Patrick: Okay, so why “five years later,” huh? What’s the point of all these glances into the theoretic furutre of DC Comics? I know it shouldn’t matter that these stories may prove to be part of a future-narrative that gets wiped out of the canon, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re reading a bunch of what-if stories. Intriguingly, these glimpses into future have their eyes set on the past; evoking elements of Pre-Flashpoint continuity and reconciling that with what’s been established since September of 2011. The future is a point on a line, plotted using the past and present as reference. It’s a herculean task, but one that writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz are more than up for, aligning themselves with the intrepid Alec Holland, perhaps unsure that they would make it through to the other side unharmed.
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.
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Animal Man 22, originally released July 17th, 2013.
Scott: I recently watched a birth. I wasn’t in the room, I just saw footage that’s going to be used in a documentary, but trust me, it was enough. As anyone who has ever witnessed a birth can surely tell you, it’s not recommended for those with weak stomachs. At the same time, and probably for the same reason, it’s impossible to look away. It’s human nature; when you’re faced with something you don’t really want to see, you just have to look. It’s why, when you cover your eyes during a scary scene in a movie, you still peek through the cracks of your fingers. The same thing happened to me while reading Animal Man 22. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Steve Pugh have crafted an issue full of things I never wanted to see, thus ensuring I wouldn’t look away. Those clever bastards…
Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Animal Man 21, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Scott: We’ve reached a historic lowpoint for privacy. Every phone call, email, text message you send can and will be recorded and filed away in some classified government database. It’s ironic, I think, that the harshest condemnations of the NSA I’ve come across have been voiced on Facebook and Twitter, forums infamous for their users’ public over-sharing of thoughts better kept private. The rise of social media has made privacy invasion a daily risk for nearly everyone; most of us can only take solace in knowing our every thought is of little interest to anyone but our inner circles. But it’s enough to make you feel bad for celebrities, who must pay for their time in the spotlight by never being able to truly leave it — their privacy always at the mercy of any bystander with a smartphone. Animal Man 21 explores the potential dangers social media poses for newfound celebrity Buddy Baker and his fans.
Today, Scott and Drew are discussing Animal man 20, originally released May 1st, 2013.
Scott: I guess Animal Man readers better have good memories. If you were caught off guard by “Tights: Part Two”, try to recall how you reacted to Part One, way back in Animal Man 6. At that point, the story of Chaz Grant bore little resemblance to the life of Buddy Baker, who had considerable power as Animal Man and good standing as a husband and father. Since then, however, Buddy’s life has fallen to pieces: he’s lost his son, his relationship with his family is in disrepair and he’s been cut off from The Red. Buddy’s life at the start of Animal Man 20 is eerily similar to that of his character in “Tights” midway through the film. The second half of the movie effectively shows us that there might still be hope for Buddy Baker, while even more effectively showing us that there might not.