Patrick: My gateway to regularly reading comics was Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern from Rebirth to Blackest Night. That’s a lot of outer space nonsense, to be sure, but the series was so caught up with the spirit of invention and exploration that every new revelation was imbued with so much energy that I was never really overwhelmed with how silly it all was. I’m sensing some of that same untethered enthusiasm in Justice League Unlimted 1, but the connection I’m going to draw is far more literal — both feature the background conflict between the planets Rann and Thanagar. The Rann-Thanagar War is one of those dense hives of modern DC mythology, mired in conflicting histories and muddy storytelling. Hell, I’m not even sure Rann and Thanagar are two separate planets since the New 52 started. In this issue, Jeff Lemire tries to give identity to the characters and concepts that are notoriously bad at sticking to any one.
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Justice League United 0, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
Shelby: We’ve seen a few different ways to handle zero issues. Not, “I have no issues, and I don’t know how to handle it,” or “I have issues with the mathematical concept of null value,” but with comic book issues numbered 0. I’m a big fan of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s execution of the zero with Harley Quinn 0, which established the character and setting, but more importantly established the tone of the title. Heck, if you really want to explore the gamut of what a zero issue can do, check out our insanely full coverage of DC’s Zero Month two and a half years ago. A zero issue can be whatever the creative team wants to make of it, and Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone seem so eager to start this story they just want to dive right in.
And the best part of all was that one day… when they were all real old and had lived happily for a long, long time, they would die, too…
Scott: This statement, made by a four year old finally processing the meaning of her brother’s death, underlines the tragic nature of the final issue of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. It’s both the realization her father, Buddy Baker, needed her to make, and the promise he knows he can’t keep. Not every family gets to live happily ever after, especially not when the patriarch has as many responsibilities as Animal Man. This issue shows Buddy doing whatever he can to make sure everyone around him gets the happiest ending possible, even if it’s not the fairly tale ending they desire. In the face of uncertainty, maybe that’s the best you can do.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 28, originally released February 19, 2014.
Buddy Baker, Animal Man 28
Shelby: I feel like this quote from the latest issue of Animal Man perfectly sums up my experience with Buddy Baker in the hands of Jeff Lemire. Buddy’s defining characteristic has, for me, always been his connection to his family. Nowhere else have we seen someone forced to balance a spouse and family with being a superhero, occasionally having to go to space, etc. Mostly, Buddy’s balancing act has brought a lot of suffering to the Baker clan, so it’s nice to see our favorite family man finally get a real win.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Animal Man 27, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
But as a Go game progresses, the possibilities become smaller and smaller. The board does take on order. Soon, all moves are predictable.
Maximillian Cohen, Pi
Drew: Do you ever find yourself wondering exactly how apt an analogy is? Or that it might be more apt than we realize. One of my favorite moments from Darren Aronofsky’s Pi finds Sol positing that the unlimited possibilities of a game of Go reflects the chaos of life, and Max not quite refuting his point with the quote above. Maybe life simply becomes more predictable as we move through it. That’s certainly true of narratives — what starts as a completely open field often falls into a well-worn pattern as it winds to a close. Take Animal Man: as a series, it has been as original and unpredictable as they come, but as Jeff Lemire sets up his endgame in issue 27, some of the beats feel a bit more familiar. In fact, this issue seems to employ just about every tension-goosing tool in the box, building to what promises to be a pretty spectacular two-part finale. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing Animal Man 24, originally released October 16th, 2013.
Todd, of course, is nominated tonight for Best Actor for his chilling portrayal of a psychic FBI agent who falls in love with a beautiful, deaf dolphin trainer in the amazing film Sea of Echoes.
–Animal Man 24
Patrick: DC has since abandoned the following nomenclature, but Animal Man used to fall under the line of “Dark” comics. This distinction generally just meant supernatural: we weren’t dealing with alien supermen or gadgety crime fighters, but Swamp Things and Magicians and Vampires. These stories also veered more into the horror genre, and there are few series that took that “dark” label to heart more literally than Animal Man. Buddy’s enemies are grotesque, his powers distort his body and mind and the bad guys routinely target his family. Hell, agents of the Rot killed his son. Writer Jeff Lemire is always careful to keep his eye on the tone, and keeps the series from becoming a slog. He’s able to lighten the mood here by pointing to his own work, and that of new series artist Rafael Albuquerque, and remind us that it might all be sorta silly. It’s a healthy reminder, and one that makes all the surrounding darkness go down a little smoother. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 23, originally released August 21st, 2013.
Scott: Nothing rocks us harder, on a personal level, than a betrayal of trust. A cheating spouse, a conniving business partner — nothing is harder to grapple with than the idea of someone you trust working against you. It’s distressing to both your head and your heart. A similar effect can be had on a community, or an entire society, as the result of a security breach. When a place we trust is safe- a school, a temple, a movie theater- is marred by an act of terror, irreparable damage is done to our collective trust. In Animal Man 23, writer Jeff Lemire combines these two types of betrayal in one fell swoop, destroying a place we thought was safe and pulling back the curtain on someone we thought could be trusted. It’s fantastically horrific, and will make you question whether anything you believe about this title is truly as it seems.
Scott: Nothing is more universal than a parent wanting to provide a safe place for his or her children. And I’m sure nothing is more frightening to a parent than the prospect of failing to provide that safety. For many species- let’s say, spiders, for example- that safety comes at a premium, and many who are born fail to make it to adulthood. That fear has become a reality for Buddy Baker, as he has seen his son Cliff die and been forced to wonder how he could have better protected his child. Animal Man Annual 2 thrusts Buddy’s grieving to the forefront, as writer Jeff Lemire explores a particularly touching and incredibly frightening experience Buddy and Cliff once shared.