Jeff Lemire and artist Cully Hamner pave the road toward the end of "Animal Man" with a bold move that has Buddy Baker lost in space and confronted with a choice that will change his life forever. Back home Brother Blood has infiltrated the Red and killed off the Totems. Baker's daughter Maxine is next. The youth has been the Totems' chosen avatar since the series first story arc. But with the help of a dissenting member of the Parliament of Limbs (see Issue no. 24), Brother Blood has ascended to the title. Baker has to stop him before it's too late. There's one problem. He's the farthest from home he's ever been.
Cully Hamner's artwork is refreshing as he joins Lemire on the last story arc of what's been a stellar run. In fact, the look of this issue is a departure from the style Travel Foreman established in the beginning and from the most recent illustrator Rafael Albuquerque. It looks a bit more "heroic," if I can use that term, and should serve as a triumphant lead up to Issue no. 29. Jeff Lemire will write and pencil the last issue and will be rejoined by artist Travel Foreman.
Hamner's art fits the action, humor and heartbreak of the story from panel to panel. His two, full-page spreads in the middle of the book were interesting too. Picking up from the beginning, after some confusion about where he is, Animal Man finds himself in the middle of a huge battle with a giant, fire-breathing behemoth. He fights for survival alongside, as explained later, other alien avatars of the Red and the Green. Each avatar (a candidate) is killed one by one by the alien beast. Baker is the last man standing in the skirmish. Does he have the fortitude to rise above his fear and above the anxiety of losing his family; of failing them? As if from a scene from the life of young David, he taps into the power of the colossus, finds the strength and courage to defeat it, and slings a huge boulder through the goliath's mouth. It exits through the back of its head and drops dead. Now the victor, he encounters a strange, ancient being called the Bridgewalker. The story turns from there.
We are three issues away from Jeff Lemire's departure from "Animal Man." Issue no. 29 will mark the end of Buddy Baker's solo adventures in the New 52 as well. Lemire has been quoted in interviews that this is the Animal Man story he wanted to tell. Readers who've enjoyed this family's misadventures and who've cried with them through their tragedies will sorely miss this "Animal Man." The series has been one of the more consistent books in terms of depth and breadth and will be missed.
However, Lemire's alien-take is a big departure from the stuff he's written through 25 issues. This Bridgewalker explains that he is the lone protector of what seems to be a moon called the "Seed Planet." According to him, the planet is something "more" than the Totems and the Parliament. The Bridgewalker is near death and the Seed Planet is waning. The planet is a sort of nexus, a "living moon" that connects all of the worlds connected to the red and green. It is weakening as those worlds decay and destroyed. Baker is now the lone candidate to replace the Bridgewalker as his apprentice and eventual protector of this planet. What about his family? Maxine? Ellen? He protests, but it is an assignment to which Baker cannot say no. A deal is made. If the Bridgewalker sends him back to save his family from Brother Blood he will return to become the new Bridgewalker...forever. However, if he doesn't come back in time, it could mean the end of all life as they know it. I'm not sure where all of this is leading?
What direction will the burden of "Bridgewalker" take Buddy Baker? How will it affect the character in Lemire's new Justice League book? Will events spinning out of "Animal Man" justify the need for another League?
I've been reading "Animal Man" for a while and will be there until the end. Issue no. 26 is crazy-weird, but just might gain a few new readers who'll like the alien twist. Can't wait to see my questions answered before the curtain falls.
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