Title: Animal Man.
Writer(s): Grant Morrison.
Illustrator(s): Chas Truog & Tom Grummett.
Colourist(s): Tatjana Wood & Helen Vesik.
Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition.
Release Date: December 18th 2018.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
DC Comics is filled with heroes that have either proven to the world their trustworthiness or their uselessness. In the face of grave danger, some vanquish evil with their mere reputation while others struggle to be relevant to the eye of the enemy. It, however, remains that they are all heroes, one way or another. Whether it is through their actions or through their words, they all showcase a hefty amount of unrecalled wisdom that promotes the adoption of a grounded and open-minded vision of the world. One hero who has only been known as the laughing stock of the DC Universe is Animal Man. Initially created by writer Dave Wood and artist Carmine Infantino, this hero barely ever managed to stay relevant during the pre-Crisis era since his first appearance in 1965. It is only after the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths event that DC brought back to life several minor characters and gave them a sweet revamp that will ultimately put them back on everyone’s radar. And for Animal Man, it will all be thanks to the legendary Grant Morrison.
What is Animal Man about? Collecting the first half of Grant Morrison’s run, from issues #1-13, as well as Secret Origins #39, the book follows Buddy Baker in his pursuit of becoming an A-list superhero. Currently a second-rate superhero, a devoted father and an animal rights activist, Buddy Baker is also known as Animal Man, an individual with the power to momentarily borrow the abilities of animals that are in his immediate vicinity. Whether it is a bird’s flight or an elephant’s might, Buddy Baker connects with these creatures and looks to do some good within society while he deals with countless real-life issues and moral dilemmas. As he attempts to secure a spot among the Justice League in order to provide for his family and lend a hand to the world, he quickly finds himself in the middle of some of the most bizarre and ongoing extraterrestrial schemes. Thanks to Grant Morrison’s visionary and unpredictable take on the character, Animal Man finds himself delivering a much more satisfying and commendable impression.
When it comes to Grant Morrison, there’s nothing predictable in his stories. They always have an underlying ominous direction with an offbeat touch as a coating to his stories which often represents his signature style. What he ultimately accomplishes with this hero highlights the best parts of his storytelling abilities and shows that there couldn’t have been a better person to accomplish this unimaginable task. While there’s something comical integrated within Buddy Baker’s character and life, Grant Morrison also injects some thought-provoking aspects to his lore that instantly turns the hero into a relevant personage within the DC universe. To further add to the quirkiness of the hero, other heroes who are slightly better-known also make an appearance to further establish Animal Man’s place in the hero game. How he evolves throughout the story and reflects on his role to better serve the world while prioritizing his role as a father also gives him an interesting angle to explore as most heroes back in that day had to deal with a secret identity, while Animal benefits from a life completely exposed to the world.
The artwork conveys a recognizable 90s comic book visual style that is marked with flashy colours and recurrent use of a six-panel frame. In his comic book run with Animal Run, Grant Morrison is helped with talented Chas Truog and Tom Grummett’s penciling that does a wonderful job in creating fantastic and traditional character designs that are easy to follow. With consistent artwork from cover to cover, the story is also easier to digest and understand. The transition between scenes is also particularly fascinating with creative ways to change from one scenario to another. Splash pages are also sparingly used and mostly present to surprise the reader with unexpected appearances as they give the characters the room needed to fully showcase themselves. There are also some visionary artistic decisions made to explore beyond the square panels and into the edges of the pages that offer the creative team the extra space to explore the character and his stories. It’s safe to say that Grant Morrison didn’t shy away from his unconventional ways when given the opportunity to do what he wants with the character.
Animal Man (Book One) is a fantastic 30th anniversary deluxe edition that covers half of Grant Morrison’s impressive revamp of a forgettable hero with a burgeoning radicalism regarding animal rights and a fever to do good although bound by familial needs.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and DC Comics for sending me a copy for review!