Animal Man #28 – “Evolve Or Die! Part 2”
Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Rafael Albuquerque
Buddy Baker fights for his family as he makes his final stand against the mad Totem of The Red and his protégé, Brother Blood.
Animal Man has always been a book about family. The Bakers have gone through so much since the book debuted with the New 52– everything from struggling to provide a normal upbringing for their kids, the horrors of The Rot, the celebrity of Hollywood’s red carpet, to coping with the loss of a child. Buddy Baker is a family man first and foremost, and writer Jeff Lemire gets that. Animal Man #28 is the conclusion to several storylines running throughout this series.
Over the course of the series, Buddy fought with the Parliament of Limbs about his role in The Red, his daughter Maxine’s destiny as their Avatar, and the toll that takes on the Baker family. Buddy has always tried to keep The Red as far away from his family and out of their lives as much as possible. Animal Man #28 sees Buddy finally separating his family from the Parliament of Limbs by defeating the last, evil Totem. This gives Buddy, and the reader, a good sense of closure now that those forces are gone. Brother Blood is the embodiment of all the power and potential The Red has to offer. By defeating Brother Blood, Buddy is able to separate himself from the influence of The Red. He is his own man and his life will not be dictated by others. It is a liberating moment for Buddy Baker.
At the heart of Animal Man #28 is Buddy’s effort to protect his family. After searching for Maxine and unable to get to The Red, Buddy finally makes it to her only to find she can fend for herself pretty well—she is Animal Girl after all. Now that Buddy is reunited with Ellen and Maxine is safe, the Bakers are able to feel like a family again and mourn the loss of Cliff together. Lemire’s writing deftly balanced the superhero side of Animal Man with the story of Buddy’s family. Thanks to Lemire, Buddy Baker is a relatable Everyman trying to keep his family together while dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Rafael Albuquerque’s art is always excellent. Albuquerque expertly pulls off the huge action sequences between Animal Man, the Totem, and Brother Blood, while also giving heart and depth to the emotional beats of the story. There are only four humans in this book (five if you include the one panel in which Ellen’s attorney shows up) and yet every character, human and non-human alike, looks just as believable as the next. His facial expressions and body language express the range of emotions the Bakers experience, like anger, fear, sadness, surprise, and relief. Albuquerque also captures the horror of Animal Man really well too—the deranged figures of the Splinterfolk and the weird supernatural Totems in The Red look particularly creepy.
There aren’t many flaws in this issue at all. If anything, there are several questions raised in this issue that readers must wait to get an answer. Did Brother Blood die, or did the animal-men of The Red simply capture him? Does Maxine still have her powers, or did she pass them all off to Shepherd? Without the Parliament of Limbs around, who will lead The Red? What about Hogue and his fellow Splinterfolk, last seen defeated in The Red? Lastly, what happens when The Bridgewalker summons Animal Man back into space? That question, and hopefully more, will surely be answered in the remaining two issues of this series before Jeff Lemire takes Animal Man to the pages of Justice League United!
Animal Man #28 is an excellent conclusion to the battle between The Red and the Baker family. Buddy is the hero we all want to be—an ordinary man trying to protect his family under extraordinary circumstances. Between the otherworldly action sequences and the heartfelt emotional moments of a family trying to heal together, Lemire and Albuquerque make a fantastic team of storytellers.
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