Rating: 4/5 –A battle for control of the Red with the Baker family in the middle.
In July of 2013 DC Comics released the news that talented artist Rafael Albuquerque would be joining the creative team of Animal Man during his hiatus from American Vampire. The book, since the start of the new 52, has been penned by Jeff Lemire and seen artists Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh handling the majority of art duties throughout the series. Issue 24, Albuquerque’s first, begins the two part story arc – Hollywood Babylon.
The Splinter Series arc lead into issues #24 and 25 and sees Buddy Baker trapped and Baker’s daughter Maxine travelling to the Red to find her brother Cliff. Issue 24 picks up from there with a battle between the totems for control of the Red. Brother Blood has gained considerable power and is positioning himself to take over the mantle of Avatar of the Red from Maxine. The book is clearly heading for a showdown of epic proportions that readers will have to wait for.
Even though this is a book about Animal Man, one of the strongest elements of the series and this issue specifically is the emotional ties and tension amongst the Baker family. That tension culminates in the reunion between Buddy and Ellen that is spectacularly illustrated by Albeuquerque and provides for a wonderful moment in the issue. It is moments like this that exemplify one of Lemire’s strengths that has been evident throughout his career in works such as Lost Dogs, the Essex County Trilogy and Sweet Tooth.
Issue 25 is more action-centric with Buddy and Ellen taking on Brother Blood’s army and ends with a crazy cliffhanger that leaves readers guessing about the direction of the next several issues. One of the consistent parts of the series since it began that Albuquerque continues in issues 24 and 25 is the solid penciling of all the organic matter within the Animal Man universe as well as the creatures, oddities and monsters. The creatures, some more grotesque than others, found in the book really stretch the imagination and all the artists on the series have done a great job bringing those beings to life. Albuquerque is no stranger to blood (for those familiar with his work in American Vampire) and his style, with a pulp sensibility, seems right at home in Animal Man.
I felt that the series hit a lull with the Rot World crossover event but seems much more focused and streamlined in recent issues. Lemire has brought the Baker family front and center again and it seems to be paying off as the last several issues have been some of the best in an already strong series. Lemire’s ability to pull the reader into the emotional struggles of the characters supported by stellar art from Albuquerque are a powerful creative combination. The Hollywood Babylon story arc is short but lays the foundation for what seems to be a wild ride for Buddy leading to the impending battle over the Red.
Issues 24 and 25 are a great jumping on point for those not reading Animal Man and just another example why the book is one of the bright spots to come out of the New 52 from DC.
Reviewed by: Jeff Bouchard – firstname.lastname@example.org
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