“Animal Man” #24 has series author Jeff Lemire joined by “American Vampire” artist Rafael Albuquerque, and for everyone who’s been missing the latter’s work since that series went on hiatus, I probably don’t need to say anything else to get you to pick up this issue. For everyone else, though, “Animal Man” #24 feels like another good installment in a fairly dependable series, as Lemire and Albuquerque continue to mix all the aspects of Buddy Baker’s life as Animal Man.
In other hands, Brother Blood attacking the Hollywood Screen Awards might feel a little trite or cliche. What makes “Animal Man” #24 work is that in no small part, Lemire’s always kept sights of Buddy Baker’s personal life being just as important as his superhero identity. His work as a stuntman and actor is integrated into the series, along with his family. Honestly, I suspect that more people will be concerned this issue about what’s happening to his daughter Maxine than they will be with Brother Blood’s attack. They’re all critical to the book, though, and being able to dip between Animal Man’s fight, Maxine’s struggle inside the Red, Ellen Baker’s worrying about Maxine, and Brother Blood’s rise to power keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace. It’s fun, and the idea of bringing this old Teen Titans villain into the “Animal Man” pantheon fits in perfectly with the concept of the Red that powers the Bakers.
Albuquerque’s art looks just great here. The cluster of the Totems in the Red look wonderfully monstrous and strange, even as the equally inhuman Shepherd comes across gentle and welcoming as he holds Maxine in the crook of his arm. The best is how well Albuquerque lays out his pages, though. When Buddy and Ellen embrace, he’s got half of a page to play with in that moment. Instead of a tight zoom-in, though, Albuquerque proverbially pans back, letting us not just see both of their bodies, but their shadows playing off the background. It’s a distinctive and clever frame for them to be in, like they’re suddenly the only people in the world. Add in some off-putting and creepy manifestations of the Red at the awards ceremony, and Albuquerque is fitting in just fine.
While I’ll be eagerly awaiting Albuquerque’s return to “American Vampire” next year (and Lemire sneaks in a fun reference to said comic here), him teaming up with Lemire in the meantime feels like a great usage of his talents. Lemire and Albuquerque work well together, and this is a good way to pick up the pace now that the hiatus due to Villains’ Month at DC Comics is over. Welcome back, “Animal Man.”