ANIMAL MAN #29
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman and Jeff Lemire
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: March 19, 2014
In the aftermath of Buddy Baker’s successful retaking of the Red and defeat of Brother Blood, all that’s left is to wrap up the loose ends, settle some debts, and tuck everyone in for a dream-filled night.
Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman join forces, both creatively and in the strictest sense of the art page, for this special last issue featuring pencils from both gentlemen — Foreman handling the here and now of Buddy’s resolution with the Red and his family, and Lemire illustrating the bedtime story told from one young hero to her father. The division of labor works well precisely because of Foreman’s exceptional talent for shifting from the fantastic to the banal in a single issue, and Lemire’s dreamy folk style that radiates innocence and threat at once. The latter is truly what made the finale of his creator-owned title Sweet Tooth so moving — those heartbreaking eyes looking out from page, filled with hope, pain, and wanting all at once. More than anything, this is the image of Maxine I will take away from this volume: a little girl, barrette holding back her hair, wishing the best for her brother, even if it doesn’t mean being among the living.
Story-wise, Animal Man #29 isn’t nearly as rich as Sweet Tooth #40, no matter how gorgeous its interior pages. But I’m not sure that’s the worst thing in the world, given Buddy’s immediate move over to another title debuting in May from Lemire. It’s a sad issue in many ways, not simply because it is the last, but because ultimately, there’s not much of a happy ending for the Bakers. And to some degree, that’s what has separated Animal Man from its Dark or Justice League compatriots — the difficulty remaining in normalcy for someone who lives an abnormal life. We expect our heroes to overcome all obstacles, but the death of a child isn’t so easily gotten past. And this title doesn’t gloss over that, no matter how strong Buddy and his family is.
This may be the final issue of this series, but it’s certainly not an ending, and there’s a great deal of comfort to be found in that thought. Animal Man has, for nearly three years, been one of the best examples of how DC used its new launch as a way to take chances — and prosper from them. As a creative endeavor, this title has been a proud addition to DC’s history. But more importantly, as a story of one man and the love he has for his family, it’s been a joy to read every month. Rest in peace, Cliffy, and sleep tight, Animal Man. Until we meet again.
The Verdict: 8.5/10