Animal Man #28
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Dave McCaig
Published by DC Comics
Poor Buddy Baker. Jeff Lemire has really put his family through the ringer. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. His son Cliff died in Rot Wars, his daughter has been drawn into the Red, and evil blood monsters keep attacking his wife. Every villain he faces taunts Buddy with his failure to protect his clan. Family is the major theme running through Lemire’s run of Animal Man, and while Buddy manages to save the rest of the Bakers one last time, it’s a pyrrhic victory.
This issue ends the Brother Blood arc of Animal Man, tying up the plot that dovetails so nicely with the theme of family. Having invaded the Red, the source connecting all of the animal kingdom, Brother Blood has been tearing through Little Wing’s surrogate family of totem creatures while Buddy’s been battling the corrupted totem at the Red’s core. When Brother Blood drags Ellen into the Red for the climactic battle, the themes collide with the plot as the Bakers deal with ‘Brother Blood’ in the wake of their grief over their dead son and brother. The issue ends with the family coming together, even as the last page portends another tragedy for the Baker family.
Albuquerque’s pencils render the fantastically grotesque world of the Red in beautiful, gory detail. He’s got a great eye for combination, creating visual portmanteaus of animals, at once whimsical and frightening. McCaig’s colors give the world of the Red an innard pastiche. His pallet highlights what’s really at stake, and what has always been at stake for Animal Man: his blood, meaning his family.
As a table setting for the end of Animal Man just two installments away, this issue highlights everything that’s been making Animal Man such a pleasure. Too often in comics, families are a means of driving the hero to action, static victims. Lemire has definitely put them through hell, but as a means of developing the characters and their family. Maxine is growing out of her Little Wing nickname and into the roll of avatar of the Red, Animal Girl. In a move of tragic irony, Buddy has leveled up his power set to save his family by vowing to leave them. Even without powers, Ellen is becoming more adept at dealing with world of her husband and daughter. With the end drawing near, Animal Man has achieved a rarity in super hero comics: a family with a future that will be sorely missed.