RandoMonday: Animal Man #21

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Animal Man (1988) #21 by Grant Morrison (writer), Chas Truog and Doug Hazelwood (artists), John Costanza (letterer), Tatjana Wood (colorist), Art Young (assoc. editor), Karen Berger (editor), and Brian Bolland (cover)

God, I loved this series. Yes, you had your Dark Knight Returns and your Watchmen, but while Animal Man was similar in some ways, in others it was better. This was Morrison at his beginning, exploring things that are familiar ground now, but back then, this was some head-splodey stuff. And the feels that this book generated….

Speaking of feels, Buddy is feeling pretty crappy. His family was murdered in the previous issue (though we only see the result), and contrary to the usual “save the day in the last panel” trope, his family is killed, and Buddy could do nothing about it (in fact, he was off having an adventure). In this issue, he decides that old-school Biblical is the way to go, but it’s not your typical histrionics that we might have seen from lesser writers. No, Buddy is cold, calculating, and it creeps you out. Teaming with the Scottish Mirror Master (who turned down the assignment to kill Buddy’s family, and who is helping Buddy because the group that tried to hire him owes him some money), Buddy goes after the men who ordered the hit. Buddy drowns the first guy in the ocean–Buddy’s expression as he watches the guy drown (“I hold him until he stops kicking.”) is quite disturbing. The second guy he buries alive, shown in panels that are completely black except for the word balloons. The third guy he punches out of the side of a building–of the three, this is the only time that any emotion shows on Buddy’s face as he delivers the deathblow, right after the man pleads for his life. Finally, Buddy finds the assassin (Lennox) and the story enters into familiar territory in that  Lennox is inside a mechanized armor suit. They fight, but Buddy electrocutes the guy, trapping him inside the armor, barely alive. However, Buddy still wants more blood. He puts on a glove with sharp talons at the ends of the fingers, and proceeds to dismember Lennox (off panel). After he’s through killing the men responsible, Buddy claims that he feels nothing (echoing his emotional detachment throughout the issue), but also, he knows how he can fix everything: all he needs is a time machine.

What a brilliant issue among many in the Grant Morrison run of Animal Man. While I have all the single issues, I also have the first two trades of this series. It occurred to me rereading this specific issue that I should get the trades that complete Morrison’s run on the series so that I can easily reread the series. As for the art, I was never a big fan of Truog/Hazlewood’s work, but they did do a good job at conveying how overcome Buddy was in this issue (and especially in the previous issue). This is definitely one of those kinds of comic books where even if you know the plot, you still get so much out of reading the issue. Do yourself a favor, and seek out Morrison’s Animal Man.

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