The last issue of Animal Man saw the conclusion to the Rotworld storyline, and the death of Buddy Baker’s son, Cliff. It was an excellent issue all-round, and the perfect conclusion to a storyline that had its ups and downs. This issue is the aftermath of the storyline, and the funeral for Cliff. While definitely not a good starting point, this issue is pretty much perfect in terms of quality.
The emotional impact is felt throughout Buddy’s family. Buddy’s wife is in despair, Maxine (their daughter and future avatar of the red) is in denial, and Buddy is simply angry. It’s a great range of emotional responses that help make this comic feel real. The funeral in particular is almost hard to get through because of how dramatic it is. There’s also a surprise toward the end regarding Animal Man’s precise relations with the Totems, and we learn who is really in control.
The art is also very well done. At times, the art portrays each character’s emotions better than the writing does. There is also a lot of environmental detail that also adds to the storytelling. The establishing panel in the cemetery is complete with tombstones in both the foreground and the background. The scene where Buddy storms the Totem’s lair is filled with an incredible amount of detail. The art and the writing fit together perfectly.
The only thing that worries me is the potential split between Buddy and his wife, since the family aspect of this series is one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed Animal Man so far. It was one of the few comics on the market that showed a family with a superhero could work. What makes that worse is that this is technically still the first storyline for the entire series, and it only took one storyline to both split up a couple and kill a kid.
In a way, it’s a shame that this didn’t happen earlier in the series. The fact that Animal Man 18 released the week after Damien Wayne died seems to have harmed that issue’s reception (judging by the few comments I’ve read around the internet), because this issue deals with the pain of loss better than any of last month’s Batman books that I read. The potential split between Buddy and his wife also feel organic, especially since the seeds were planted before Rotworld began.
If you’ve been reading Animal Man from the start, this is an important issue. Whether you like the potential new direction or not, this comic handles Cliff’s funeral perfectly. As good as the comic is though, the direction it might be leading towards is a bit worrying. I’m not sure if I’ll continue reading this series from here on, but I’ll at least give it a few more issues.