Plot: Buddy’s powers are on the blink, and though even his wife Ellen is worried, he isn’t. He’s sure everything’s just fine.
Comments: I suppose many readers might come to this title with expectations. Animal Man was the boundary-bridging Vertigo book that put Grant Morrison on the DC map back in the day and remains distinctive for Morrison breaking the fourth wall when he ended his arc. It was a challenging little set of assaults on the DC Universe proper, using the admittedly nebulous and peripheral Buddy Baker in exciting new ways.
So one might be hoping for a continuation of that meta-fictional, postmodern approach on this book (which, with its warped Brian Bolland cover and self-reflexive cover dress, is clearly highly self-aware). But the writer is Gerry Conway, a comic book pro and television veteran, and the story Conway gives us here is a straightforward one placing the major emphasis on charismatic people and their emotional entanglements. If one recalls, Morrison’s run lasted a couple of years and subsequent writers (Peter Milligan, Jamie Delano and Tom Veitch among them) took the book in a variety of directions.
So I don’t find much to fault in the standard plotting of this book. Buddy takes on a generic foe “in the not too-distant future” in San Diego, which has suffered a natural disaster and now needs a massive sea levee. The battle is beautifully illustrated by the competent, naturalistic Chris Batista (let’s put him in the Chris Sprouse camp, appropriate since both have drawn the Legion of Super-Heroes), but Bloodrage has little too offer. He’s a kind of vampiric Omega Red, and Buddy’s set to make short work of him, or would if his connection to the morphogenetic link to the animal world wasn’t on the fritz.
Back in the real world, Buddy is a stunt coordinator for movies, and Ellen has some high-powered job that takes her away from home most of the time. They’ve grown estranged, in other words, and Maxine and Cliff are grown and gone. These are soap opera conventions, perhaps reflecting Conway’s work in other media. And there’s nothing really wrong with them.
In fact, things are set up for better payoffs in the future, if only Conway can lose the lame-o Bloodrage and take the power failure arc somewhere interesting. IE, I don’t see Buddy developing mystical powers now that his animal ones are wonky (as Storm did in the Belasco alternate future in X-men) or starting to steal human powers like Rogue or as Vixen recently did. And that’s just fine; I’ll keep buying just for the Brian Bolland covers.
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