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Animal Man

Unearthed: Animal Man #52

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that sometimes ends! I’m so glad you could attend, step inside, step inside

The family’s expecting Cliff to be home soon, but they don’t know he’s just embarked on a journey with his uncle Dudley, ‘An expedition to the dead heart of everything’, which couldn’t sound more family friendly, right?

It’s not clear at this point if the family knows about Dudley’s dark leanings, but Ellen has a premonition. Note the classic Barbarella phone ring sound effect.

While Maxine bemoans the loss of her cake, Ellen’s gotten a horrible phone call. Recall that last issue, Dudley ran Buddy over in the street while Buddy was trying to pick up Cliff’s scent from the road.

Here’s where we can draw comparisons between Animal Man and the Swamp Thing. Buddy’s body has died, but his spirit is now inhabiting the Red, some kind of after-realm in which all organisms travel on their way to… whatever.

This is for animals what Swamp Thing’s the Green is for plants. Some kind of enveloping plane of reality outside the normal ken of humans.

Somehow, Buddy’s consciousness persists, probably as a consequence of his powers. He’s floating against the flow, heading back toward life, even if he doesn’t fully appreciate it yet.

Steve Pugh’s amazing sense of viscerality really gives a kind of eerie weight to the proceedings.

This is an image that’s haunted me for some time.

Meanwhile, Dudley’s taunting a sleepy rattlesnake. Not to nitpick, but ‘have a go’ is a very British phrasing, which betrays Delano’s origin. An American would more likely say ‘take a shot’ or similar.

This hapless biker’s made a discovery that will probably be his last.

And Cliff is none the wiser.

Delano’s prose really adds to the atmosphere here and on the following pages… really, for his entire run on this comic.

Notice how Buddy is slowly knitting back together… interesting that his costume is coming back with him.

This Giger-esque landscape… I’d love to have seen Pugh work on it… seems like a painstaking process… was it all by hand? Surely not. Not on a monthly release schedule.

Pugh playing around with actual physiognomy here for full effect.

Lovely claustrophobic feelings here.

Again, the gross and fine details here are what make this work. This whole comic is rooted quite well in the physical.

OH GODS BUDDY WHERE ARE YOU?

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

But no! It’s worse than that! Ellen has gone to identify Buddy’s body in the morgue! And the mutilated body has come to life and is crawling on the floor toward her!

The amateurish cartoon skull really underscores the horror of this moment somehow, as Buddy sees himself in a reflection and shrinks back from his own appearance.

Mercifully, Ellen passes out. But Buddy comes to grips with what he’s done and decides to abandon his body for good. But he’s still a consciousness… where can he go?

Turns out the next nearest living organism that Buddy can inhabit is some kind of skin mite. Oh boy.

Please join me Wednesday for Animal Man #53!

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