Taking a moment to catch our breath from the story of the Hunters Three, their service to the Rot, and their relentless pursuit of Buddy Baker and his family, this issue of “Animal Man” delves deeper into Buddy’s life when he’s not Animal Man.
The pre-relaunch (or pretty much pre-everything) Animal Man was a stuntman in the movie industry, so it isn’t that far of a stretch to presume that at some point he would have had a role in a film or two. The first seventeen pages of this issue examine that film. “Tights” stars Buddy Baker as Chas Grant, a deadbeat divorcee, struggling father of one and wannabe superhero known as Red Thunder. Eagle-eyed, long-term fans of the character will catch a nice nod to previous creators throughout the course of this story, which adds charm to the “film” as we view it through this issue.
Jeff Lemire uses the film to give the reader a chance to breathe after the frenetic pacing of the first five issues of this series. He also sets it up as a potential metaphor for Buddy and a strong indication of Buddy’s own relationship with his family. Lemire’s story of Chas Grant is entertaining in its own right and, given the setting in this issue, certainly seems like it could lead to more adventures of the Red Thunder. I certainly hope so, especially if John Paul Leon returns to illustrate those adventures.
Leon’s work is just different enough from Travel Foreman’s art to clearly delineate when the movie ends in this issue and when “real life” picks back up. Leon’s heavier lines and starker shadows make the movie feel big and powerful, and it doesn’t take much imagination to hear the projector wheels cranking this film along.
“Animal Man” under Lemire continues to be an impressive, fun read. At a time when so many familial relationships in comics have been cast aside, it’s rewarding to see a man trying to balance his duty to the greater good with that to his family. Lemire doesn’t make the decisions easy for Buddy Baker, and that, in turn makes this comic a solid read. Like Morrison before him, Lemire has found ways to provide a deeper, more impactful story that strays off the beaten path, challenging and entertaining the reader at the same time. This is a nice interlude from the Rot story. Lemire doesn’t just completely ignore that tale, though, and that makes this issue all the more engaging.