Animal Man gets his second annual comic and Jeff Lemire delivers in a big way.
Buddy Baker is enduring the heart wrenching effects of losing a child. His first child and only son Cliff was murdered by the Rot during the fallout of Rotworld. This leads him into a downward spiral that thrusts Animal Man into despair. Although conquering the Rot and restoring faith in the Red as well as the Green, Buddy is struggling to find a reason to get up and stand for the very things he believes in.
Animal Man Annual #2 takes place before the events of Animal Man #21 and harkens back to Buddy’s turmoil. It’s a flashback comic that brings about Buddy’s first encounter with the Spider Queen. She isn’t so much a villain as she is a misunderstood and frightened beast. The Spider Queen feeds off of dreams and memories of her ‘food’. Naturally she captures Cliff, Animal Man’s son, and makes a feast of his thoughts. I can’t say anything further without going into spoilers but it develops in a very memorable way.
Jeff Lemire’s writing in this comic displays how dynamic he can be. He is able to bring action, intrigue and most importantly sorrow into each panel of this issue. It is comparable to the Batman & Robin title that was devoid of dialogue. If the dialogue doesn’t get you, the imagery will, and you will be left with either chills or tears by the end of Animal Man Annual #2.
It is incredibly hard not to feel for Buddy’s loss and his crippling response to it. We are given an incredible treat from both Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman in this issue and their synergy pours through every page.
Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh have worked hand in hand during the New 52 run on Animal Man; they have traded places in inks, pencils, and overall artwork. This strategy of rotation leaves us with a very steady and consistent transition through each comic and it grants a natural flow of artistry through the series. The art style of Animal Man is very different from the other DC titles and it remains one of the staples of the series.
The release of the annual amidst a run that just hit its cliffhanger ruins the pacing of the Animal Man series, even if it is only momentary. Usually these instances tend to way the series down, however; Animal Man Annual #2 doesn’t fall into most negatives that we are used to in accordance with annual issues. It may bother readers that we are essentially taking a step back to a time before the events of Animal Man #21 but the result is so satisfyingly tragic that it completely shadows over any negatives, far albeit from this comic.
Animal Man Annual #2 is a must-read, even for non Animal Man fans. This could be one of the best one-shots Jeff Lemire has ever conceived and it is a testament of not only his writing but also the style and artwork of Travel Foreman. This issue is absolutely heartbreaking and it will flesh out even the hardiest of latent emotions from the reader.