Saturday, August 18, 2012

CBR:Quickies Jamie Delano's Animal Man

Time for another run through Animal Man comic books!

With writer Jamie Delano, the life of Buddy Baker took a U-turn into the bizarre and straight horror.
Closer to Stephen King stories than anything else.

It also after a couple of issues that Animal Man left DC for their author-driven in-print Vertigo Comics.
DC was offering a lot of explorations of the medium and mature oriented comics under that banner, like Hellblazer: Constantine, Doom Patrol or also its flagship, Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

It was also rereleases of Grant Morrison's run as trade paperbacks that helped implement the brand in the market. So bringing A-Man under that banner was a no brainer at that point.

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

Jamie Delano arrived on the title on issue 51, he would stay on the series up until 29 issues later.
During his time on the book he started by picking up the pieces were Tom Veitch left it.
With him on the book he brought along Steve Pugh as regular artist - back from his guest-artist filler role in the past run.

The series quickly upgraded to a "suggested for mature readers"-label on the cover, meaning this was a much darker and serious Buddy.

Buddy Baker still lives with his family at the start of the book, Ellen, his wife, and Cliff and Maxine.
Poor Buddy, his life's never going right. Cursed since that day he got his powers, still struggling to keep his little family unit safe and sound from all the weirdness in heir lives.

And he went through a lot during this new run!
There's two-three principal arcs in this run - we'll get to that in a few below.

The first arc introduces us to The Red. The concept that sort of finally defines Buddy's connection to the animal kingdom (versus "The Green", the natural kingdom as explored by Grant Morrison on Swamp Thing, another DC/Vertigo title).
A much simpler to understand idea of the "animal totem" ideas that were thrown in the previous arc by Veitch and Dillon - albeit sans the shamans aspect.

As the book went more and more into horror-ecologist themes it slowly cut down its ties to the DC Universe (with just little mentions to it here and there).
Buddy also never went back to his costume/superhero persona (though he still add it, just never got the occasion to wear it again), then buddy became a more abstract figure, a true animal man.

Finally the final arc saw a sort of movement, the Life Power Church of Maxine. A sort of super environmentalist group founded by our hero.

Let's dig right into it!

Comic title: Animal Man #51
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

"Flesh and Blood", part 1: Roadkill!
The story picks up where it was left in Animal Man #52.
Cliff still is with his "weird" Uncle Dudley.
Back at Ellen's mom, Mary Frazier's farm, the Bakers are still living out there in Vermont.
Buddy more in tune with nature than ever. They're all quite reluctant to going back to San Diego.
But Ellen wish Cliff was with them.
They still have their little reborn Triceratops living with them on the farm.
Maxine has been having nightmares about Cliff lately.
The next day, Buddy puts on his costume and goes to the city to retrieve him... only to end up run over by Dudle himself!!!

Overall: First issue on the book and already, what a ride it is!
Great story, Delano got all the cast right on the bat.
Steve Pugh's art is simply brilliant! Very expressive, lot of "character" in the characters if you allow me the expression.
The story is pretty similar to Veitch in the start. (it's gonna diverge more and more over the next issues)
Great shocking cliffhanger, leaving you asking for more.
But, come on! Buddy died a lot of times already, no surprise he is going to come back once more. The question is how exactly...
Brian Bolland, regular cover artist, is still on board with this captivating piece that defines the new direction.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #52
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The Baker family is preparing for Cliff's homecoming. There couldn't be no problem, it should take no much effort for Buddy to bring him back...or...?
Winky the Triceratops is eating Cliff's cake when Ellen gets a serious call. There's been an accident.
Animal Man died!!?!

We left Buddy dying last ish, but the story isn't over for our hero not by far!
Buddy is seen coming back to life through the Red.
Living this strange experience, Buddy tries to make sense of it all.
IT seems he is riding back along the lifeforce that connects all the animals. Afraid to leave his family being, Buddy starts swimming back to the opposite side. Which starts to resurrect "his soul" slowly.
Meanwhile, Cliff still is with Dudley who started running away to a more desert place. (killing anyway that might pose a threat to him and "his boy")
Buddy's lost in limbo. It seems he is currently outside the morphogenetic field, what he dubs the lifeweb.
Buddy finally finds a way back to his deceased buddy.
...And arrives just in time to scare the bejesus out of everyone, Ellen included!
But the shock to realize he was declared deceased is enough to make him lost connection to his dead Buddy... but not before hanging to Ellen as a little flea on her hair!!

Overall: Strange. Weird. Odd.
Perfect tone for this new Animal Man!
The book slowly leaves superheroics behind as Buddy does the same to his old Buddy and superhero costume.
Great art, outstanding work from Pugh, but I wouldn't have it any less.
Poor Buddy, from one writer's hands into another's. He's as lost as the reader!
Loved the Watchmen-esque cover from Brian.

I give this one a: 2,5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #53
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

After the scare from the last issue, Ellen thinks its time to move on now that Buddy seems to be actually really dead for real.
But Buddy's spirit still hanging around animals and critters. Buddy ends up living through various nearby creatures' livecycles from one animal to another. Buddy is now trapped in the swamp near the farm. Dying and being absorbed to another creature's life essence. Etc.
Cliff is fishing for some food with Uncle Dudley. He's a hunter. Dudley is trying to model Cliff into the perfect little son he never had. He seems to be quite the crazy uncle of the family.
Dudley wants to make him look death in the eye. Admire and live by death. But Buddy always told Cliff "All life's sacred". Quite the opposite of Uncle Dudley's view. Dudley lies to him about his family not caring about him anymore.
Maxine doesn't believe all these talks about Buddy at the farm. She seems to be hearing Buddy through the Red, he's gotta find a way back, he's got to!!
It seems she still is connected to him through his powers.

Overall: Another strong issue. Love seeing Buddy bouncing around animals in the swamp. Poor Buddy...
The parts with Dudley are quite creepy! But they seem to be also the lest interesting ones to me. They just happen to have a crazy uncle that is the total opposite of Animal Man? A hunter, a killer, a sadistic death-craver?
Anyway, great issue. 'nuff said!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #54
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Cliff is trying his best to impress his Uncle Dudley and earn his respect. He brings him to a strange canyon where were filmed a lot of horror-sploitation flicks back in the 70s/80s. Dudley trying his best to change Cliff's outview of the world and nature.
Ellen is waken up by her mom trying to kill a bat Maxine brought home. "She's trying to kill my daddy." Grandma is getting tired of her crazy animal-lover of a grandchild. Buddy finds another lifeform and jumps from one form to another. Now he's closer to Ellen and Maxine than he's ever been these past days. As a cat Buddy is finally able to get back to Ellen, feel her, smell her. Of course this scares the hell outta Ellen. Buddy makes his way back to Winky, the Triceratops finally.
But now Buddy feels the call to the Red back. Winky is so far away from her family. The last of her kind, far away from home, from the others. Buddy gets carried along for the ride through sad memories of a distant past.
Buddy feels the call of wilderness. It's time to answer it. And leave it all behind.

Overall: A sort of sad issue. Very strong too.
It's great to have Winky behind used in the plot and brought up to the frontline.
I can't stop saying that, and I'm sure I'll be saying this a lot more times again, but..
Poor Buddy.
Loved this issue, from the art, the story to creepy cover.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #55
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Cliff is still living in the wilderness with his crazy (cannibal?) Uncle in that canyon. Eating raw meat, drinking blood. (!!)
"(...) time I took you to the underworld."
Meanwhile it's time for Ellen to really move on. Try to stop thinking about and remember Buddy. And finding back a job in the city. Suddenly a creepy memory of her childhood and the already-creepy Uncle Dudley makes her fear for Cliff. They got to bring him back! "Give me your first-born child". Was that just a game, a long time ago, or...?
Winky goes deep into the woods. Buddy riding along, his consciousness fused to her through the Red.
Dudley leaves Cliff in a cave, to survive, grow stronger and become a man like he is.
Buddy finds his way back home, for real this time. He remember what and how to be a man. A the cornerstone of the Red there it is, the "Tree of life" or at least how Buddy interprets it. Buddy rides along the evolution of the species. Winky dies. But not before leaving an egg behind.

Overall: My god, Cliff. What happened to your face on Brian Bolland's cover?! Besides the excellent mood from all the details and stuff, it's easily one of his weakest art-wise.
The story reads like a great Stephen King novel.
Will Buddy finally be back and things back to normal? On this book, really? That's just wishful thinking.
And meanwhile nobody gives much a damn' about Cliff... Awww...

I give this one a: 2..5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #56
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh, Scot Eaton & Graham Higgins
Format: Single issue

Double-sized special! (actually two distinct issues combined in one)
The egg hatches!
Buddy is reborn ...but as a man-best of sorts!?
Grandma Frazier thinks it's the devil.
IT seems either Buddy messed up his resurrection or he now is more than man. More Animal than Man. This new bestial form has the head of a tiger/cat, Bat-wings, furry limbs, insect elements.. Did Buddy drag along some of the animal proprieties from the animals he hijacked along?
Maxine isn't afraid of him though.
Ellen can't believe it nor accept it. When did things go this wrong?
She started smoking now that her life's an horror story...
And now that Buddy's back can't he at least remember his own son, his flesh and blood, and finally bring him back?!!
Buddy longs for Ellen's touch. Her body. Her scent...
Meanwhile poor Cliff is losing it in the dark, in the cave. The scary uncle Dudley his driving him crazy. Did he go crazier since he's been holding that "totem" around his neck?
Buddy finally tracks Cliff down back at the cave.
Dudley thinks he's finally seeing eye to eye with death itself.
The uncle is lost to the waters. Buddy gets Cliff back. Buddy and Ellen's original "lost love incarnate". Their child!

Buddy has finally brought Cliff home. Now it's time for him to also come back home.
Ellen can't accept this new form for Buddy. How can they bring him back legally now? He's officially dead, deceased, no more! They live in the real world, unlike Buddy...
She longs for his human form..Maxine finds Cliff's "totem". It has a limb, a finger, from Buddy's body, back when Uncle Dudley ran him over. A blueprint! He can come back!
Ellen tries to draw again, for her comic book artist job again.
Back in the Red, Buddy recreates himself.
Meanwhile Cliff's also been drawing. The adventures of The Kannibal Kid. A kid that was locked up with no food, no one around to help him. So he became cannibal and ate his own arm!
Cliff's now a more serious person, a kid no more from all his past experience! He and Ellen are now quite distant from all the craziness Maxine embraced so willingly.
Buddy is reborn once more, now as a man. He makes his way back to Ellen's warm embrace.
The book then closes on a meta-comic, Cliff's own Kannibal Kid story.

Overall: For the last DC Comics issue of Animal Man we have this double sized epic to close all the current remaining storylines and bring Buddy back finally!
A great issue.
Scot Eaton & Graham's weaker art on the second part brought back up thanks to the little Kannibal Kid comic in the end.
The issue ends up happily promising a weirder and stranger A-Man in the new Vertigo Comics gamily!

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #57
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Let me just say this: The Bakers go to the mall.
While Ellen finally goes to town to show her work around, Buddy and the kids takes this occasion to wander around. But Maxine gets them into trouble because of her wild love for all animals and little critters, Cliff's still the little rebel he was and Buddy just can't handle 'em both...
They go back home to the farm.
Cliff continues to narrate his stor.. Kannibal Kid's adventures.
Ellen is staying with a friend...and some dude tries to hit on hair while there!!

Overall: Animal Man's debut at Vertigo Comics!
First of all, I just love this covert from Brian Bolland, really eye-catchy. Also quite humorous, reminds me a tone the book had a long while ago.
Steve Pugh draws a very sexy and sensual Ellen this issue!
A funny little "break" or new beginnings if you will. But the ending seems to hint at problems to come...

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #58
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy longs for his wife!
The new Buddy just can't stay away from Ellen for long. Their connection to one another stronger than ever.
Ellen's friend's boyfriend tries to rape her. She kicks his balls and leaves.
But the streets aren't a welcome place for a young vibrant woman as Ellen. It offers a great terrifying contrast with the overwhelming nature of past issues.
Mankind's the most dangerous foe out there.
She gets robbed. Cops rough her up and try to arrest her for solicitation and assault on a police officer.
Her only friend ends up being a cellmate back at the police station.
What an horrible night...

Overall: Poor, poor Ellen...
Can't Delano and Pugh just let the Bakers alone for more than one issue?!
A very frightening issue. Poor Ellen mistreated at the hands of the new authors...
It ends up roughing her up and demeaning her but not without a cause. The distress felt by the reader along Ellen only strengthened our link to Buddy.
Also subtle allusion of the coming Animals Vs. Man-subject of the new arc...

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #59
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy can't seem to find Ellen anywhere, and he searched around for a while.
The day has succeeded to the awful night.
Buddy uses his Animal Man powers to search for her in the big city. But Ellen already made it out of the Police Station.
Buddy is trying to find her tracks back in the street and HE ends up also arrested by cops!
What a nightmare!
Ellen finds shelter thanks to a Lesbian front group. (for real!)
They're actually quite nice ladies. The only friendly faces she found thus far! There, she makes friend with Sarah, a lawyer, Kris, Tony, Selene and Myra.
"Nothing like the threat of extinction to force evolution.."
Ellen gets her new friends to help strike back at her friend's boyfriend. All without the help of Buddy or any man (or at least "man" for that matter).
Oh, yeah. And Buddy? In a cell.

Overall: This cover... just...
Anyway, it was a great issue though you gotta admit at first look those lesbian were sort of parodical in appearance. (but once you get to know them some more in later issues...)
It's great to see the book back being a sort of outlook and critique of our society, like in Grant Morrison's early issues.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #60
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy can't stay captured like he is anymore.. his animal instinct just can't take it no more..
Back at the farm the kids are back being, well, "kids". (as much as they can afford what with all they went through...)
Everything is back to normal.
Well, besides Buddy being absent. Again. But at least no Buddy home means no weirdness around anymore.
He's big enough to take care of himself.
Can he? Buddy is being dragged along around from one cell to another, they think he's crazy!!
Thanks to his powers, Buddy escapes.
He arrives back at the farm.
Naked, obviously. (you didn't expect something more "normal", did you?)
The family is reunited!

Overall: "The whole world was going over the edge".
Animal Man's life has changed them forever. It seems they can't return to civilization - if there is such a thing - anymore. That is why humans aren't part of the Red anymore. The whole specie as distanced itself from the world, made it an uncomfortable place.
A great ending to these past grim issues.
With a sting at Animal Man's costume, grandma made him a little surprise for his return home, a new (silly) costume! He looks like a complete dork. Enjoy it, you won't see it back any time soon...

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #61
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The pitch: The Bakers go to the beach!
Buddy and Ellen try to take some time off for them and the kids! They go on a little trip.
Buddy just can't take how humans pollute and disrespect the world around anymore!
Meanwhile on their destination, we are introduced to a certain Annie Cassidy, a recluse artist, and her daughter Lucy. Lucy seems to a have disease killing her slowly. That's why they live there, far away from everything.
Buddy and co. try to enjoy the sunny day and the water. But humans just can't stop themselves from destroying the world little by little? They find trash everywhere and worse(!).
The Bakers find Lucy and make friend with the girl. Cliff starts hanging with her.
Annie is having some dark thoughts. This world she hates...this world is responsible from killing Lucy! She might not be dead yet, but she's just as well be! To stop those thoughts she ran off to some refuge she found a long while back. Just to calm herself and appease her thoughts.
Animals start attacking Buddy, Ellen and Maxine! And Buddy is having headaches at the same time!
Dolphins?! Of all the creatures..

Overall: What a strange cover! Great art from Boland. The eye on the claw really makes it for me!
The new arc starts slowly, but strong already!
Quite mysterious. Had it taken place in the Maine it would have been a true Stephen King story!
Love it!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #62
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy seems to be having some troubles focusing his powers or connecting with the killer dolphins.
Back at the beach Cliff and Lucy are attacked by killer animals of their own, rabbits!
Lucy shows Cliff what her mom Annie's been working on, a wild painting with lots of critters doing gross stuff to people.
Annie immediately is inspired to add some dolphins, and why not some rabbits....
Ellen thinks it's Buddy's powers that have been affecting all the animals... is it?
The next day they are invited to their trailer. She tells them about Lucy's dad who died in a local industry accident. Also it seems no animals have come after Annie despite all the recent attacks.
Lucy suffers from leukemia. Contaminated because of all the pollution and all.
Buddy gets all angry against human race.
How can we change people?! Convince them to act otherwise?! Build a spaceship and run away? Attack them to shake their foundations?
Something is coming up...something ancient...deep..

Overall: That creepy rabbit!
Another great issue.
Nothing much to say really.
Great pacing, art, etc.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #63
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy ears a call...
From beyond the ocean...
He joins all the creatures and fishes...
The leviathan has awaken!
Annie runs away to her secret place... all these nightmares' she's having lately..
She needs peace..
Various animals start to attack the beach.
The storm rises.
Buddy goes deep, finds that drowned city from several issues ago again. On his way to...the focal point of it all!
The little group back at the beach find Annie. It seems it's a sort of chair/control that was at the heart of it all. But now it's too late, the ocean will rise and clean the earth!
Buddy is overpowered with the same fury as the animals.
They end up calming the waters and stopping the rise of this long forgotten monster beneath the dark waters.
Holidays' over!
Oh, and Annie and Lucy are coming back to the farm along.

Overall: What a fun little arc this way!
Not too scary-horror as you'd think.
The story only impact on the series would have been to introduce and bring along some more faces back to the Baker's.
Enjoy this cover though, that's Brian Bolland's last one as regular artist!
I'll miss him! -sigh-

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #64
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Will Simpson & Dan Steffan
Format: Single issue

This special issue is told from the point of Mary Frazier, the one that has been holding the Banker clan together these past issues.
She might seem to despise Buddy and always complain about the weirdness aound lately.
But you gotta understand, the old lady's been going through a lot lately. And she can't handle all this craziness as much these days.
"Now she has to worry about them all again."
She is afraid of the things to come.
She sees how Maxine's been withdrawing from people at school. How Cliff's left damaged following the stuff with Uncle Dudley. How Ellen might start to lose interest in Buddy for simpler love away from home. How in turn Buddy might do the same for the exact opposite.
Buddy's been having visions of bigger purpose lately. Like making an ark, like Noah, and cleanse the Earth once and for all! Arkadia. Heh. Catchy.
"You better watch it with the vision thing, though. You start visions, next thing you got a religion."

Overall: The kids get into trouble at school.
Maxine finally shows some Animal Man-esque powers of her own, reach through the Red and even brings back to life a dead raccoon!
It was a very strong filler issue. Even if the art felt a bit sketchy here and there.
And so for this issue we get someone called Brereton to fill-in for the cover - which was nice and all.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #65
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Will Simpson
Format: Single issue

Buddy and Ellen are out in the woods, enjoying the harmony with nature. Well, Buddy that is. Ellen's getting tired of the silent, but Buddy is perfectly in tune, in synch with all the animals around for miles!
Buddy tries to help Ellen fill the same. They end up having wild A-Man sex!
Meanwhile Cliff's a perfect gentleman around Lucy.
Some lesbian friends of Ellen come around the farm. Myra and Selene. They found Maxine, or rather, Maxine hiding in a tree smells them comin' (in a rather Animal Man-ysh fashion if you ask me).
Ellen is left perplex from their wild sex. It was...sort of hollow. No wonder, animals tend to reproduce for the good of the species, not really for fun. It was primitive. Empty.
Back at the farm grandma Frazier seems different about Buddy. There's something in the air. "God".
Buddy turns back and find a very strange man-animal looking at them.

Overall: Another fill-in artist this issue!
This is one of their weakest arc, not because it's confusing or anything really. Just.. Dull. 
Will Simpson did a nice job, sort of reminiscent of Chas Truog early issues.
The story was nice enough, it's not really an action-packed series anymore. There's much more dialogs and character development around instead.
But the issue ends up with the mysterious bigfoot-looking fella, which as intriguing as it is, once the mini-arc resolved it will sort of feel pointless...

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #66
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy follows the sasquatch-looking fella on foot, for days.
Is it an animal?
Grandma really believes it to be God. She saw him once as a kid, many years ago.
Ellen and Annie talks things through. She's sort of jealous of her connection to the lifeweb, it might bring her closer to Buddy than she is.
Buddy arrives where "they" meet. Ancient "folks", more connected to nature than man ever was. They lived on the fringe all these years. Always watching humanity from afar. They watched humanity fight for planetary supremacy..and the always fall back in ruins. Buddy shares some kinda experience with them. And then they just as well disappear right back where they came from, not leaving anything behind.
Was it all but a dream..?
Something happened though, Buddy powers have once more decupled. An evolutionary mutation.
Now Buddy seems to constantly be in touch with animals and nature. Always in tune with life all around him.
Oh, and his eyes seem to have kept the last mutation around. (big scary reptilian eyes)

Overall: It's not Bolland on the covers anymore, but I just love this entry from Tom Taggart! Very stricking!
And, yay, Steve Pugh back on the art!
A weak conclusion to this 2-parter mini-arc, but the ending brings the weirdness back!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man Annual #1 (1993)
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Russell Braun, Tom Sutton &Rafael Kayanan
Format: Single issue

"Now everyone's going to be mad with her. No one will like her anymore -
- except the animals. The animals are her very bestest friends."
This special issue is part of an on-going crossover called The Children's Crusade. It ran through various Vertigo titles. Doom Patrol, Constantine, etc.
Basically, it was an event amongst these mature titles, written and/or co-plotted by Neil Gaiman and Alisa Kwitney.  It concerned the various children who star in all these books.
Two ghost kids, Edwin and Charles from Sandman, were trying to find where various children disappeared to. Only to find out about a place called "Free Country", where these abducted children never grow up and away from adults to.

It all started back at Baker's camp. Maxine was annoying Cliff in the presence of Lucy.
He was killing a frog so she jumped at his throat.
Maxine's been getting awfully wild lately.
"She doesn't fit in anymore."
Maxine is getting pretty sad about how things are turning out these days.
At least the little wing can count on her daddy. He's just as strange as her!
Perhaps once they start working on their "ark"...
So she starts reaching out for all the animals of the alphabet!
One by one, in groups, different species arrive on the propriety. But, hush! It's a secret!
Also no killing other animals! They better follow her command or they'll answer to her!!
After a problem with a cop, Maxine is forced to rush in and save her daddy.
Soon everyone knows about the animals. Maxine doesn't think about any of the consequences. The authorities are now aware of all that ruckus in the Frazier propriety.
A Ray Dillinger from the D.B.E.C.E.S. (an eco department that has been keeping an eye and tracks of Buddy Baker since always) arrives on the scene. With all these weird unusual animal activities lately, they finally decided to get involved.
The Baker clan is ready for the retaliation.
They try the whole smoke and mirrors thing..but then it all falls down! Buddy attacks, now half-animal by using wings to fly (unlike how the powers worked originally).
Maxine finds the animals killing amongst themselves!
Then the shooting starts, all the creatures getting shot at!
Why, oh, why.. It was starting so well..
Maxine runs off..finds a strange rabbit-guy in the woods, Jack Rabbit. She follows him down the hole. They leave a fake-Maxine behind so the family won't be alone without her around.
But the dogs attack... The fake is severely hurted..
The Bakers are under shock...their little girl...poor little wing..

Overall: Glad to have Bolland back, even if for only one issue!
It was a great action-filled special issue!
Of course it ties into the event, but you're not missing much if you only stay on Animal Man's side of the tale. You'll follow Buddy and the family and not the "real" Maxine who was off to the pages of the rest of The Children's Crusade story.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #67
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The hollow fake duplicate of Maxine is acting all weird, terrifying the family.
She behaves all wrong.
Oh and Buddy still can't get his eyes back to normal.
Cliff on the other hands seems to start the day on the right foot! It's...that day! THE special day! Anyone?! No one remembers, or...? What with Maxine taking all the attention to herself these days...sheesh...
"Even Lucy... shit, they're gonna pay for this."
Cliff tires to sneak up on Buddy..big mistake!
And runs to town to get some diapers for Maxine (you know, all wrong, imperfect, causing trouble.. she needs those, believe you me!)
Cliff has an accident there, Deputy Dan Patterson brings him to his place to help him out.
You see his wife Evelyn got some mysterious powers of her own!
She heals his leg right back up!
They got to bring Evelyn to the farm, perhaps she can cure Maxine as well!!
You know, it's Cliff birthday and all!

Overall: What a creepy and disturbing cover by Tom Taggart!
Right back on track, it's another issue full of character drama.
And simply fun!
Nice issue all around.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #68
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The gang is preparing Cliff's birthday party.
Buddy catches Maxine back while coming back home with his present for his son (a guitar!).
Cliff arrives with the Deputy and his wife.
But Evelyn's got some problems trying to cure Maxine..something's...wrong..?
Cliff befriends the Deputy quickly! He plays a mean guitar!
Evelyn stays at the farm while Dan goes back on the job. Something about someone not paying at a gas station...
Evelyn tries to cure Maxine, they form a circle..but it backfires! At least Lucy is cured though!
Dan is killed by the person he was arresting. Evelyn decides to stay at the farm. "God works in mysterious ways!"

Overall: Another strong issue!
Poor want away too soon...
Oh well...

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #69
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

It all started in the morning, while it was snowing heavily.
Ellen sees fake!Maxine running away. She doesn't call her back...
Buddy runs after her immediately.
Buddy changes into a bear and goes on the hunt for his daughter with the help of Cliff.
They find her little body...but it's already too late!

Overall: Whoah!
We all know it's not the real Maxine and all. But that is a sad ending and a very sad issue overall.
What's going on.
Can this family just catch a break?!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #70
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The story opens on a very sad note.
Our little community (Grandma Frazier and the Bakers, Evelyn, Annie and Lucy) is attending the little funeral for Maxine in the backyard, near a totem they built for her.
Maxine was the only thing really keeping Ellen with Buddy. All this weirdness. All their troubles.. It's too much. Too much. She needs to get some off time. To think. Will she come back? Maybe. She's not sure at the moment...
Buddy can't take it. He goes to take some recomfort with Annie...and both end up sharing quite a strange and primitive experience...
Just after Maxine's funeral? Really?
When Buddy wakes up, he feels different. "Like I could plan a murder or start a religion." So that is it, heh?
In the end, Cliff ears some rattling by the tree and it's... Maxine!! Digging back her way up from Free Country!!

Overall: "Jim Morrison complex, huh?"
And so the new and finale storyline is suggested in a little exchange between Buddy and Annie.
Despite the fun mood the issue lefts off (Cliff scared of Maxine being a zombie or something~) I'm not a big fan of this issue.
Everyone's acting a bit off. Ellen afterall they went through just decides to leave Buddy?!
Buddy cheats on her just as soon as she leaves? All this the same day they thought they buried Maxine!?
So...lazy..writing.. I dunno...
At least the art's great. Love of big panels, a great look at everyone, etc.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #71
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Russell Braun & Tom Sutton
Format: Single issue

It seems Buddy has finally gone over the edge!
Buddy has changed into a sort of real Animal-Man creature. (that's the way I like to call it, notice the "hyphen")
This Animal-Man attacks Washington. These humans will know. They're the ones responsible for all his problems. With the animals. With Maxine's death. Everything! It's them!!
Meanwhile back at the farm Maxine is trying to adjust back to her life. They thought she was dead??
Back in the city Buddy is calling for all the animals through the Red. Birds start to attack people and the landmarks. Rats are running havoc in the street.
At the Sisters without Mercy, Ellen and her friends are watching this over on TV.
What is Buddy doing, screwing with the government... This will be his fifteen minutes of glory, before...
The TV interviews him, Buddy explains how this is it. War. The animals won't take it anymore. Time to be proactive and rid the world of the pestilence that is man.
The family call Buddy on the phone, he finds out Maxine's still alive... Which makes he doesn't have it in him to cleanse the Earth from humans anymore... and that's when the government attack. Ray Dillinger?

Overall: Introducing "Animal-Man" Buddy, live on BNN! (I just love this cover!)
Great issue, the plot finally moves forward again.
I know it's not everyone's taste. But I dig this Animal Man-esque form. Foreshadowed a long ago when he resurrected that first time back in issue #56.
Great story. I miss having Ellen around, stop running away all the time Ellen! My real complaint with Delano's run is how weaker he turned Ellen over his run.
I missed Pugh on the art this issue, but at least the fill-in penciller and inker did a nice job and kept the quality on top.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #72
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Buddy has been captured by the government!
Ellen's friend Sarah Wise is his lawyer.
Buddy has finally opened his eyes. There's no turning back! It's time to seize the future! It's time for the animals to free the world from humans!
Back at the home Ellen is reunited with her daughter Maxine. Why did things turn that bad? She only wanted the world to be a better place... Can't things go back to before?
Cliff is entertaining the news-reporters outside. Things turn out people wanna see Maxine and are calling her the "little Miss Miracle". She was dead and now she's back?! She can communicate with animals through the "lifeweb"?
Buddy is finally back to the farm, with Maxine.
Since the writer don't exactly know what to do with Ellen, she leaves again. She don't know who Maxine is anymore, or what Buddy is now. Her time's off isn't over just yet.
The Red is dead, humans are killing it since they set apart from it and the animals. It's time to fight back. Since Buddy and Maxine are celebrities they should make use of their newfound popularities. Turning them Maxine into a sort Messiah and Buddy into her high priest/Animal magic shaman.
That's right!
They are going to move forward with their idea of an Ark. Only now they are going to create a religion.
"The life-power Church of Maxine".

Overall: Mark Chiarello did a fantastic job on this cover! Stunning! The Animal-Man Buddy looks intriguing and great.
Some hate the way the story evolved into this life-porter Church of Maxine, but I find it only natural, a progression of how things were aiming to, anyways.
A great issue. Fun. Original.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #73
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Ellen is staying with her friend Sarah.
They're catching Buddy and Maxine on TV.
They're trying to make the Church of Maxine known with some prime time on the air.
Buddy tries to convince them with words, humans have soiled the Earth, the Red is fighting back, we have to change, embrace the change or die.
Nobody cares much. He tries to scare them by connecting everyone to the Red for a while.
In the end, it's Maxine's voice and words that seem to appeal to the audience.
They might have something after all...

Overall: A very fun issue! A little break before things go craaaa-zier!
Great art, lots of expressive faces and all.
Chiarello did another gorgeous work on the cover here.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #74
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

"Better RED than Dead"
A sort of musical issue in a comic book!
The story follows a kid who run away from home, put a fire to his dad's car while listening to a new song written as an anthem for the Church of Maxine.
Various people have been showing up at the Frazier's farm lately.
The movement is taking shape.
"Nothing like a good tune to get the troops marching".
People are finally listening to the Animal Man!
That kid we met earlier is named Tod. On his way up to the farm he mets this girl Rachel. Or at least that's who she was before, people are taking new names. Now she's Turtle! It's the dreams Animal-Man's been sending everyone through the Red.
Tod left his awful home behind. His mom left many years ago. And his dad was always awful to him. In Tod's dream he was locust, eating through New Jersey with other locust-mates. So that's how he shall be now, Locust.
Evelyn and grandma Frazier are taking care of all the incoming letters, donations, etc.
Maxine is sharing experiences with the Red in the campfire.
Ellen is feeling excluded from it all. But that was her decision to run off. Now she feels apart from her family.
They have a concert with the band Year Zero.
Oh, and Tod's dad coming to Vermont. Armed with a shotgun!!

Overall: Pretty well done, well executed idea! You'd think a music number couldn't work on paper, without sound. But it just does.
Nice issue. The Church-thingie is taking shape nicely.
Who'd a thought Buddy would one day create his own religion, huh?!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #75
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

Similar to last issue, the issue starts following someone on her way up to the farm. A girl.
She beats up a preacher in the street accusing her of following the devil.
The Red Plague is marching through town!
That's the name given to Animal-Man, his fellow Church of Maxine-disciples, and all the animals he got running along the march. Oh, and that girl I mentioned? It's Ray Dillinger trying to infiltrate the group!
Ellen feels she was part of all that craziness and shoulda stayed part of it. Without her it might turn out wrong... Ellen got some mail for her.
Another Kannibal Kid (and Undead Girl) comic from Cliff!
Cliff tells her the current happenings in the form of one of his awesome little comics.
The Red Plague is moving through the States! Lots of kids, lots of Animals, destroying everything to shake our society!
Tod's father is hot on the tracks of Buddy and co. Armed. And seemingly dangerous.
Ray Dillinger is renamed Manta Ray within the group. Now she's closer to Buddy than she's ever been. Finally.

Overall: Another fine issue.
The whole crazy project is moving forward!
Hopefully this will change human's minds, won't it?

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #76
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The US Military are trying to quarantine this dangerous groupuscule.
Another Kannibal Kid comic tells how an encounter with people turned out bad, lots of animals, and people, killed.
Ellen just can't take it anymore. She needs to be a part of that. Something bad might be happening right 'round the corner...
Manta Ray takes a little break with Maxine. Ray finds out Maxine's just as powerful, and dangerous, as Buddy!
Could she kill a child for her country? It could all be over so quick!
Tod's dead closing in the group now. He's catching up to the Red Plague!
Ray is ambushed in the cornfield, some dudes try to rape her.
Tod's dad Jack saves her and asks her to take her to Animal-Man!!....

Overall: A particularly dark and serious issue.
Besides the awesome Kannibal Kid comic at the start.
But wouldn't Ray kick those hillbillies ass, she's a trained soldier, she shouldn't be that defenseless...

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #77
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Peter Snejbjerg
Format: Single issue

Annie is trying to tell Buddy she's pregnant...with no luck.
Jack arrives at the campfire with a fun!
He hits Tod. They have a dispute..that is until Animal-Man arrives on the scene!
It all turns out badly, Cliff is shot on the ass. ("The Kannibal Kid can't get shot in the ass!")
Ellen tried to make it work with her friend Sarah..but she's just not lesbian... It's time to go back home.
They need to bring Cliff to some outside help.
Maxine calms everyone down as usual.

Overall: Peter Snejbjerg took over for the art on this issue..and you wouldn't almost notice it!
A sort of calm before the storm-sort of issue.
Liked it though.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #78
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

The group has almost arrived to the Promised Land, up North were they'll settle camp for real. To build up a new world a some territory they bought.
Show the world how you establish a real society in harmony with the lifeweb.
The animals will show them the way.
Meanwhile Grandma Frazier is already there, with the band Year Zero. New disciples are already arriving at the destination. It's only a matter of time before the Animal-Man and co arrive.
Which he does, only with Cliff only, suffering from fever. Evelyn help him out.
Ray is ready to take care of Buddy, she's armed with a dangerous weapon that will rid the world of this "Red Plague" once and for all.
Ellen just misses him.
Buddy wanted to stop, to embrace Ellen, but The Animal Man didn't let him do so.
Love has no place or time in the great scheme of things.
Buddy defied death several times already. He thought he was in control of his life, manipulating nature to always come back. But who is in control now?
The lifeweb?
The Red?
Can he take a way out of all these things now? Is there any hope for a return to simpler times?
Everything is just going bigger and wilder.
Suddenly, Ray tries to kill Buddy...but without luck. He's just more than man now, with his super-reflexes and animal powers.
Buddy sees an opportunity there.
With the Red, they were going in circles, spiraling outta control. Perhaps if Buddy dies again...?

Overall: Buddy sees a way our of all this mess!
Making a true Messiah out of him!
He only has to die once more!
What a great full circle to the story. That's how it started, that's how things will go back to normal!
Though it's kinda sad to see this Red Plague storyline sort of tossed away. But Delano and Pugh weren't given any much room to close it over more time.
(not even a finale double-sized issue, Vertigo, really?

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #79
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Steve Pugh
Format: Single issue

This is it!
The big finale!

Everyone is reunited at the Promised Land for a big concert! The Red Plague traveled through the US of A, making aware of their presence!
They have power. They have presence. And they have a message for generations to come.
Ellen has another confrontation with Annie. Annie feels responsible for the way things turned out. Like she was the catalyst that ruined the family.
Everyone's succumbing to the Red.
Dancing. Singing. Mating (!).
Maxine has a message for everyone.
The Animal-Man will be coming down in a while. He's got a very important message for everyone. Very very sad. But wonderful as well.
This Promised Land is for people to start anew. In harmony with nature. No place for trouble here. He wants people to respect animals there, "grow food, have babies, make art and stuff".
Buddy is going to offer his body to the Red.
The music starts.
People lose their mind. Things blur.
People howl.
And Buddy goes endure is new mutation. The animals start to feed on him.
Buddy dies once more.
The End.

Overall: What a finale! What a ...
Well actually it was kinda weird. Like it was a whole sequence from the last issue stretched over this new one. Was the original planned ending much longer? They cut it short and improvised an ending?
Anyway, decent end, but kinda a let down. I mean Buddy went through far worse. You sort of know he's coming back.
This is it?
Doesn't seem like much.
Why would it stop the Red Plague? Or even conserve the Promised Land around for others?
Nice but...I dunno.. a let down too.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that's that. Wheeeeew!
That was a lot of issues to review! (I originally planned to cut this in half)

A decent run. It explored the directions left open by the previous team. And then went on its own way.
You can say they probably sort of lost control of those characters at some point, but overall it was nice.

Some strange points, you might also disagree with the whole Church-thingie.
But I liked the bestial Animal-Man.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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