Without a doubt, "Animal Man" is one of the better story and character-driven books DC has to offer right now. Writer Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Essex County) remains at the helm along with current artist Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire). In "Animal Man #25," Lemire reaffirmed how Buddy Baker was a man driven to protect his family at all costs. It's the animal instinct in him. He and his estranged wife Ellen had already lost their son Cliff in the aftermath of "Rot-World." That personal tragedy met led to their separation. In Ellen's mind, she had to keep their daughter safely away from Buddy and the horrors that followed him as Animal Man. However, distance did not prevent Maxine from becoming a target of a new threat from within the Red: Brother Blood.
Blood's incursion on the Red had far-reaching impact on the world outside of it. Throughout the pages of the book, colorist Dave McCaig spilled crimson ink. Each panel dripped with different shades of red in similar fashion to the green in "Swamp Thing." When it rained blood in the world of the Red, it rained blood in earth's dimension. In Animal Man's battle against Blood's followers, the Splinterfolk, Albuquerque showed a father enraged and a hero compelled to take them down. Ellen Baker was at his side, unwilling that he did so alone; but that they did it together. That's what I like most about this series. Despite the many dangers, toils and snares, it's about family and how it faces and recovers from those challenges...together.
This is definitely not a book for the squeamish. When the New 52 arrived in 2011, a number of characters returned to the main DC continuity from the Vertigo imprint. Among them were Swamp Thing, Constantine and Animal Man. Though Buddy Baker had been a stock character before the New 52, appearing in different books including Justice League, he'd not been featured in his own title since his Vertigo run ended. Certainly there were a number of narrative elements that were brought over to this current run. This includes the concept of the Red. But all man-made mythologies have a way of standing in stark contrast to one's personal beliefs. Though I believe "Animal Man" is a work of fiction not in position to question faith; it may open a doorway for one to deviate ever so slightly from the truth however he may color it.
Part of me had enough of the melodrama presented in Buddy and Ellen Baker's interactions. It was a necessary evil as they faced off against a necrotizing one. Besides, Maxine's life was on the line. By the end of this issue, it still was. As a male reader I'm asked to identify with Ellen's fear, anxiety and anger at Buddy. Aspects of this tension between them may miss the mark with some readers.
This is a horror comic. If readers can wade through the "red" and suspend their personal theology for a moment, they'll find a good story about family, fear, love and consequences. Plus, there's a great panel with tentacles. I love tentacles.
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