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March 24, 2005

{     Animal Man - Grant Morrison     }    

Before he rescued the JLA and the X-Men from banality or created the post-modern (quasi)super-team The Invisibles, Grant Morrison flexed his writerly muscle penning the first 26 issues of Animal Man for DC Comics. This was back in 1988, and the comics world was just beginning to deal with the impact and creative fallout of Alan Moore's work on The Watchmen, as the industry found itself struggling to cater to a more mature, self-aware and intelligent readership. Morrison proved himself to be worthy of the challenge, crafting one of the most cerebral yet entertaining story arcs in comic book history, utilizing an obscure hero from DC Comic's past- the all but forgotten Animal Man. At first glance, Animal Man is a rather two-dimensional character; he's got the traditionally alliterative secret identity (Buddy Baker), cheap gimmicky powers, a completely shallow origin story, a brightly-colored spandex uniform and a ridiculous Rogue's Gallery of animal-themed arch-enemies (including the deliciously silly Mod Gorilla Boss). Instead of "reinventing" Animal Man, Morrison chose to leave this dated history intact, and to insert the character into the present day. As issue #1 opens, we find Buddy Baker leading a fairly normal suburbanized existence. He's no longer officially a superhero, but works as a Hollywood stuntman, using his powers to eke out a middle-class living for his wife and kids. Things don't stay normal for very long, however. Buddy soon finds himself at the center of some shockingly bizarre and inexplicable acts of violence, and facing a rather profound moral dilemma. As he begins to sort things out, Buddy is drawn deeper and deeper into a line of quetioning that has him doubting not only his strange powers, the course of his life and his role in the world, but his very existence as well. This all builds to what is perhaps the most meta-fictional moment ever to grace the page of a comic book and some of the most fascinatingly surreal plot twists this side of Kurt Vonnegut. I don't want to keep dropping hints here, and it's really impossible to talk about this much further without giving things away. If you're a fan of post-modern comics or meta-fictional literature in general, you owe it to yourself to investigate a little further. Thankfully, the entire 26 issue Morrison run has been reprinted in 3 graphic novel compilations with intros by a handful of wiseasses who knew how good this shit was even way back when. Amazon has them all priced to move at around 14 bucks each, and if you snag all three you can get them shipped for free.

     » Animal Man (Book 1)
     » Origin of the Species (Book 2)
     » Deus Ex Machina (Book 3)

By Adam in Reading


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