After last issues light take on Animal Man, as we saw the second half of the movie “Tights”, we continue the ongoing saga of Buddy Baker’s life sucking at extraordinary levels. Yet, this time around, instead of going for a light, almost comedic tone, this issue is far darker. It really serves to illustrate Jeff Lemire’s range in writing style. He can switch up his style quite a bit and still create a really, really great comic book, which is what Animal Man #21 is. The plot is split between Maxine and Buddy, and there are a lot of really nice touches in this book. The introduction, which is what seems to be a Twitter feed of sorts, serves to both lighten the tone (slightly) as well as provide catch up on what’s happened previously. It comes back, and I hope Lemire keeps it around, because it’s pretty cool.
Now, we’re starting to see Animal Man’s animal rights side begin to pop up more, as he investigates a strange type of robbery – a mysterious villain stealing pets. What is really interesting is that this harkens back to the first part of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man story, especially with the imagery of the dead animals and the villain that is revealed. It’s a more modern twist on the story, and it’s far removed from Morrison’s run, so it seems quite fresh. The moment when Animal Man enters the home of a lady who’s cats were stolen (as well as the rest of that encounter), got a few chuckles out of me. Also, Buddy’s conversation with his agent offers an interesting look into the reality that Biddy Baker lives in – and also serves a s a social commentary, of sorts.
As great as Buddy Baker’s story is, the best part of this issue is Maxine’s story, in which she journeys into The Red to find Cliff. And, whereas Swamp Thing has a more mature view of The Green, Maxine, as the red avatar, is still just a kid, and a slightly bossy one. The Parliament needs her, and, in a really great scene, she shows off her optimism, even if she is slightly jaded by past events. Her facial expressions are dome very well – but that’s just a testament to how great the art in this book is, issue after issue after issue. And, I must say, I really love both Socks and Shepherd on this issue, as they provide a strange short of comic relief to a very dark, horror tinged issue of Animal Man.