Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Animal Man 25, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Scott: As a writer, it’s my perpetual fear that whatever idea I’ve just come up with has already been done. Even if I believe an idea to be entirely my own, I’m always a little afraid someone out there will find a similarity to some other work, and I’ll be branded an idea thief. Writers and artists accused of stealing or copying material are ridiculed to no end on internet forums. Think of the hit Dane Cook’s reputation took when he was accused of stealing material from Louis C.K. Of course, it’s entirely possible for two creative people to independently come up with the same thought. That makes it all the harder to judge two concurrent works that share strong similarities. It’s impossible to know which creator had the idea first, and unfair to blame either one for sharing what is, to them, an original concept. Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire is fighting the perception that his story is too similar to semi-sister comic Swamp Thing. Fair or not, an otherwise strong issue of Animal Man suffers from feeling a little too familiar.
As Brother Blood wreaks havoc in The Red, his followers have taken Hollywood’s elite hostage. In The Red, Shepherd and Socks rush to hide Maxine from Brother Blood, just as blood starts raining from the sky. It’s raining blood in Hollywood, too, where Buddy and Ellen find their way into the awards ceremony. Buddy interferes before any actors get slaughtered, but nearly becomes murderous himself when one of the Blood Brothers starts talking about Cliff. Apparently, that’s exactly what they want, as Brother Blood’s followers need to die to enter The Red. Ellen convinces Buddy not to kill, but instead he goes woozy and starts falling, falling, falling, eventually landing on a strange moon.
OK, so there are two complaints I’ve seen leveled against this current Animal Man arc, on this site and others: 1) it’s too similar to the current Swamp Thing arc, and 2) it’s too focused on the mythology of The Red. Obviously, these two points go hand-in-hand; just like Animal Man is Avatar of The Red, Swamp Thing is Avatar of The Green, so their stories are inherently linked in that way. I’ve been willing to look past similarities between the two current arcs- both Avatars are fending off challengers to their title- but considering the most recent issues of each title have had their heroes inexplicably sent into outer space, it’s starting to look like someone, probably somewhere up the chain of editors at DC, has seriously dropped the ball. I mean, at what point does someone interfere and say “Hey, another comic is already doing this, maybe you should change a few things”?
This is not Jeff Lemire’s fault. He’s writing Animal Man to fit his vision, and I have no doubt that in an issue or two, Animal Man and Swamp Thing will hardly resemble each other. Lemire is suffering right now from publishing later in the month than Charles Soule and Swamp Thing, so he’s been consistently beaten to the punch while laying out his Avatar vs. challenger saga. But in most ways, he’s writing an original and compelling superhero story. Buddy is first and foremost a family man- a rarity in superhero comics and something you certainly couldn’t claim about Swamp Thing- and seeing Buddy and Ellen working together is the highlight of this issue. It proves they are far stronger as a team than they are independently. I love Ellen’s confidence throughout the issue, and the fact that she remains completely level headed even while kicking some serious ass. To be a great hero, Buddy needs her by his side.
I’m loving Rafael Albuquerque’s art through his first two issues on this title. He draws such expressive faces, I always feel like I know exactly what his characters are thinking. This is no more apparant than with Maxine in this issue. Throughout Lemire’s Animal Man, Maxine has been made to seem far more mature than her age, but recently she’s seemed so sweetly innocent in her pursuit of her big brother Cliff, much more like a little kid. But the look on her face when she realizes blood is falling from the sky tells me she understands the gravity of the situation in The Red.
Colorist Dave McCaig also does a tremendous job in this issue. Reds and oranges dominate his backgrounds, appropriate considering the increasing presence of Brother Blood. But he changes things up beautifully near the end of the issue, as Buddy is falling through space. McCaig’s rainbow effect, coupled with Albuquerque’s out-of-focus figures, creates one of the trippiest sequences I’ve seen in a comic book.
Shelby, I love the art in this issue. I think Buddy and Ellen’s pursuit of Maxine packs an incredible emotional punch. If I’d never read Swamp Thing, I’d be a huge fan of this issue. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so I have mixed feelings. Is that fair to Lemire? Are you willing to overlook the similarities between the two titles, or is it too distracting?
Shelby: I honestly have no problem with it. The two titles were in lockstep for a year and a half anyway; similar story-lines has been the norm. My favorite thing about this story (and to an extent the current Swamp Thing story as well) is the way it highlights the failings of the Parliament. They are greedy and flawed and they make poor choices. It reflects back on Rot World in a way that I really appreciate. It’s easy to think of death as the enemy when in reality it’s a tremendously important part of life. It would be just as terrible for the world should the Red become all powerful as it was when the Rot became all powerful; the fact that a balance needs to be maintained is what intrigues me so much about the world that has been crafted here.
I also really love the work Lemire is doing to build Buddy back up from the pit he has been. Scott, you are totally correct about the importance of family in this title, and it’s good to see Buddy beginning to pull that family back together. The bloody rain, the epic fights, the grossness of the Red in general, that’s all great, but it’s the small moments between Buddy and Ellen that speak the most to me. Despite all the super crazy things going on in their lives (both comic book crazy and real world crazy with the whole movie star thing), they have such a believable relationship. Their son died, and Ellen left Buddy. It could have been because she blamed him, or because when she looked at him she saw their son, or any other reason. It was a real life, real person reaction to an awful situation. As terrible as it was, I understood it and could relate to it. And you all know how much I love fantasy grounded in a relateable reality.
Plus, I’m a total sucker for romantic nonsense. Come on, who didn’t love that kiss, in front of all the lights and cameras? It was super cheesy, and I loved every second of it.
That’s just magic, pure and simple.For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?
There are definitely a lot of similarities between Animal Man and Swamp Thing, but I think there are a lot of differences we can focus on. The biggest one for me (and most apparent in this issue) is how alone Alec is compared to Buddy. Like, Alec can rely on those in the parliament still loyal to him, but he doesn’t know them, and only half-trusts them. Buddy still has his family — for better or for worse. Ellen is a big source of strength in this issue, but Maxine is now pretty vulnerable. Swamp Thing is a solo title, but Animal Man is pretty decidedly an ensemble piece.
That’s one of the details that make Animal Man so unique. In their solo titles, superheroes tend to monopolize the attention of the reader; in Animal Man, on the contrary, Buddy is constantly upstaged by the supporting characters of the series (especially Maxine).
I think Drew is spot on here. The two books are very different in that at its core Swamp Thing is about one being struggling against forces while in Animal Man it is about family struggling against forces. While situations in these books are often similar the emotional space is pretty different because of what drives the characters in them.
Count me as a sucker as well since I was really happy to see Butter Baker get his family pulled back together. I think his family deserves some happiness together. They have been torn at for a while now.
I’m taking this to mean that Paul is pulling for Cliff’s resurrection.
I actually do like when the dead stay dead. The only way I would be down with Cliff coming back is if it came at a serious cost and right now I don’t want to see the family suffer much more than they are.
You just hate his haircut.
Don’t we all?
In all seriousness, as much as it breaks my heart for Buddy and his family have lost him, it would be nice if someone in comics actually stayed dead for once.
The haircut did not bother me too much. I remember going to school with folks that looked like Cliff. Also I don’t think it was an ironic mullet, Cliff was too young for that.
I almost felt bad about that outer space moment because up until that point, I really felt like this issue was doing a good job of distancing itself from the current Swamp Thing arc. Obviously they both stem from a similar premise but it seemed like the resolutions were starting to drift apart. That being said, the drop-off into space totally threw me back to the latest Swampy, and to some extent, both are throwbacks to Alan Moore’s run when Swampy gets flame-throwered and has to ship his consciousness into outer space.
As you said, I don’t blame Lemire of Soule for this, and both are telling good stories in their own right, but for once, you’d think that a little editorial intervention might have done some good.
Given that Buddy temporarily lost access to some animal powers thanks to the Rotworld mass extinctions, does being in space mean that he’s going to gain some freaky alien fauna powers? I just want him to reach for “Speed of a Cheetah” and instead come up with “Blob-Form of a Zzyrrlop.” And how far away from Earth do you have to get before you lose access to those terrestrial animal powers, anyway? His roaming fees are going to be killer.
Better to go out strong then to have a series meander into junk. I know he has been talking about that Canadian Justice league for a while now.
I am sad to hear this since I would much rather have Animal Man solo book then another JL title. DC does not do teams that well in my opinion no matter who is writing.
I’m actually optimistic about that one. I liked Lemire’s Justice League Dark quite a bit, and I think it will be removed enough from the central DC mythology to get weird (which Lemire does really well). I’ll be sad to lose focus on the Baker family, but I’m okay with Buddy porting over to another Lemire-penned series.