The Last Days of Animal Man #2
Written by Gerry Conway
Pencils by Chris Batista
Inks by Dave Meikis
Cover Art by Brian Bolland
My comics tastes tend toward the offbeat and that’s what made me curious about The Last Days of Animal Man. It’s a pretty odd title and the Brian Bolland covers are really eye-popping.
The cover to Issue One has Animal Man and a pack of various animals running toward the reader, all as skeletons, which is a tribute to the first run of Animal Man in the same pose with the same animals. Issue Two has Animal Man suspended in midair as a Green Lantern whale keeps him aloft with a powerful green light beam. Bolland’s art has graced quite a number of Animal Man covers over the years and so it makes sense for him to be around for this six issue limited run. It also makes sense to have Gerry Conway killing off Animal Man since he’s the guy who killed off Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s famous first love. That alone makes it interesting to me but this isn’t the offbeat read I had expected.
Animal Man began with a few appearances in Strange Adventures in the ’60s and never took off until, twenty years later, Grant Morrison turned him into something cool and experimental. Buddy Baker was no longer just some guy who finds himself with super powers after a fateful encounter with an alien. With Morrison, the whole language of comics is explored with Buddy Baker speaking back to the reader as well as Morrison. Animal Man was offbeat and unconventional and found a home with Vertigo but, after being passed along to different writers, the trend has been to make Animal Man less weird and more a superhero which this current run conforms to.
It’s not a bad little story so far. It’s one of those fantasy segments with events twenty years or so into the future. Buddy Baker and his lovely wife, Ellen, still live in San Diego, which has undergone a rebirth after suffering a Katrina-like deadly storm. Buddy is starting to feel his age and is struggling with a mid-life crisis that only gets worse each time he’s called upon to use his super powers which continue to fail him. Ellen sells time shares instead of being an artist. The kids have left home. Life is a bit boring. Buddy and Ellen maintain a sunny California youthful look but that is little consolation. Not even Botox can smooth away the pain.
The domestic troubles seem more a hint at what Animal Man used to explore more fully in its heyday. Issue Two, with its Green Lantern tie-in, really makes no bones about the fact Animal Man is being marched out for review as a standard-issue superhero. The Green Lantern sequence is fun with the whale’s charming salutation, “Friend, of my friends.” The other workhorse in this issue goes back to Animal Man’s archrival, Mirror Master. Twenty years have passed, long enough for Mirror Master’s daughter to be all grown up and ready to kick some ass in her brand spanking new identity as Prismatik.
Towards the end of the issue, Animal Man finds a way to get his mojo back and, in a fight scene with the formidable Prismatik, is close to killng her until the Justice League descends upon him. Apparently, Superman, The Flash, Power Girl, and all the rest, need to have a talk with Animal Man. He is a standard-issue superhero and he better not forget that.