Whilst I’ve been digging Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man for it’s entire run, I really think it just took a step up with this issue, and the addition of Rafael Albuqurque as artist. Albuquerque is fantastic, and whilst I’m still a bit annoyed that American Vampire is on hiatus, having him on Animal Man is almost as good!
It also makes sense to have a new artist take over now, as the previous issues of this arc have had two artists, tackling two worlds. Steve Pugh has drawn the scenes in the ‘real’ world with Animal Man, and Francis Portela the stuff that’s been happening in The Red with Maxine. Here, those 2 storylines come together brilliantly, and Albuquerque kicks some serious ass with it.
Brother Blood has found his way into The Red, and he and the villainous Totem (who renames himself ‘The King Of Limbs’, an awesome Radiohead reference) start to take over. They kill the other Totems, but because Maxine is still alive, they don’t have full control. I found this twist Lemire has done with one of the Totems turning on the others to be really cool, you don’t really expect these massive gods to act in such a petty, human way, so it’s surprising to see that, and I do like the justification for the King Of Limbs’ villainy too, both The Rot and The Green have tried to take over, but never The Red, so why not try?
But what’s going on with Animal Man during all of this? Well, he’s under attack by one of the Splinterfolk, and is then saved by the cops, and the Splinterdude getting sucked into The Red to fight for Brother Blood. We then get a long awaited reconciliation between Buddy and Ellen, as, in the wake of Maxine’s disappearance, she realises that what’s happened to them, to Cliff, is not Buddy’s fault, that he was chosen. I probably don’t praise it enough, but Lemire has done a fantastic job at writing the marriage between Buddy and Ellen. I’m not a big fan of superhero marriages in general, but for some characters, smaller ones like Animal Man, it really works, and it sets them apart. Especially because Lemire is allowed to drive them apart, and have them be briefly separated, which the writers of a married Superman, Flash or Batwoman probably wouldn’t be able to do.
Unfortunately, Buddy cannot venture into The Red to save Maxine, because he was banned by the Totems, and anyway, he has more immediate problems at the DC Universe movies awards that are definitely not the Oscars, oh no, please don’t sue. After some more fun pokes at the film industry, such as the ridiculous-sounding movie ‘Sea Of Echoes’ and another mention of the fact that, in the DCU, American Vampire is a movie, the wwards show is attacked by Brother Blood’s cult, and unless Animal Man appears and sacrifices himself, they will kill everyone in the theatre! Uh-oh.
This was another fantastic issue, it ramped up both stories by smashing them together, the emotions of he characters were still front and centre, the digs at Hollywood were provided some relief, and the great art from Albuquerque tied it all together. Lemire’s Animal Man has been one of the New 52’s best titles, and it may have just gotten even better.