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Animal Man Omnibus
posted July 20, 2016


Creators: Grant Morrison, Chas Troug
Publishing Information: Vertigo, hardcover, 712 pages, August 2013, $75.
Ordering Numbers: 1401238998 (ISBN10), 9781401238995 (ISBN13)

I was super-happy to receive a copy of this book three or four epochal shifts at DC Comics ago. The Animal Man comic books reprinted here were among a handful of comics I purchased and read during a time in my life my comics reading had almost slowed to stop. It was geography. Animal Man one of the few titles of potential interest I could secure near where I went to college: a very small town in the Blue Ridge mountains. I remember liking the series, just as I've enjoyed many of the comics scripted before and certainly since by the writer Grant Morrison.

imageThe Animal Man series featured two all-time stop-and-remember moments for superhero comics of their era: the entire concept of the Goyote Gospel issue, which seemed to make a place in the DC Universe created around Wile E. Coyote; the acid-taking sequence where the hero sees us reading his comic book adventures; the murder of protagonist Buddy Baker's family, one of the more enjoyable clans in mainstream comics history; and, finally, the long conversation between Baker and the series' writer. My memory of Animal Man made it the equivalent of a fun, slightly off-key network television series, the kind that might be done by a writer right before their signature show emerged. Smart viewers might even prefer this rougher copy.

I found Animal Man strangely disappointing on a one-volume re-read, albeit in a fascinating way. Read all at once, the series is a bit more disjointed than I remember it, over-earnest in a way that feels unearned -- borrowed, maybe -- and thus inauthentic. It could be that my teenaged mind given a month between offerings imagined grander comics in the margins and between issues than what I get here. As a single story, Animal Man also feels like one of those comics that gathers the narrative force caused by its careful plotting and its riffs on standard mainstream American comic books, skips over any potential insight into human nature and doubles down with a summary statement on those old comic books and how they work. That can also be a worthy goal for a work of art to pursue, and like much of what Morrison writes when he's firing on all cylinders you might perceive the limitations as purposeful layering of intent. Our basic reading of superhero comics, even ambitious ones, is so enormously generous that we'll forgive them almost anything. Animal Man can see you. You can see it right back.

I found this review in a post dated 2024, because I'm apparently an idiot