Max begins reading the second Animal Man trade, Animal Man: Origin of the Species where the nature of Animal Man’s powers are called into question, and Animal Man teams with another, similarly powered hero, Vixen!
Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of DC & other comics! Join Max each week every Friday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to email@example.com or feel free to comment in the comments section below. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.
I was able to start the second Animal Man trade, Origin of the Species but when I pulled it off my shelf the yesterday, I discovered it was water damaged! This was pretty distressing as I don’t remember getting any water on the book or it being damaged the last time I re-shelved it, but luckily it was Super-Fly to the rescue, as they had an untarnished copy of Animal Man Origin of the Species which turned out to be the only Animal Man book they had in stock at the time! So I picked it up, wanting to have a nice copy for my collection. I usually give doubles of stuff away, but I don’t really want to give anyone a water damaged book. Plus, I now realize I have a book I can read in the bath safely and guilt free without worries of damaging it as it’s already screwed. I used to read comics in the bath all the time, not caring of their future value, something I regret now as many of my old DCs and Marvels are now in horrible shape. I’ve broken the habit except when reading throwaway books that I’ve rescued from Super-Fly or received on Free Comic Book Day, so I’m hoping I have an opportunity to read Origin of the Species in the bath too.
Of course, I’ve been reading the new copy for now and keeping that book as far away from any water as possible. The stories pick up shortly after where the stories in the self titled first volume, Animal Man left off. Buddy Baker AKA Animal Man is still having problems with his powers following the Gene Bomb of Invasion. Granted, he’s still able to fly and harness animal abilities, but never the ones he’s trying to access. Then there’s a look back at Buddy’s origins as Animal Man. Flash forward to the present and despite his power problems and concerns about them, Buddy is really embracing his super hero career, but what’s more, he’s getting into being an animal rights activist and helping other non-super animal rights activists out.
Early on in the book, Buddy helps out a group of fox hunter saboteurs in England. This is shown by fox hunters closing in on a fox. Simultaneously, there are scenes depicting the former Justice Leaguer, Vixen, being pursued by something in quite a similar manner to that of the fox and in this transposing of scenes both Vixen and the fox get away just in the nick of time. Buddy poses for pictures with the fox hunt saboteurs who are star struck, while Vixen ventures to the Baker home.
When Buddy returns from England, he finds Vixen waiting for him. Vixen, is also the African born international fashion model Marie Macabe and her powers are very similar to Buddy’s Animal Man powers (so similar that the two have never served on the Justice League simultaneously) but derive from something called the Tantu Totem—whereas Buddy’s powers occurred when he was caught in an explosion of an alien spacecraft.
Things start to get crazy. A Native American doctor named Highwater, who was introduced briefly in the first book, visits Arkham Asylum where he runs into Mad Hatter and visits the Psycho Pirate who both mutter some interesting bits of madness that might just make sense to an avid comic book reader. Their mutterings point Highwater to Animal Man. Meanwhile, memories of Animal Man’s origins seem to unravel, as they are being examined far away by the aliens who supposedly gave Buddy his powers. Then, back at the Bakers’, before Vixen can explain what has been coming after her the Baker household comes under attack by monsters—seemingly the same that were pursuing Vixen before—and Animal Man is undone, layer by layer, from skin to bones. Confused yet? I was a little, and the issue ends with the aliens popping up promising to solve everything. O-kay.
The next issue begins with the aliens trying to work with Buddy’s Animal Man origin, but it’s falling apart and becoming confused. Buddy is still alive, but nowhere at the same time. Then it cuts to Vixen, who is somehow in Africa. Suddenly, Animal Man pops back into being beside her, wearing a slightly altered costume. Neither know what is going on, except that the aliens are the cause of their predicament. Since both are super-heroes, they take this in stride. The good news is that Animal Man’s powers work normally again. They seek shelter and build a fire, and eat some food; Vixen has meat, while vegetarian Buddy has a banana. This is a great scene, as Buddy accidentally adsorbs some ape abilities, one of them being non-verbal communication, so as he watches Vixen eat, he becomes incredibly turned on by the way she rips food, the way juice drips done her breast bone, and so on… “I’m a married man, not an ape!” Buddy mentally protests. Luckily, trouble finds them and disrupts Buddy’s lecherous thoughts.
The form of the trouble is an immortal ape man called Hamed Ali and his own animal-powered sidekick Tabu. They are digging up something the locals are very nervous about, and Hamed Ali, knowing Vixen and Animal Man are super heroes, suspects they mean to stop him. He plans to kill them, and nearly succeeds, but Animal Man uses some very clever maneuvering and use of his powers to get free (I really can’t bring myself to spoil it, but it’s damned clever). The rest of the story involves the aliens becoming involved, with Animal Man having to revise and resolve his origin for himself and his reality to survive while Vixen fights for her life—several times over in fact. Everything gets neatly wrapped up, but it becomes plain to see that Morrison is playing with concepts on continuity, what makes a comic book a comic book, and what kind of reality can comic book characters really have? I can see (and know already a bit) that these questions will take center stage in the remainder of Morrison’s run on Animal Man. It’s amazing though very hard for me to relate: you should definitely read this stuff yourself.
The issue ends with Animal Man and Vixen a little confused at what happened, but happy it’s over. Next issue (or chapter, since I am reading it in a book) promises more B’wana Beast. Yay! I started trying to explain my excitement for B’wana Beast to my friend Loren yesterday, but he was not very impressed. I mean, the character is pretty goofy (especially as portrayed in the cartoons he has been seen in), but the way he was portrayed in Animal Man by Morrison makes him exciting to me, and even kind of creepy. My B’wana Beast action figure is on the way, but I fear he won’t arrive soon enough for me to add him to the Library before my wife and I leave on a weeklong visit to her homeland of Canada to visit her family. We’re leaving tomorrow, but I plan to be working on the blog while I’m gone: doing reading, writing, hopefully scanning some art, brushing up on my web skills… I really have a lot to do!
I think I’d better get packing. We’ve got a long trip tomorrow and my wife isn’t going to be happy if I spend all night writing about comic books!