There’s a problem with some stories that take place in “the future,” specifically the ones where an apocalypse has occurred while the main character was in transit from one era to the next. Namely, that lingering feeling that by the end of the story, everything’s going to be reset through a second time jump. That’s the problem hovering over “Animal Man” #14 and the Rotworld story in general, but Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh, and Timothy Green II do their best to try and still keep the tension up.
That method is primarily through placing some of the story in the present day, following Animal Man’s family as they’re pursued by the Rot. We’ve already been told that by the time of Rotworld they’ve died (more than anything else, this feels like an indication that we’re headed for a reset), which gives an extra level of anxiety as Maxine and company scramble for survival. With the Rot having taken over almost the entire planet by the time of Rotworld, seeing it still a smaller force and still being extremely dangerous helps cast the Rot as a real threat because it can accomplish so much even while little. Green draws these pages for Lemire, and it’s a good way to instantly differentiate between the two time zones. It’s a slightly cleaner look for the book (and harkens back a bit to Travel Foreman’s art on the early issues of “Animal Man”), and there are little bits like how Green draws Maxine’s hair that sells it for me.
That’s not to downplay the bulk of “Animal Man” #14, by Lemire and Pugh. It’s not a bad story, but rather there’s just that sense of inevitability that none of this will last. The team of characters that Animal Man’s teamed up with is an amusing mixture, and I like that we’re starting to get the some more hints on what Black Orchid’s status is in the re-launched DC Universe. It’s not bad, and that final page by Lemire and Pugh is a great one for both writing and art as cliffhangers go. Pugh’s smooth lines are a good match for Lemire’s script, although some of the big fight scenes feel a little more cluttered than they should be.
I must admit with this title in particular, I’m already eager to see what “Animal Man” will serve up post-“Rotworld.” It’s nice to know this story (which has built up since the series’ debut) is heading towards a conclusion. Even a slightly lacking issue of “Animal Man” is ultimately still worth reading.