Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 05.01.2013 – Animal Man #20

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557
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 10.9%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Jeff Lemire
Art by John Paul Leon & Timothy Green II
Cover by Jae Lee

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

The last time we took a breather between story arcs in Animal Man was with issue #6, and in that issue we got our first glimpse at Tights, the indie movie about a down-and-out D-list superhero that Buddy Baker had starred in while he wasn’t busy being a superhero himself. Buddy’s son cliff was watching the movie on his phone as the Baker family began a Winnebago road trip, a trip that started them down the path to disaster that would end in Cliff’s death. We saw that first half of that movie in what was an excellent issue certainly worthy of the Pick of the Week honors.

And now we’re back with what appears to be the second half of the movie (it’s not entirely clear that the movie is over, but it certainly seems that way) and here we are again with the Pick of the Week.

It’s no secret that when Animal Man first debuted with The New 52 it was one of our favorite books. The non-traditional take on a superhero in the DCU coupled with Travel Foreman’s amazing art made Animal Man a must-read… for the first six months. Travel Foreman left the book (for very understandable personal reasons) and then Animal Man got caught up in the “Rotworld” crossover storyline with Swamp Thing and the book very quickly fell from its very high perch.

With “Tights, Part Two”I’m hopeful that we’re headed back to the territory that made those first six issues so special.

As mentioned above, one of the things that has caused this book to suffer was the loss of Travel Foreman on art duties. His creepy sketchy style fit the tone of the book perfectly: Buddy was portrayed as tall and lean, the monsters he faced were nightmare-inducing. Steve Pugh came on the book as the new regular artist and not only is a very talented superhero artist but he has a history drawing Animal Man. But his style hasn’t fit this particular book and this particular story at all. It’s too conventional. His Buddy is too superheroic. What this book need is an artist who is a bit grittier and bit off the beaten path. John Paul Leon might have only been brought in to draw “the film” portion of the story because of his realistic style, but his art is perfectly at home here. It would break the illusion to have him stay on as artist, which is a shame. If not Leon, then I’d be fine with Timothy Green II drawing as much of this book as he wanted to. Here he draws “the real world” portion of the story and his deft character acting is responsible for most of the emotional resonance.

This issue is all about subtext. We’re not just here to watch Buddy Baker starring in a movie about a lame superhero who ends up becoming a reality star in Hollywood and has his life ruined as a result, though that would be totally entertaining in and of itself. No, the whole point of watching the movie is that it reveals things about Buddy Baker’s character and his life. It’s an allegory. Just as Chaz (mysteriously spelled Chas in Animal Man #6), the character that Buddy plays in the movie, struggles to hold onto his fractured family so too does Buddy, and the harder that each one of them tries to hold on the quicker they are losing their loved ones. Chaz also struggles with his place in the superhero world and his inner drive to be a hero when quite often those very heroic actions lead the unraveling of his life. In Chaz’s case, he stops the most powerful studio executive in Hollywood from raping a young woman at a party and ends up blacklisted and broke, and in Buddy’s case saving the world during “Rotworld” ended up costing him his son.

The thing that really delivers the big emotional blow in this issue is the final two pages in which we pull back from the movie to find that Buddy has been the one watching in a dingy bedroom absolutely covered in garbage and empty food containers, the detritus of a man locked away from the world and in deep pain. He has paused the screen and looks at his fictional son and then looks at a photograph of his dead son, and he holds his head in his hands. Perhaps at that moment the full parallels of his movie and his life hit home, or perhaps he is just feeling the emotional weight of the recent events in his life. Whatever he is feeling, a ringing telephone breaks the silence and Buddy learns that there will be no escaping the pain that his movie is causing him—his agent informs Buddy that he has been nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. The look on Buddy’s face in the last panel as he learns the news—news that for every other actor in the world would be among the best ever—says it all. Buddy is now going to be thrust into a maelstrom of publicity and inescapable attention that is going to cause him to live in this emotional moment for a long time.

This is the Buddy Baker that I’m really interested in. The Buddy Baker from the first six issues. He was a superhero, no doubt, but he was also a family man who only did the whole superhero thing out of some innate obligation. But he was also a cultural icon, someone whose starred in a critically acclaimed independent film and was an outspoken animal rights activist whose face was co-opted by youth culture on “Evolve or Die” t-shirts. That character—and his life—was really interesting. I’m hoping that the teaser for next issue: “Fame comes to Buddy Baker. Maxine is lost in The Red. Buddy vs. The Totems!” means we get back to that interesting set up from the first six issues, as much as we can. I understand that this is a superhero book and that we’re not going to get an entire issue of Buddy at a press junket talking about his nomination or Buddy at the nominee’s luncheon sitting in-between George Clooney and a nominee for best sound mixing. I understand that. But it would be nice to see scenes like that inter-cut and contrasted against attacks by The Totems. It makes for a much more interesting character and a much more interesting book. The kind of book that DC desperately needs right now.

Conor Kilpatrick
It’s easier to fight supervillains than studio execs.
conor@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. This was a solid book and might’ve been my pick of the week too. However, I’m tired of reading about dead kids, so…no thanks.

    • I agree with your sentiment. I dropped the book after 17 when I saw that Cliff died. When the next few issues were about the end of a marriage, the dissolution of a family, and parents grieving a dead son I just couldn’t work up the interest to read more and jump back on. The subject matter isn’t for me. I’m done, and happy to not have the grief in my life.

  2. I think I am going to hope back on now. Hope Leon stays.

  3. Foreman is drawing the annual, at least we can look forward to that.

  4. Funny. I remember you guys saying this, and Swamp Thing, was losing a lot of steam. Glad to hear this rebounded after ‘The Rot’ crossover.

  5. Honestly Charles Soule is doing a good job on Swamp Thing also, got a fairly entertaining 2 part superman/scarecrow story and some future seeds already.

  6. Did anyone notice that Chaz was dating an actress who was in the Movie version of “American Vampire”?

    A Movie based on a comic (American Vampire) within a Movie based on a superhero within a comic … that is some Morrison sh*t right there. 😀 Love it

  7. Warms my heart seeing Animal Man back on top! Great pick this week!

  8. I had this and The Victories as a tie for my pick of the week. Such a great issue. It’s cool to see with this, The Victories and Jupiter’s Legacy that creators can still tell really interesting deconstructions of the super hero genre in unique ways.

  9. This is the first non-Batman DCU book to be the pick since February 6 with Green Arrow #17.

    And before that, for a new-52 non-Batman book as Pick you have to go back to March 7 2012 with Swamp Thing number 7.

    All the other DC published picks were Batman/Batman Inc, web reprints, Before Watchment, Vertigo titles, and Joe Kubert Presents.

  10. This issue had a very “Hawkeye” feel to it for me.

  11. Great review Conor. Nice to see a DC book as POTW again – feels like it’s been forever. And nice shout out to Timothy green’ s art. I remember back in the day him and I would hang out at Denny’ s drawing our own comics and dreaming of working for the big two. Well needless to say Tim’s art was way better then mine and soon came the call from Jim Lee asking him to work for Image and the rest is history.

  12. Great pick! What a well-written story!

  13. Conner, I applaud you for this review, as it is exactly how I felt about this series. I loved the first six issues and then I simply lost interest during Rot World with the lame fill in artists and pointless guest appearances. I dropped it after issue 14 but
    read the last issue on a slow week and thought it brought some of the magic back. I do think Steve Pugh is the wrong artist for this series though….

    I also agree that Soule has done two surprisingly good issues of Swamp Thing so far. I was very skeptical but his two issues so far have been good enough to keep me reading.

  14. Thank God for Jeff Lemire!

  15. “As mentioned above, one of the things that has caused this book to suffer was the loss of Travel Foreman on art duties. His creepy sketchy style fit the tone of the book perfectly: Buddy was portrayed as tall and lean, the monsters he faced were nightmare-inducing. Steve Pugh came on the book as the new regular artist and not only is a very talented superhero artist but he has a history drawing Animal Man. But his style hasn’t fit this particular book and this particular story at all. It’s too conventional. His Buddy is too superheroic. What this book need is an artist who is a bit grittier and bit off the beaten path. John Paul Leon might have only been brought in to draw “the film” portion of the story because of his realistic style, but his art is perfectly at home here. It would break the illusion to have him stay on as artist, which is a shame. ”

    I don’t understand how you can complain about Steve Pugh’s art not being gritty enough but praising Leon’s art for being “realistic”. I miss Travel Forman too but it hasn’t lead to me dropping “Animan Man” or anything.
    All that aside, this was a good issue. I hope Lemire stays on this book for awhile and gives us another memborale run of the character.

    • Yeah I don’t understand the issue people have with Steve Pugh’s art either.

    • Me neither, Pugh is great

      I wasn’t so thrilled with the story – I get that Tights parallels Buddy’s emotional journey. I got it last time, when it took up damn near the whole book. And here we are again, with a very soapy, by the numbers, ‘film’. A few pages would’ve been fine, but 18 of them? Given how Jeff Lemire likes to stretch out the stories, I srongly suspect there’ll be a part 3; I just hope I notice its coming in advance, so I can pass – this issue had excellent creators, but I’d rather see them do something set in Buddy’s real world. Kill that annoying talking cat, maybe.

    • WHOAWHOAWHOAWHOA, kill Socks?! I love Socks, he’s one of the few talking animals I don’t hate. Besides, he wasn’t even in this issue.

      I’m fine with the “Tights” stuff, its a nice secondary story that sort of ties into Animal Man. Plus how weird would it be if we saw Buddy get an Oscar but none of the movie that earned it? I got you don’t want repeats, but I think adds some good drama and mirrors whats happened with Buddy and his wife, just like Chas and his wife in the movie.

      I wish “Community” would talk about this series; “Man, this is like that Vertigo comic”, “Which one?”, “Y’Know the one with the talking cat and guy with Animal powers. What’s it called, Hawkguy?”