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Animal Man Mini-Update

I said last night that I read the first Animal Man collection. I was wrong, but I no longer am. After posting, I realized I’d actually read the second collection. I have some excuses, that I was exhausted, that I ignore issue numbers for no good reason except to convince myself that comics aren’t fetish objects, that I just was too excited to pay attention. Whatever it was, in retrospect I think I made the right decision.

Starting Origin of the Species, I was amazed to find how complex it was, how the story picked up in midstream, and I loved it. I had no trouble figuring out who people were, and there was plenty of exposition. Well, I didn’t always know the origins of the various characters, but that’s always the case when moving into a new series. I got a sense of who they were and followed along happily. So here were reality-bending aliens and flashbacks and fragmented reality. Then I opened the self-titled trade a few hours later and found a much more straightforward story, which at first I thought was just an elaborate alternate reality (and maybe it is). Eventually I figured out my mistake and made it through both books, so I’m caught up to where I should be. I think my reading benefited from my confusion, though, from being tossed into the story of a character who’s coming apart, who doesn’t know what’s happened or what’s real.

Animal Man Vol. 1 is interesting in that it’s sort of the opposite of everything I talked about last night. Well, at least Buddy is aware that there’s a formula he’s conforming to, that he knows what a superhero is and wants to be one. He has some delusions of grandeur, and his wife, Ellen, is a remarkably consistent voice of reason. Reason doesn’t work so well when reality is shifting, and her perceptions seem less accurate in the second book, or at least less in conformance with reality. But impetuous, idealistic Buddy just wants to be a hero AND do the right thing, which sometimes means he doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions. Ellen loves him because of and in spite of this. And in her role as almost a single mother and the family wagearner, she has as much power and responsibility without the animal benefits. The interplay and role reversals between these two characters are some of the most moving scenes I’ve ever read. I know their story won’t end fully happily, that it can’t, but I want to see where it goes anyway, and I’ll appreciate it.

I’m going to wait until Steven has had a chance to read the books before talking about one of my “pet” topics, if that’s even the right term, the Snake in the Garden sequence in book one. Expect more on Ellen and men with guns and kittens and Maxine sometime after the weekend.