The third installment of “Rotworld: the Red Kingdom” by Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh and Timothy Green II in “Animal Man” #15 is filled with all sorts of comic books cliches from talking gorillas to superheroic red herrings and a truly surprising cliffhanger ending. The gorillas attack Animal Man and his crew on the first page and events just get more entertaining from there.
Frankenstein makes an appearance in “Animal Man” #15, which is especially rewarding for fans of Lemire’s work with that character. As Animal Man and his newfound allies Black Orchid, Steel and Beast Boy are engaged in battle with the denizens of New Gorilla City, Frankenstein’s Patchwork Army literally serves as the cavalry, turning tides and elevating the story. Between the characters already alongside Buddy Baker and this appearance by Frankenstein (solidifying his appearance in the “Rotworld” crossover, this comic book serves up an excellent sampler of Lemire’s work in the DC Universe, combining characters that he either has written or is currently writing in other titles. In addition to those characters, the gorillas offer Lemire a chance to have as much fun with the other toys in the DC toybox as he has with Rotlings. Among those toys are Monsieur Mallah and Brain, two characters that originate from Doom Patrol lore, a concept Lemire has professed much love for. Lemire keeps Buddy Baker human throughout, and even empowers Buddy to lead his fellow warriors, even to the point of inspiring Frankenstein in battle.
Timothy Green II is joined by fellow color corps member, inker Joseph Silver, for the visuals of a quartet of pages that feature an encounter between Maxine and William Arcane. Green’s work is cleaner and more stylized than previous offerings in recent issue of “Animal Man.” The composition of those pages is more open and the characters more cartoony, but in the context of conversation between the two children that style is well-suited. Steve Pugh’s heavier, more realistic (or as realistic as one can get drawing Rotlings, Un-Men, the Patchwork Legion and talking gorillas) work adds gravity to the dreadful trek across the country, truly feeding the divide in space and time between the parallel narratives Lemire is delivering in “Rotworld: the Red Kingdom.”
There are only a couple issues left of the Rotworld saga and to this point in the story, Lemire has kept me guessing. Some of the surprises are welcome, others are simply surprising, but this adventure has been anything other than predictable. “Animal Man” #15 offers a little bit of everything any good comic book story needs from character development to action to plot twists. Furthermore, this issue delivers some significant developments for Rotworld and continues to further the development of Buddy Baker.