Sunday, July 22, 2012

CBR:Quickies Peter Milligan's Animal Man

The end of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man was far from being the end of adventures of Buddy Baker.
After that our hero lived on all the way through issue 89!

The first author to pick-up the pieces was Peter Milligan, who followed upon what was previously established, much on the same tone and keeping artist Chas Truog on-board.

The on-going adventures of Animal Man continue in what some call "Volume 2" of his main series, the chapter of his life I like to dub "Animal Man vol. 4: Weird Worlds and Pizza"

Don't miss out my previous Animal Man-related reviews!

If Morrison's Animal Man had a sort of meta-David Lynch-ysh flavour, I'd say this one's closer to the crazyness and unfinished feel of a David Fincher (think Alien3) in more than one way.

Peter Milligan wrote this 6-issue story-arc which continued the bizarre tone and further exploration of the medium through the adventures of Buddy.
He was supposed to stay on board, as one can see through the column page at the end of the earlier issues but was cut short due to some reason (sales? misunderstanding? editor move?).
As such the story seems to run short at mid-point, make a complete turn back, run into a wall and bring the things to a close end quickly.

In brief:
A-Man and his family are back.
Our hero continues to make use of his animalistic powers given to him by those mysterious yellow-faced aliens as seen in the previous stories.
This time he would face some surreal villains and heroes, question himself and his own identity - with a notch of quantum physics exploration thrown around.

Comic title: Animal Man #27
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chas Truog & Mark Farmer
Format: Single issue

"This is more than a dream. This is a replay, this is a flashback."
Buddy awakes in an Hospital after some nightmares of a jungle and predators hunting prey. Possibly after his encounter with "the creator" (see previous story for that!)
But when Buddy woke up things seem to be "out of place", details seem unfamiliar. Did something happen while he was away?
Ellen for one seems to behave and look drastically different. Or are his memories a bit shaken up?
And things only got weirder once he found an entire jungle in his very own bathroom... What is going on here really?
Even his animal powers seem to act out of pace, barely controlling them. Things are really getting out of hand.
Buddy sniffs around moreso than usual, lets his senses carry him around, pisses on the front lawn...
The issue ends on sort of a big cliffhanger that will shock fans of Morrison's vegan Animal Man...

Overall: Woah. What a bang for a start!
I'm glad the artist Chas Truog stayed on board, it makes this transition all more smoother.
Because content wise it's a whole lot more confusing than Grant Morrison's episodic meta/adventures.
We're as lost as Buddy. Did the end of the previous run happen or not? Did things change due to his interaction with an "higher power"?
The new tone is more mysterious, seems to thrown various plot threads around...will Pete Milligan visit and explore them all in his 6-issues trip?

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #28
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chas Truog & Mark Farmer
Format: Single issue

A-Man just ate an horse on live TV!!!
While things seemed to be getting really out of hand.. it was only starting to get worse for Buddy!
Back home, Buddy finds Ellen cheatting on him with some guy named Mike.
And if that wasn't enough, a "Nowhere Man" gets his hands - or should I say, part of his hands' molecules - on him. He appears to be some kinda molecularly displaced freak that works for the CIA. They require his help and since Buddy doesn't seem to be an active superhero at the moment, nor working as a stuntman anymore...
Oh, and there still appears to be a portail that leads to a mysterious place/jungle in the Baker's bathroom. But it's barely the end of the troubles for Buddy who gets attacked by The Front Page - what his name says really - and The Notional Man - an invisible ghost that hardly exists in our plane of existence.

Overall: I really like the odd places this book his going into. But I really feel like this is just to attempt to turn Animal Man into a sub-Doom Patrol. The non-sense floating around, the bizarre creature men, half-newspaper/half-man or that unstable molecular-man...
Nowhere Man's got a pretty strange speech pattern, which sort of makes sense in the story. I didn't had much problem with it, but it does take some getting used to!
We feel cheated of the actual Grant Morrison I'd say.
It's very engaging and interesting, but the book lost his "Baker family living together and staying united against all odds"-feel. New more twisted tone, less of his character. I like the direction but I think we losed something in the bargain.
Oh and nobody can like the way Ellen Baker is portrayed here. So out of character. (though it does come full-circle in the end~)

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #29
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Steve Dillon
Format: Single issue

Buddy is still trying to get an hang on what is going around exactly.
The last issue left him and his molecularly displaced buddy (ha!) on a suspenseful note.
Buddy seem to be unable to restrain his more, let's say, beastly temper.
Our hero just can't take a break...even though he really needs one!
His wife Ellen has a court order against Buddy, so instead of letting things calm down for a while, he goes to school and take off with Cliff and Maxine!
Meanwhile, Notional Man is getting dangerously close, tracking them around the country.
And his hallucinations of monkey-men and jungles seem to be real if the kids can see 'em too.
After a confrontation with the mysterious ghost, Buddy goes into a church - even though he's not really a religious guy himself - only to be suddenly interrupted by a dead Animal Man body falling from the sky!!

Overall: "But you're not my daddy." Maxine seems to hint and know about a bigger picture going on.
This is when DC probably canned and cut down Milligan's arc, so things seem to accelerate the pace.
Thus the guest artist in this issue - Steve Dillon (Marvel Knight's Punisher and The Atom Special amongst others) even though this is not a "filler issue". Dillon does a great job. Though I think his initial Buddy Baker is a bit off. He would later go on to draw more of the character, but that is for another day...
Nice issue, picking up the story. Still very intriguing if still confusing.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #30
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chas Truog & Mark Farmer
Format: Single issue

Buddy finds himself in the middle of an apes/multiple-Animal Man nightmare..but was it only hallucinations or is there more than meets the eye going on around...?
After some more mind troubles, he gets to meet a certain Jones and Kinnock working for the CIA's special superhero division. They finally get to explain to him the heart of the problem here and what his mission actually is.
Buddy must work with Nowhere Man to stop a bunch of super powered kids wrecking havoc around the country. Called The Angel Mob, they're the ones responsible for his hallucinations. Those kids seem to have great telepathic and psychic abilities. Mostly of his visions seem to be due to Lucinda. Her and her brothers Mark and Matthew might attack the president. Buddy must apprehend these vision makers.
Buddy discovers that some more things than just his wife Ellen seem to be "off". Like changes from the way things should be. Plotholes, if you will. Like Batman being apparently "out of action" in this world, because of the Angel Mob as well. Is this some kinda alternate timeline...?
Later, Buddy finally enters the bathroom-jungle only to find an Ape-man stuck in some way, some messages left for him in the trees, but barely escapes from there alive. It seems to be a gateway to prehistoric times...
During the mission, Buddy is killed in action...

Overall: Very striking cover by series regular cover artist Brian Bolland I must say.
The story gets refined, cleared out and explained to us.
Seems like a clearer "work for the government, catch the bad guys" routine. I think some plotthreads got simplified and joined into this new story, now with an ending clearly marked ahead.
It still feels like an inferior Doom Patrol rather than A-Man's own book, who still appears so little and like us continues to struggle in the middle of this confusing world.
It actually is some sort of fake alternate world/dimension, so weird things get sort of explained that way.
Will our hero survive into the next issue? I hope so! There's still about 60 issues ahead!!!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #31
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chas Truog & Mark Farmer
Format: Single issue

Life goes on...
Lucinda's really angry with her brothers. They killed Buddy!! She loved Buddy!!
Meanwhile Nowhere Man gets a new partner, The Green Cigarette! (need I explain this one? naaa!~)
But Nowhere finds out Buddy really is alive, trapped in the "jungle-bathroom dimension". His bathroom seems to contain a portal to the past, a convergence point which can lead into several dimensions. Our A-Man has actually seen other Buddies come and go, the one that died wasn't "our own", but another version of him really. He had to bid his time and wait for Nowhere to come around to open the door from the correct place.
Animal Man is able to save the President, contact the kids to make a deal...but gets them arrested his will!!
Next: Schrödinger's pizza!

Overall: Another nice issue. Nothing crazy. Things gets explained some more, even if there's a sense of total confusion, since Buddy knows now more than us.
We are know getting things the same as Nowhere Man, which what with his very odd speech-pattern and disconnected sentences makes for a very off-putting main character.
The story seem to be about a mixed point of time to which various alternate versions of the world seem be connected to.
But we do get to have a nice little cameo of Freedom Beast!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #32
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chas Truog
Format: Single issue

Animal Man finally gets around explaining Nowhere Man (and us) his connection to the strange mysterious primitive monkey men he keeps seeing around.

In the future, people opened a door into time, to our distant human ancestors. These "apemen" were the infamous  missing link. But the exploration went wrong and one of those apes got trapped in the time portal.
This ancestor was linked to Buddy through his condition and connection to the morphogenetic field, thus linking a portal to his bathroom, it also explains his mental projection.
Buddy then proceeds to explain all these Buddies kept coming up to that jungle and all these universe connecting each other from that point in time.
It all comes down to Schrödinger's cat. It's a theory a scientist came up with to explain a little problem of quantum mechanics. It says, if you admit nothing is real until observed like light particles or waves, both possibilities need coexist figuratively. He illustrated this absurd theory with the image of a box containing an hypothetical cat and radioactive material. Various versions of what we might observe coexist until we've opened the box to clarify the solution.
In our story, this boils down to the "many worlds theory".
Imagine here that both universes might exist same as the cat in the box above. Only in our story, these worlds keep on splitting into various versions of reality as you proceed with different choices. The bathroom is continuing to split the world into various universes and they're all superposing themselves from this point in time, and starting to cross over a little more by the minute.

Anyway, Buddy needs to go back to the starting point, he's been in the wrong universe all along.
The many worlds theory means that each time he would die he'd "reboot" in yet another reality.
He needs to break loop (him waking up in the Hospital on issue #27).
Buddy is too late to save the psychic kids, but gets Lucinda to help him anyway. She implements a memory trigger. Once Buddy kills himself in the jungle-bathroom, reboots finally back into his correct timeline (the regular DC Universe).

Overall: The story took an unexpected scifi turn.
It does conveniently explain everything, making more sense than any of the past issues. But it takes such a U-turn from the bizarre/unreal shenanigans of past issues.
Things "make sense", but it's way to convenient and delves into scientifico-psycho-babble that seem out of place, rather than Morrison's more esoteric tales.
The issue does get a shining send-off, it does feature some of the best art Chas Truog has done in his carrier. Great artwork, love it. It is sad to see him go, this is the last time he would draw Animal Man (thus far).
By the way, this cover? One of my all time favorites from Bolland! Eye-catching and impressive. 
I do wonder how the original plotline would have turned out, had Milligan's run been longer, allowed to grow or go into different directions. 
Pretty convenient ending, unexpected science fiction, with emphasis on the science.
I liked it, but it wasn't that good if you go back to earlier issues and see how things diverged quickly out of rails.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

And that is it!
Peter Milligan's Animal Man!
It doesn't go anywhere really, seems pretty filler.
All of this crazy storyline, these new bizarre characters and situations only to retcon and clarify the situation post-Grant Morrison. That something big happened to Buddy lately. Something out-of-this-world, which ended with Buddy lost in time and space, but he's come back by the end of it.

There's a general sense of confusion and a "rushed" feeling. This had the means to be bigger, more daring and play around with the characters/perceptions of the universe.
But in the end? Just a filler.

I can understand DC Comics decided NOT to collect it into TPB (as I write those lines), but they need to stop at Morrison, they could have skipped this arc and reprint the follow-up stories.

Anyway, very confusing, weird, nothing happens really besides "Buddy meets some new strange fellows, comes back to his family, nothing happened".

That's all for this time's Quickies!


  1. Thanks for this review. Personally I love this arc, and disagree that it feels rushed; remember, Milligan cut his teeth on the pages of 2000AD (like may British writers) and had experience in telling a lot of story in relatively short space. He didn't intend to stay on Animal Man for long, as he was working on other titles (Shade, Batman) at the time.

    And actually, just the other week Vertigo announced a fourth Vertigo trade, collecting Milligan and the early Veitch issues. It's out early next year.

    Cool drawing of the characters, BTW.

    1. More Animal Man TPBs were finally announced!?! Finally!
      It's about time!

      Though I'd have preferred if they kept Milligan separated from Veitch's run...

      But I still think Milligan's arc a bit of a mess. His past works have nothing to do with this one. It falls short from just being a more messy and rushed Doom Patrol. Like he wasn't able to do his own thing but had to follow Morrison by writing something similar.