Spoilers for Animal Man #29
Something like this deserves an extra-long piece of writing to go with it. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I have a large amount of ideas to put behind that. It’s not even a long issue. It’s the standard twenty pages, yet it feels like more should be written about it. That a conclusion like this deserves an epic think-piece to be archived as a document on the internet. Animal Man #29 feels like it’s trying to market itself as just another plain old issue, with the regular amount of page numbers and the supposed anti-hype of the marketing (as far as I’m concerned, this should have been somewhat of an event). But it’s something bigger than that. It’s the end of what could be called a mostly magnificent run. Animal Man was one of the more unique books in the new 52 early on, manifesting itself as character-centric horror title with an emphasis on humanity and family. Animal Man #29 feels like an adventurous piece of work but also a kick-ass, back-to-the-basics approach to the story after Rotworld and the meandering of Buddy Baker after he lost his son. Not only that, but it is a tear-jerker of a story. Rest assured, if you have any soul at all, this will pull at your heart strings.
Jeff Lemire manages to pull everything full circle here, bringing back Travel Foreman from the first 5-6 issue of the book for 9 pages of art, with the other eleven illustrated by Lemire. He also ties up most of the loose ends in the story (remember the taproot project stuff? That doesn’t even get touched on here). Foreman’s return to the book is a very welcome one, bringing back his abstract, rubbery lines from early on and giving them a distinctly focused quality to emphasize the humanness of the tale. Lemire’s 11 pages are wonderful if you enjoy his art, recapping the events of the entire run while coming across as a pictorial for a fairy tale. This recap fairy tale of the events is told by Maxine to her father, the Animal Man himself, and Buddy manages to shed a tear by the end of it. This, to me, has always been the best quality of Lemire’s writing: giving his characters a very human persona. These are characters that feel like real people and look like they experience real emotions the way we do. Lemire knows how to develop complex, multifaceted personalities, and while Animal Man as a whole is a good demonstration of that, #29 in particular excels at it.
The ending page is a symbolic sendoff to the horror and the humanity of the series, a reminder that it had carved out a niche for itself in the onslaught of the new 52, often to critical acclaim. Earlier this year, when it was announced that Animal Man was ending, I wrote a little piece about it and what it might mean for the dark/magic line of books at DC. It felt like none of those books were safe at the time, even if some of them were just lesser forms of previous incarnations (looking at you Constantine). There’s the thing though, books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing will never be safe, not unless you slap a Justice League label on the front. But looking back at that very article now, I realize something: not everything has to keep going forever. Some stories are meant to end, and by god, Animal Man #29 ends things perfectly. This is the only way it could have happened, tying everything together and sending us through a roller coaster of emotions, all while bringing the original artist back. Goodnight and goodbye, Animal Man, and Godspeed.
My Score: 5/5