Thursday, September 22, 2011

Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina - Review


The New 52 at DC Comics has been a heated topic for debate. Many readers are asking if the old continuity still counts, if the old stories are viable, and if certain characters don't matter anymore. But this isn't the first time that these questions have been brought up. After the Crisis of Infinite Earths, where DC combined all of the alternate timelines and continuities, Grant Morrison tackled the viability of the old characters and plot lines through Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina, where Buddy Baker AKA Animal Man actually meets his maker. Well, the one who is assigned to him at the time.

Morrison breaks the fourth wall by having the characters actually discover they're in a comic book. Unlike characters like Deadpool who see it as an excuse for comedy, Morrison takes it in an existential direction and challenges Baker to question why bad things happen to heroes and who is responsible for his misery. After the murder of his family, Baker is looking for anyone to blame. He goes on a murderous rampage and a journey into the great white unknown through the panels of his own life and story.

It was incredible to get to see so many goofy characters that had been written off and brought back in order to threaten the universe. I've only recently jumped on the Animal Man bandwagon, but the more I read, even the old stuff, I find that I connect with Baker as a man who wants to do the right thing, but isn't as powerful as some of his colleagues or other heroes in the DC/Vertigo Universe. Though it is important to note that this marks Baker's full understanding of his powers, where he can call on the abilities of multiple animals at once no matter if they're currently alive or dead. He can combine the reflexes of a fly, the strength of a rhino's skin, and the physical power of a Tyrannosaurs Rex. If you think about it, it makes Animal Man a very versatile and powerful hero in his own right. It's variations on the superhero genre that grab me, and Animal Man is definitely an example of how well it can be pulled off.

This graphic novel collection is a little heady. There's drug trips, time travel, spinning panels, and things that are existing outside of the universe. But it's important to read because it deals with the continuity of comic books and the ultimate lesson that we have to learn from anything that's been made, remade, and then rebooted time after time -- that our favorite versions are still there. You can't take away someone's favorite stories because they're in their hearts, minds, and on the page. It's truly an example of incredible sequential storytelling.

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