Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Animal Man 26, originally released December 18th, 2013.
Scott: If you could board a space shuttle and take off on a one-way trip towards the other end of the universe, would you do it? Could you leave behind the life you know forever in exchange for a unique human experience, a first look at the beauty and wonder of the cosmos? It’s a question many people would at least consider. Now, instead, imagine you woke up tomorrow and you were already on that ship, zipping past the asteroid belt, never to return home. Would you feel the same way about the experience if you didn’t get to make the choice? Would it be easier or harder to accept that your life would never be the same? Buddy Baker now finds himself in a situation where his life will soon be completely and eternally changed, and by no choice of his own (it also happens to an outer-space-related change). It’s a crazy curveball from writer Jeff Lemire.
Hey, remember how Buddy was transported to a strange moon with a bunch of scary looking aliens at the end of Animal Man 25? No, you didn’t imagine that. It turns out the aliens are in the same boat as Buddy, and they’re all being hunted by an enormous, horned beast. Buddy is able to tap into the powers of the creatures around him, but can’t come up with the strength to take down the beast — until he comes up with the idea to draw power from the beast itself. It works like a charm.
So why is Buddy there in the first place? He was summoned by the Bridgewalker, the custodian of the Seed Planet, which, as the center of the Life Web, maintains the balance of the Red and the Green across the universe. Or something like that. The Bridgewalker is dying, so she(?) is selecting her replacement amongst various Avatars of the Red and Green (which explains why Buddy thinks one of the aliens “looks like Swamp Thing.” Is that racist?) As the sole survivor, Buddy is chosen as the new Bridgewalker. He agrees to take the job if he’s first allowed to return to Earth to save his family. Back on Earth, Buddy immediately finds himself in the clutches of that evil Parliament member (the one Patrick recently dubbed “Ram-Horned-Face”).
OK, so…what? This issue is so far out of left field, it must be a foul ball. This whole Seed Planet story can’t actually count as a part of this Animal Man series, can it? The consequences are just too outrageous. I mean, what did Buddy Baker just agree to? More importantly, what fate did Jeff Lemire just consign this title to? At some point in the next year, Animal Man will undergo a fundamental shift, from a series where Buddy Baker flies around Earth and wins Oscars, to one where he sits alone on some dark planet and makes sure all life in the universe doesn’t just destroy itself. That’s a BIG change, and one where the end result doesn’t even sound like a thing. I understand why Buddy made this deal with the Bridgewalker — he had to think fast in order to get home — but he has to be hoping that she’ll just kinda forget about this whole thing and he’ll never actually have to go back.
I left this out of the summary, but the Bridgewalker made Buddy consume a Godseed before returning to Earth, which she says will allow him to channel powers of the Red from all corners of the universe. If I’m interpreting that correctly, it means that in addition to Buddy’s animal powers, he now has access to powers from every alien species. Translation: the rest of the time Buddy spends on Earth, however long or short it may be, will be absolutely fucking awesome. Like seriously, go fuck yourself, Brother Blood. That giant beast from the beginning of the issue? That’s Buddy now. Nobody stands a chance against this guy anymore. Is there an alien that can turn into liquid and then drown other things with its body? I don’t know, but who can say that there isn’t? Lemire may have just given himself the power to do whatever crazy stuff he wants to do with Animal Man (or perhaps The-Greater-Power-Of-The-Red-From-Across-The-Galaxy Man is a more appropriate name now), and I fully support that decision.
I’ve been a huge fan of artist Rafael Albuquerque’s work on this title, so I was sad to learn he would sitting the issue out (though he does provide a pretty stellar cover). Happily, though, Cully Hamner matches Albuquerque’s Style almost perfectly. It’s not easy to compare the two artists, since Hamner is drawing settings and characters we’ve never seen before, but Buddy’s character design and the use of dramatic shading are consistent with Albuquerque’s work. Returning colorist Dave McCaig also eases the transition by continuing his own tremendous work. His astral backdrops are downright beautiful, evoking some of the breathtaking images you might see from the Hubble Telescope.
Drew, what’s your take on this issue? Are you more interested in the short-term or long-term ramifications of Buddy’s deal with the Bridgewalker? I’m all for these sorts of time-elements that add urgency to the plot, but this is extreme. We have no idea if and when Buddy will be forever taken away from the life he knows. How do we even proceed?
Drew: Oh man, those are some complicated questions. First off, a year in comic book time could basically last forever. Let’s not forget that Buddy’s Oscar-baiting performance — for a film which was already out by the start of issue 1 — was nominated for the awards ceremony that started in issue 24. That’s a full two years in real-time, but bust stretch over no more than a year in-universe (and in all likelihood, a movie like this may very well have seen limited release in December). All that is to say: sure there’s a ticking clock on Buddy’s time on Earth, but it could mean years of real-time before that actually comes to pass.
As for the long-term future of this series, I’m afraid there isn’t one. As Jeff Lemire announced a couple weeks ago, this series will conclude with issue 29 in March. He suggests that Buddy will appear in the new Justice League series that he’s writing, which makes me think that Buddy either won’t be called away soon, or that he’s figured some way out of his deal. For the sake of Buddy as a superhero with unique powers, I kind of hope he looses whatever powers the godseed gives him.
Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate that Buddy needed some kind of power boost to defeat Brother Blood with any kind of legitimacy (the dude does control the Red), but I’m a little worried about giving him that power permanently. He can now channel any being in the universe, including Superman, Martian Manhunter, Lobo, Darkseid, and any other character that is already so powerful they have a hard time meeting genuine adversity. Seriously: why would Buddy ever pick the strength of an elephant over Superman? I appreciate that Buddy would still be a different character, but the world does not need another Superman clone.
I’m certainly hoping that there won’t be long-term consequences, but I’m not convinced any long-term consequences make any sense, anyway. Like, the Bridgewalker doesn’t intervene in the Red/Green/Rot conflicts on other planets (which is why she never came up during Rotworld), and is powerless to do anything for Buddy now besides send him back. Yet she suggests that the whole reason the seed planet needs a protector is because the Red/Green/Rot is out of balance on so many planets. Maybe Buddy wouldn’t need to be parked on planet-protecting duties (which it seems like he could reasonably farm out to the Green Lanterns or something) if he was a little more proactive about restoring the balance on other planets — perhaps starting with Earth?
There I go, focusing on the plot of a series that won’t even exist anymore. The point is, Buddy just sold out his future with his family to insure that they have a future at all. Artificiality be damned, it expresses a very relatable desperation on his part. He doesn’t fully understand what he’s just agreed to, but he doesn’t care — he just needs to get back to his family. That’s basically all this issue is — a beat that shows a sacrifice on Buddy’s part to both return to his family and luck into the power he needs to actually do so.
Otherwise, it’s just kind of a zany mythology-heavy space-battle. It was a little weird that Buddy remarks how much that alien reminds him of Swamp Thing when they basically look nothing alike — especially when I was much more struck by the similarity between the giant monster and Darkseid.
I’m not really sure what to make of those similarities, but it’s kind of neat to have some glimmer of recognition when looking at all of these alien species.
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?