopian future stories. I also really liked how, even though she had Brother Blood on the ropes, Maxine stayed true to her character and was more concerned with helping her friend Shepherd. She uses her power to create a new Shepherd and bring him back to life. Has she used up all of her powers here? It looks like it, and I think Maxine losing her powers is a nice book-end to Lemire’s run. It all started with her gaining them, so really, this run of Animal Man was her story, not her dad’s.
The new Shepherd makes quick work of some Splinterfolk, but Brother Blood has one more ace up his sleeve, as he reaches out into the real world and drags Ellen into the red and threatens to kill her unless Maxine gives him the Red. You know what’s coming next, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome, as Animal Man arrives to save the day and finally defeat Brother Blood, in a big red collision. I was surprised by how quickly this fight was over, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Round 2 to come in #29 actually.
The issue ends with a touching reunion, as Buddy, Ellen and Maxine all hug, and everyone finally accepts that Cliff is truly gone, but that only means that Buddy will never leave his remaining family again. But there’s one final twist at the end of course, as we see the Bridgewalker watching this heartfelt moment. Could all of this happiness be swept away next issue? The fact that Animal Man is going to be in the new Justice League would seem to indicate nope, but you never know, moving to Canada is basically the same as being forced to abandon your planet and live in space right?
Rafael Albuqurque’s art was just great once again, it’s been really awesome to have him draw these last few issues, as his style really makes story elements that could look ridiculous work. And man, that preview of American Vampire looks gooooood.