There's always something fun about setting comic books in the future. There's an openness to the plot possibilities and a geekiness to the moments when you meet characters you know in their current phase. There is also a threat that someday it will be that future and if the aspects of the future offered up in that story don't ring true then the story itself either becomes silly or disposable -- sometimes both. After all, here we are in 2009 and I haven't seen any flying cars advertised on television yet. This story, set a mere twenty-five years from now gives the characters and creative team room to breathe and stretch their wings.
Those creators take some of the free reign and craft a tale about Animal Man and some apparent problems with his powers. Conway uses Animal Man/Buddy Baker to push the story along. This allows us to be as puzzled and ignorant as Buddy when his powers begin to show signs of unreliability. A conversation with Ellen (Buddy's wife) reveals some history we aren't privy to prior to opening the front cover. All in all, Conway writes characters as he always has -- with great aplomb. Not only does Conway make us feel like he's been writing Buddy Baker for a while, but he made me feel as though I could go back to the comic shop and find "The Adventures of Animal Man" -- covering Animal Man's career between "Countdown to Adventure" and this very issue.
The villain of the piece is seemingly dismissible, but Conway goes the extra step to solicit some interest from the reader by having the villain make bookend appearances in this issue. The last page leaves us wondering and hoping against hope alongside poor Buddy Baker, but honestly, after having his arm ripped off in the first issue of his Grant Morrison-penned series, do you truly think Buddy won't find a way out of this?
Chris Batista on the art side of things really makes this a book to savor. His page composition, character rendition, and use of the morphogenetic field (such as it is) are textbook examples of great comic art. At several points, his art carries almost as much polish and detail as Bolland's work on the cover. Batista is poised for great things, and this book is going to serve as testament to that. One little glitch does appear -- or rather doesn't appear -- in the art, and that's age lines and hair graying. Some twenty years flung into the future Buddy and Ellen should have some more smile lines and wrinkles, if not gray or going-gray hair. A minor quibble to be certain, but if the story is set down the timeline, the timeline should be applied.
This story doesn't quite feel like a near future tale any more than it does a current tale, save for the moderately accelerated technology and the levee in San Diego that serves as a major plot point. It does, however, read quite well, and would be approachable to any reader who may only know Buddy from his appearances in "52" or more recently in "Justice League of America.". Future tale or not, this is an enjoyable story, providing the aging fanbase with a relatable hero, going through some of life's more taxing changes.