Saturday, August 25, 2012

CBR:Quickies Jerry Prosser's Animal Man

This is it! Here's the end of the original Animal Man series!

For the end of the series, a new writer came on board, Jerry Prosser.
Mostly known for his work at Dark Horse Comics. He worked on a lot of horror and mature titles, from Aliens to Predator, Crow, Bram Stoker's Burial of the Rats, etc.
So you'd expect he would be a good fit to follow-up on Delano, right?

But instead of on following on those thematics he went back to more surreal plots like in Vol. 3 of Grant Morrison's and back to the whole Shamanic aspect of Animal Man from Tom Veitch.

The story went up on a bizarre note..
But let's pick this up from the start.

What I like to dub: "Animal Man: Dreams of a Shaman"!

Don't miss out my previous Animal Man-related reviews!
In which Buddy is reimagined as a sort of young Alan Moore figure, and learns he has to survive, adapt, evolve or die...

Picking up from issue 80 to 89!

This oh-so short run of Jerry Prosser tagged him along artist Fred Harper.
The feel was a bit surreal all the way through the end.
It wanted itself a sequel to Delano's run but since it was cut short in the middle of it, things were improvised and kicked to the curb in the middle of the story.
The book was given a sort of brief ending "this is only the beginning" new hope for the future-sort of resolution.
But felt so...forced.

Anyway, this arc features a re-re-rereborn Buddy. With full long white hair, back to incarnating a shamanistic figure like he was supposed to (remember, those Native Americans way back in Veitch's run?).

The series then got canceled at the 89th issue, due to poor sales mostly!

Comic title: Animal Man #80
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

The story opens with Buddy Baker waking up from The Red.
He's back in his old home?
And he sees Mr. Cow coming up to him, his old dog that died when he was ten?? And Mr. Cow talks now?? What is going on exactly?
(A distinctively odd incarnation of) his mom comes into his bedroom.
Back in his old room, as he remembers it from his childhood.
"It's been decided to give you one last chance. But you've got to make it work this time."
Turns out Buddy is actually dead. Again.
His body can't support it, humans aren't meant to be reborn again and again. This is just a sort of vision he's been living through The Red, his connection to Animals/the life.
Buddy rebuilds himself in The Red through his memories and all he's been through. We see a glimpse of Ellen. Those humanoid apes from the previous run. The giant deepsea monster. Maxine. Cliff.
Then...nothing. He didn't make it just yet. Another vision, composed from some more childhood memories. Back to Mr. Cow. Buddy's father's death when he was 18.
Buddy wants to go back to the way things were, the simpler times. But Buddy's afraid of what he will be getting himself into again.
Buddy sees the Yellow Aliens again, The Travelers who grafted him into the Morphogenetic Field. There's a visual representation of the Red behind them.
More memories. Will it be different this time?
Buddy sees a representation of the opposite of The Red, a sort of sharp mechanical spider following him.
Still trapped in his memories. Buddy is afraid of having to "die again" in order to be reborn.
Buddy stays in this little fiction before going to bed...

Overall: What an eerie cover from Rick Berry for this new start!
This first issue starts nicely, even if you might need to go through it twice in order to fully get it.
This first arc explores the new iteration of the morphogenetic field/the red from the new authors' perspective.
It is actually quite reminiscent of Peter Milligan's parallel universe story.
I do feel it would have been best to bring him back by the end of the issue instead of stretching it for longer than that.
Besides that, it's a nice new feel and tone for the series.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #81
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

"Shaman's Return"
Somewhere in Africa, a mysterious spaceship appears. A strange red light scare the animals around. It is Death. A strange mechanical spider from outer space!
It attacks and kills several animals while Baboons keep an eye on it from afar.
Meanwhile in Montana, The Life-power Church of Maxine lives on!
Maxine is getting ready to air on national TV.
People are still getting the dreams from the Red. Thinking of being animals at night.
A Doctor Varma comes around. He's been studying the proprieties of the Red and helping out/hanging with the Bakers.
He gets to talk about the evolution of our consciousness and how The Red's been helping analyze and explore that. Buddy Baker found a doorway into the animal consciousness thanks to his powers. And there's worlds to explore, yadda yadda.
Anyway, the whole group reunites later at the camp.
The Life-Church is trying to get organized and function like a little community.
And some conservative people are trying to attack them. (scared of them and those dreams no doubt)
Maxine tries to feel her dead through The Red. He is still living around, even without a body of his own.
She tries to find her daddy...only to find the World Tree in there. With a sort of giant spider web over it.
And that is when Maxine makes her first contact with The Spider who is responsible for the Lifeweb.
It takes a more human form to make contact with Maxine.
Suddenly the strange spaceship appears again outside. A red light. Some kinda body is dropped out of it...

Overall: Okay, that was... That was weird. The whole thing.
Even though it is a nice continuation of the last one. This book sure is missing its main character!
The lines of Fred Harper were much better this time.
The characters are all here...but it's hard to recognize them anymore. (the way they act, how they are represented,..)
I see Jerry Prosser is trying to combine all past thematics. The Lifeweb, the aliens, the Red, the morphogenetic field, the Life-Church. It looks like it's going nowhere. (and I fear they were sort of reacting/improvising along...)

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #82
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

Remember, the tree of life, the lifeweb, the baboons in Africa and Buddy in his dream?
Well, it all results in Buddy dreaming of Africa now..but as he was connecting with the baboon tribe..he gets pulled away even if still linked to them, and dropped down in Montana!
His body was altered a bit too.
He now sports rockin' long white hair!
The finally is reunited in a big hug!
Buddy visits how things changed while he was away. Little wing is happy to have her dad around again!
Later at night, Ellen and Buddy make love like there's no tomorrow.
The next day Buddy continues his tour, he visits the hi-tech installations. The TV recording station.
Buddy talks with Doctor Varma about being reborn, the dream place, etc. Which proves his theory of different worlds, other perception of the universe.
The priest who attacked the little camp the other day comes back, Buddy does some miracle of his own to calm them. So naturally he's accused of being the devil. Buddy is hit...and awakes back with the baboons. He sees them attacking some tourists. It's not them, it's the Red. Buddy's anger is making them do this!
Buddy flies to Africa but it's too late! They killed and ate the tourists!

Overall: What a creepy cover! Love it!!
Anyway, this issues brings Buddy back, exposes the new status quo and launches the new story arc all in one! I wonder if they already knew they would have the book up for less than a year by this point. It sure move things around fast.
A nice issue, if for anything because it keeps things moving.
It also introduces the white haired-Buddy we would get for all the remaining issues.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #83
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

A strange trial is organized.
To judge the monkeys for the murder of the tourists. Which with Buddy's help and all the dreams of the Red is judged to be a normal thing to do from now on.
Also, friends of the deceased are getting angry about this whole situation. They want revenge!
They try to attack the "accused" (the monkeys), Buddy stops them though.
The current agreement between mankind and animals has been violated. The baboons are considered murderers.
Buddy forces a connection to everyone in there to The Red directly. So animals can be judged accordingly.
The following night the baboons are killed by those bad guys from earlier.
Buddy decides to fly away to be alone.

Overall: Okay that was.. rather short and uneventful?
The whole point was to explore and play with this new status quo of humanity I believe. But it looks like it was cut short.
Anyway, nice issue. Nothing much overall.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #84
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

Buddy telks a bedtime story to Maxine, about a princess kept away, with a mask hiding her face while she was impersonated.
When in-story, the art style shifts to better retranscript this side-parallel story. It's about an evil Queen of the third Kingdom.
While Maxine goes sleeping the spaceship returns, picks her up. She wakes up along a bunch of greymen aliens. (quite reminiscent in style of the Yellow ones from Buddy's origin)
She is not scared and goes with them aboard the ship (or another dimension?).
They undress her and take some samples from her (?). They do something to her. (what is going on here?!)
She goes with one of them.. she feels the same kinda connection she usually has with The Red. (only here it is all Grey instead... like the spider from the lifeweb?)
Suddenly the Spider "Queen" (that's the human form from the Lifeweb's spider we saw earlier) appears. She hurts the Grey alien.
Maxine thinks about the story of the Queen of the 3rd Kingdom trapping the young princess under a mask.
Back on Earth Ellen wakes up Maxine in the morning...or is it her?
"I was trapped... in the Third Kingdoom... But now I'm FREE."
Dun duun duuuuuuuuuun!!!~

Overall: What a very 90s and incomprehensible cover.
This is actually "it". For real.
The final story arc.
We get quite easily how this Spider Queen is trying to get into our world. But isn't she a non-existent being from the Lifeweb/Morphogenetic Field/The Red?
That "thing" that represented Death as a web on the Tree of Life?
Anyway, despite the confusion, it's a nice starter for this rather strange final story arc.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #85
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

Doctor Varma tells the story of The Ant Mystic for Fake!Maxine.
The art then shifts to a more kid-style comic.
It's the story of an Ant who disobeyed from the Queen and wanted to act on its own, what it means to have a soul and all that.
Obviously this doesn't amuse Fake!Maxine.
Buddy feels something odd about her.
Some crazy skinhead guy dressed in a pink shirt comes around to see Buddy.
He says his name is Phester. He's apparently a scientist who's been working on alternate dimensions and experimental virtual realities. Yes. Not kidding here!
Anyway he brings a device to Buddy to show him proof and deliver a message to him.
A strange figure appears and tells him he's been waiting for Buddy for a 100 years!
Suddenly the "men in black" the Spider Queen had around arrive at the Life-Church as well.
They don't want Buddy to contact that figure again.
So Buddy decides to do just that. He goes to Fort Wilson, California, to see where they're doing all these experiments.
Lots of pseudo-science for a comic running short on time. 2.5 pages worth of it!
Buddy tries the thingamabob, wakes up in a strange cave/dimension. With faceless grey "dudes" around. And the mysterious figure now in flesh.
They are supposedly "in the center of the Earth"!

Overall: This new Animal Man might seem strange at first look, but you see he's full blown all about fiction now.
What it means to exists, different planes of existence, different levels of sub-lecture, the in-story stories of the Princess and the Mask or the Ant this issue.
Anyway, it takes a big U-Turn with this alternate "virtual" reality in the end. Not sure that was a good idea. For "Animal Man" I mean.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #86
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

"The Princess, The Shaman King and The Spider Queen"
Buddy and Varma explore this reality habited by only one old man and tons of faceless creatures.
At its heart a strange crystal.
He tells them about the original Yellow and Red creature in its center. They're playing with physics. Anything is possible there.
When the Spider Queen suddenly appears there!
Buddy understands none of this is real. This whole world. Nor the Spider Queen. And she's only trying to escape this fate of hers!
She has already taken Maxine back at home.
Then she proceeds to tell a story of her own, of "the little idea that could".
Long story short, she is only a "thing", an idea that became sentient and now is trying to usurp a life of her own.
The "idea" of Buddy is cut to pieces rather visually. And ends up skinless! Through another story, the one of the Princess, Buddy finds his way back to Maxine.
But she tells him "the Black Queen needs your help" while a pregnant lady appears...

Overall: The story of the little idea was actually very well drawn and fun to look at...but so confusing!!
Why does everything need to be so confusing! And most of the time, pointless either.
I think Jerry Prosser lost the sight of his plot or where he was trying to guide all this into.
I liked it in a way. But it doesn't mean it was a good issue overall.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #87
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

That Black Lady figure "absorbs" the idea of Buddy..through her womb!
The White light.
Buddy understands it all and is once more "recreated". (we, on another hand, are left aside amidst confusing explanations and abstract concepts)
The "world soul" will be born soon.
Recomposed, Buddy goes through the story one more time but he can't bring Maxine back just yet..
Back on Earth Buddy is taken away from the virtual reality device. That was close!
Buddy saw himself "making the soul of the world" and it made him in return, which gave him the key to the world soul(?).
He only needs to find the door now.
Whatever that means.
And little wing will be able to come back!

Overall: There's a lot of foreshadowing about a baby coming up.. I wonder what... Mmmh.. No..Surely they don't mean... Or do they?
Anyway The Spider Queen is evil
And also not real.
But she will be.
And we won't be anymore.
So Buddy must stop all this!
And since the series was canceled and all this cut short, it sounds like this means like all he want through up to this point, all the stories, all the adventures were meant to be in order for him to be ready for this? That's rather convenient and disappointing too.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #88
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

Varma is now dying due to his illness. And talking with Ray Dillinger about all this.
Oh, and Buddy has now fully turned into Alan Moore - no kidding!
He's seen preaching around, not washing his hair anymore and growing up one heckuva beard!
And while Buddy's going crazy, he just can't take enough of the Fake!Maxine anymore...
So Ellen kicks him out for shouting at her.
Buddy goes back to Annie to talk with her.. And she's awaiting a child from their relationship in the past!! Buddy tries to "communicate" with the baby..and finds out "it" is connected to The Red as well!
"It" is growing through the Red, living through all animal steps of the evolution. It's placenta is in the shape of..not it IS the Tree of Life! Connected via the Lifeweb! The baby will be stronger than Buddy. More in tune with life than Maxine!
Buddy goes back to Varna...While the grey aliens arrive at Annie and take her away!
Suddenly it starts happening! Buddy needs to protect the child from the Spider Queen!
The spaceship arrives.
And the Queen leaves since the her new host body is awaiting for her. Maxine goes sleepy...

Overall: A nice way to connect all these issues and prepare them for the great finale.
But it's gonna be a complicated mess to make sense of this all, resolve all threads and give a faraway send off for the book in only one more normal sized issue!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Animal Man #89
Written by Jerry Prosser
Art by Fred Harper & Jason Temujin
Format: Single issue

Maxine's still in shock.
Buddy goes into the Red to help her and face the consequences.
Annie wakes up on a table next to the grey aliens and the Spider Queen. She feels the baby's connection to "the worlds of mind, body and spirit". She's the door and the gateway into all other possibilities. Infinity.
Buddy wakes up next to his dog Mr. Cow again.
He faces off against the Spider Queen in a very gruesome fight (let's just say "umbilical cords" involved, and leave it at that).
Buddy understands how human and divine are the same substance, the result of one another. He understands what the Queen is, the "idea" she represents. Which makes Buddy transcend his state... grow into a god and eat her idea.
The Red is free from Buddy or anyone else's influence. And flies off as a butterfly.
The very strange baby is born.
Maxine all better now.
"And baby makes infinity..."

Overall: Uh.. where do I start?
The ending in itself was nice. The story came full circle with issue 80.
But everything else?
And what exactly was the purpose of this "story"?
We learned that there's ideas. We, as people, make those. And there are stories out there too. And we also make those.
The End.

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!


And that was it!
Animal Man, ladies and gentleman!
Buddy would make one or two very discrete appearances in other Vertigo books...before going back to being the good old regular shaved blonde Buddy Baker in the DC Universe again!

Why? Who cares!
And that baby would never, ever be mentioned again.
But you can imagine he was mostly "an idea" (born from the mind of Jerry Prosser!) and as such once he "made infinity" became the soul of the world as implied. And just disappeared like it was all but a dream.
Or a story.
It doesn't matter.

Buddy became sort of a "toxic" character as people in the industry call those by this point. So he was left alone for a while.
Next book I review you'll understand how they were able to avoid these problems and move on with the character!

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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