ANIMAL MAN #18
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Steve Pugh
Release Date: March 6, 2013
The epilogue to an arc that started alllllllll the way back in 2011 with issue #1. The last 17 months, and issues, have had their fair share of ups and downs, but issue 18 looks to wrap up the longest DC arc in the New 52 and lay the groundwork for the series moving forward.
Animal Man #18 picks up right where Animal Man #17 and Swamp Thing #17 leave off in the Rotworld. I had a tough time buying into the ending of the Rotworld arc (Actually, I had a tough time with most of the Rotworld arc, but that’s a story for another time), and the beginning brought back all of those memories. He’s gets out though. Buddy Baker finally gets away from all of that and gets his title back. Literally the page Animal Man enters back into the real world, the title does a complete 180. Everything about the book improves immensely in quality. The internal narrative becomes meaningful and heartfelt, characters show their depth, and the book matters again. The final showdown that takes up mostly the whole book is full of suspense and excitement. Maxine, Buddy’s young daughter, takes center stage in the conflict. Her dynamic with Buddy was sorely missed from the latter half of the storyline, and her scene with Socks the Cat brought the whole title together perfectly. Animal Man was finally brought back to its roots as a title in issue #18 and the payoff was well worth it.
That’s what made the Rotworld arc towards the end so frustrating. Animal Man works beautifully as a book focused on Buddy and his family. To take that aspect away for so long and replace the horror with action, they essentially ripped the heart out of the series. Even when I talk about the series or write reviews, I struggle to refer to Buddy Baker as Animal Man. He’s not a super hero, but a dad and husband first. It’s what defines the character and with such a long delay from seeing that, all those emotions and strong traits of the first year of stories comes rushing back quickly when he is reunited with his family. Lemire is at his best with the series when they are grounded in ‘reality’ and hopefully we see more of it in the future of this title.
I loved the look of the art. There was a ‘classic’ feeling to the pages, with clean open panels showcasing the characters. In a few panels, the animals Buddy channeled would show up as a silhouette in the sky. It was a small detail, but still a wonderful visual and made each panel interesting. The only disappointment with ending this storyline is Steve Pugh may not be drawing these monsters and creatures of The Rot anymore.
‘This is the most tragic day in the life of Buddy Baker’ is an appropriate tagline for the issue. Issue #18 completely changes the status quo of the characters and is especially devastating. With how the issue ended and the general tone, Animal Man is back as one my most anticipated DC Comics.