I am by no means a person who says that Grant Morrison can do no wrong. I don’t even think his entire Animal Man run reaches the “brilliant” level. The first five issues, yes, were unlike anything that came before. And the eight issues I am reviewing today: Revolutionary. But in the middle act, it did lag a little bit.
But today I am here to praise Grant’s Animal Man, not bury it. And you kind of need to read all 26 issues to get the full impact of this last arc.
At the risk of “spoiling” this story, I’m going to write about a few details. But not enough to give the whole thing away. Still, if my word is enough to get you to go buy this then stop reading now.
Now that we’re alone….
The last large arc on Morrison’s work with Animal Man can really be bifurcated into two parts: The gruesome and powerful slaughter of Buddy Baker’s family, and his psychological and emotional reaction to it, and then his “super hero” reaction to it. In the first half of the story, we see how Buddy’s family’s murder leads him to become vengeful and angry, so much so that he eventually seeks revenge. But before that, we get to see his denial chipping away at him, through inner dialog in which he personifies his own memories and begins to reimagine/reinterpret his own origin. We get to see him, psychologically, retconning himself. And Morrison’s entire take on this B-list DC supercharacter was a retcon to begin with. So it’s a bit of a head trip. But it’s also genuinely impactful on a gut level.
Then, to add another level, Animal Man goes and gets himself a time machine and begins to literally retcon himself, with the help of a ton of DC characters who are know for being able to reshape time and psyches (Psycho Pirate, Rip Hunter, Phantom Stranger, etc.) and heroes from various alternate Earths as well, until eventually he shatters the fourth wall and realizes that he is in a comic book–a giant “monkey puzzle,” in which everything can be fit together in a head-spinning swirl. Everything that happened in the issues preceding these is rediscovered and revised–much like Morrison has done with JLA, Batman and other characters throughout his career.
I won’t give away the very end, but it’s fantastic–and you will not see it coming.
This is probably my favorite Grant Morrison super-hero story of all time.