Animal Man

Marvel Retold: Animal Man #51

We’re taking a look at another one of DC’s “British Invasion” runs… this time, it’s Jamie Delano’s Animal Man!

The incredible Brian Bolland continues his magic on the covers. His work is unimpeachable.

Now, beware, reader: this series is bloody and intense and graphic and dark. It’s incredible stuff, due in no small part to Jamie Delano’s prose, as you’ll see in the forthcoming captions.

Before this issue, Animal Man had been reinvented by Grant Morrison, whose work on Doom Patrol can be seen elsewhere on ComicsBreakdown. It’s… good, but not great, which is why we’re not starting with his stuff.

Jamie Delano, though, will make his mark on this character the same way Alan Moore did on Swamp Thing… and very nearly in the same way.

The man here is Dudley Frazier, brother of Mary Frazier, who’s mother to Ellen Baker, who’s the wife of Buddy Baker, who’s aka Animal Man. The kid is Cliff Baker, Buddy’s son. He’s spending some time with his uncle, who’s… a bad man.

In the meantime, Buddy’s in the woods near their mother’s house, cavorting. I won’t go into everything that happened in the previous 50 issues; suffice it to say that Buddy’s back, he has a new outlook, and they’re looking forward to making the most of things.

The artist, Steve Pugh, has a unique style. It’s visceral and plays with near-caricature at times. Delano makes good use of it during his run.

Here’s the youngest Baker, Maxine, who’s had a nightmare. She’s relating it to Mary, and it’s a nightmare that presages what’s to come. Maxine is special in a way that the upcoming issues explores, but for now let’s just hear what she has to say.

Yikes. Messed UP.

Cliff has been watching horror movies with his uncle Dudley and drinking, apparently. His parents know nothing about any of this, of course, or they wouldn’t let Dudley anywhere NEAR Cliff.

Next morning, Buddy’s just waking up outside. Here we get some of Delano’s wonderful prose.

This narrative touch adds a somber weight to what otherwise might be just another superhero funnybook.

Ellen’s spooked by Maxine’s nightmare and Buddy agrees to go bring the boy back to the farm.

While tracking Dudley down, he discovers that the man’s flown the coop. He’s left his job and is going on some trip with Cliff, who he’s calling HIS son.

This dude makes the mistake of intimating that he’d be willing to divulge more information, but only if Buddy offers him something in return. Leading to:

Steve Pugh’s work obsesses over physical details, like wrinkles in skin, folds of clothing, textures in nature, etc. Perfect for this series.

They’re about to leave. Dudley finds Cliff spending time looking at the carcass of the dog from the beginning of the story. Cliff is bouncing his feelings off Dudley, knowing that his parents would tell him it’s unhealthy. Dudley has his own ideas on death.

Yeah. You should run, Cliff. But you’re not going to, are you?

Meanwhile, Buddy’s been following the scent of Dudley’s camper, which he’d just bought recently. Unfortunately, the enveloping fog is dulling Buddy’s senses to the point where he can’t quite zero in. Dudley sees him coming.

Buddy gets right down onto the road to better track Cliff’s scent.

Dudley’s got a plan in mind.

At this point, the theater audience is screaming at Buddy to get off the road.

Of course, being a superhero, Buddy’ll be fine, right?

No. No, he won’t.

Now, THAT’S how you start a comic, friends: with the death of the main character. Join us on Wednesday for Animal Man #52!