As every fan of this title knows, Buddy Baker isn’t just Animal Man, defender of the Red Kingdom, he’s also an actor and popular movie star. What fans have yet to see much of, however, are any of the movies Baker has appeared in. Until now. Hot off the heels of the Rotworld conclusion and Buddy’s banishment from The Red, writer Jeff Lemire decided it was time to take a breather from the action and horror of Animal Man, and instead penned almost an entire issue showcasing Buddy’s movie, “Tights.” Did it pay off? Well…sort of.
Lemire’s decision to have an issue based almost entirely off of Buddy’s movie was a risky one. After the stunning conclusion to last month’s issue there has been a great deal of anticipation among fans who want to see where the story will go next. As an individual story, this issue is phenomenal. However, the mounting tension from last month’s issue and the anticipation it has created somehow left me with a disappointed feeling by the time I had reached the end.
The story revolves around Chaz Grant, Buddy’s character in “Tights.” In the film, Chaz is a divorced, down on his luck guy who decides to become a superhero. After a video of him saving someone goes viral, however, Chaz is thrown into the world of reality TV and advertising endorsements, and quickly becomes a Hollywood celebrity rather than a symbol of justice. In terms of writing, this issue marks a return to form for Jeff Lemire. As Rotworld came to a conclusion earlier this year, I couldn’t help but feel that somehow the writing quality had diminished from what it was at the beginning of Lemire’s run. This is no longer the case. After the hard-hitting emotional conflict presented in last month’s issue, it appeared as though Lemire was finally getting back into the swing of things, and this issue continues to drive home that point. The story in “Tights” wasn’t particularly interesting on its own, but when compared to Buddy’s life outside of the film, it takes on a new light altogether. Chaz’s struggle with the inescapable media actually relates very closely to Buddy’s forced service to the Red, and these responsibilities and struggles have very similar effects on their families. The issue concludes with Buddy alone in his apartment, again mourning the death of his son, when he receives a call that he has been nominated for an academy award for his portrayal of Chaz in “Tights.”
Even better than the writing was the art. Stepping in for regular artist Steve Pugh, Static writer John Paul Leon gives this issue a style that works incredibly well, especially considering the format through which the story is told. Seeing as this issue is focused on Buddy’s movie, it makes sense that the art style used would be characteristically different from that used to depict Buddy’s own life. Leon’s art is of a simple, less detailed nature, using hard edges and shadows to convey the emotional tone of each scene. It’s also worth noting that after the movie ends and Buddy turns of his TV, the art changes drastically, with Timothy Green II stepping in to give the portion of the story that takes place in reality a different feel compared to that of the movie.
Despite the quality of the writing and art this month, I left this issue feeling slightly disappointed. While I admire what Lemire was doing with this issue and understand that he was using it to set up Buddy’s Academy Award nomination in next month’s issue, I was really hoping that we would get to see a continuation of Buddy’s story after he was left abandoned by the Red in the desert. It may seem like an insignificant complaint, but a great deal of anticipation has built up as we wait to find out what happens next, and I can’t help but feel a little disappointed knowing that I’ll have to wait another month to see where Buddy goes next after his confrontation with the Red.
This week presented a return to form for Lemire, and his story based on Buddy’s superhero movie proved to be an interesting juxtaposition to Buddy’s life off screen, and provided some strong emotional scenes with the help of guest artist John Paul Leon. Unfortunately, putting this story right after the cliff hanger from last month put a break on the suspense and prevented the issue from achieving true greatness.