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Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species (The New 52) (Animal Man (DC Comics)) Kindle & comiXology
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|Length: 176 pages|
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- Book 4 of 5 in Animal Man (2011-2014) (Collections) (5 Book Series)
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Top Customer Reviews
Now that the Rotworld story has been concluded this volume deals with the fallout from the events of the conclusion of that series, I am about to spoil the end of Rotworld so please skip to the end of this review, following the death of his son Cliff and his wife's decision to leave him Buddy Baker is at a low, hounded by the media due to his upcoming Oscar nomination (his acting carer and the film 'Tights' has been a running story so far) and at a loss what to do he begins to investigate the disappearance of pets in L.A, this leads him to a group called the Splinterfolk who have designs on his connection to the Red (the Red being the animal kingdom balanced with the green, plants and the black, rot and decay) while his daughter Maxine newly crowned queen of the red journeys through the red kingdom searching for the soul of her dead brother to bring him back to life.
The volume starts with two one off stories, the first set four years previous and explores Buddy's connection with his son, now normally superhero families are a burden but somehow Lemire has found a way to make the Baker family the heart of the story and it never feels forced, it makes Animal Man a much more likable character he really just is a normal guy who happens to have superpowers.Read more ›
This title is now forging a superb new pathway for itself after the somewhat unoriginal opening epic and its really annoying ending, and I feel that it deserves 5 stars for its handling of the characters in their current situation.
THE SPOILER ZONE
THE SPOILER ZONE
THE SPOILER ZONE
Annual #2 - ‘One Last Flight’ - is a double-length story in which we see Buddy baker at a low ebb after the death of Cliff and his separation from his family, living in a hotel room that he has to sneak out of to avoid the paparazzi who are now pursuing him. When he sees a newspaper asking if Cliff’s death has been faked as a publicity stunt for his film, he loses it in a big way in a newsagents shop; then has a flashback to four years previously, when he had to collect Cliff from school and fight a strange creature while trying to get to the hospital where Ellen was in labour with Maxine. The creature had the ability to ‘steal’ dreams, and had managed to kidnap Cliff.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
ANIMAL MAN VOL.4: SPLINTER SPECIES collects issues #20-23 and the ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2. After the powerful events of Animal Man Vol. 3: Rotworld: The Red Kingdom (The New 52), Buddy Baker has hit rock bottom. His son is dead, his wife and daughter have left him, and he's been cut off from the Red Kingdom. He alone and wanting. But something happens abruptly. Buddy's independent film he made, "Tights", has gotten Buddy nominated for Best Actor. All of a sudden Buddy is famous with reporters, news media, and even twitter followers chasing him down when he just wants to be alone and grieve. And with only a few days until the Oscars, Buddy has to get his life back on track and decides to go back to superhero duties in his current mental state, where he finds an occult named the Splinterfolk who graft animal parts to themselves to join the Red. And Maxine has become the sole avatar/queen of the Red. With her new powers, she's looking at trying to bring Cliff back. But things do not turn out the way they want for both Buddy and Maxine...and things just keep getting worse.
One of the biggest and best aspects of Lemire's Animal Man series since the start of the New 52 is the strong emphasis on family ties (and disturbing horror here and there), creating a book where you really care these characters. With the Rotworld, Lemire started getting away from those aspects for more action heavy event with Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing. It lost most of those emotional aspects, even if it was still an engaging event, but I felt personally the series focused better on Buddy and his family. Thankfully, Lemire goes back to the emotional family ties and things get just darker for the Baker family, while still adding the tension and action to offset things.
The first and big factor is the fallout effect of Cliff's death and Buddy's loss in life. This is a good thing considering way too often writers kill off a character for shock value with little mention or fallout from said characters death, so Lemire actually takes his time to make Cliff's death count. This is most prevalent in the Annual #2 and issue #20, which are also stand-alone tales in ways. The Annual dealing with Buddy having a flashback 4 years earlier against The Spider Queen just before Maxine was born, making for happier memories for Buddy, and issue #20 dedicated to Buddy's role as Chaz in "Tights", making his film character a metaphor against his personal life and Cliff. These two issues do not propel the main arching story line, but focus on the fallout of Cliff's passing and I commend Lemire on the effort put forth.
Then comes the three-part "Splinter Species" arc in issues 21-23, where things pick up in steam. Buddy tries to get his life on track but doing various good deeds and finds and fights off these new splinter people who cut up animals and stitch them to their bodies. The Splinterfolk are setup for the big badguy reveal at the end of this book and next volume, which I will not spoil who he is, but I love his New 52 origin and design. We'll have to wait for more on the character in the next volume though.
The big factor in this arc is the paparazzi getting involved and affecting on Buddy's personal and hero life. This makes for some fast, unique, and scary way of how modern celebrity culture might interact with a minor superhero who's also a sometime actor. This makes for a gripping experience added that the media is exploiting Buddy's personal life like real life shows of Inside Hollywood or TMZ do to people. Even to the point Twitter comments are constantly shown from various poster including fans and haters alike. It's pretty potent and well done mix Lemire balances, and I think he pulled it off.
And while the attention is on Buddy, Maxine continues to be the positive thing in Animal Man in her attitude about the Totems, her family, and even Cliff. She has fun moments rebuilding the Red with her cat Socks and Shepherd, trying to find the soul of Cliff in the endless Red and on a pirate ship captained by a giraffe. So her segments are fun and lighter in tone.
The art is excellent by Steve Pugh who does issues #21 -#23 and captures Buddy's emotions with every panel and the intricate details of the Red making Animal Man one of my favorite comics. This is also Pugh's final issues on art duties, which I think he goes out on a bang. Travel Foreman returns and does all of the Annual to great design of the Spider Queen to an utterly potent splash page of a young and happy Cliff Baker flying in the wind of Buddy's arms. It's sad and powerful stuff. And Timothy Green II and John Paul Leon do issue #20 of the "Tights" part 2 story, which is still strong.
Now why the 4 stars? I seriously love this book and am giving it a 4 ½ star out of 5, but why not go 5 stars? Beyond the typical information that this series is graphic in gore and violence, this 4th volume is depressing. For me, I love the darker qualities to match Buddy's emotions from his numerous personal problems, but some reviewers will just feel down after reading the first half of the book. Not to mention it goes very quickly. Only three issues worth the main arc, while the Annual and issue 20 mostly deal with the fallout of Cliff's death. They are potent, but they do not propel much. The Annual is mostly a flashback and the "Tights" issue is 90% showing the film. It get it that the film is to convey Buddy's character on film to his personal issues, but it still doesn't propel the main story. Lemire could of shown a few pages on the Tights segments, then done something else to show his agony over Cliff in modern times. I enjoy the focus on Buddy's heartache, but half of the book is dedicated to two issues that can be stand alone tales.
Regardless, ANIMAL MAN VOL.4: SPLINTER SPECIES is back on track where Lemire focuses on Buddy's strong family ties since the bigging of the New 52, over the action packed Rotworld. A powerful first half dedicated to the fallout of Cliff, some great insights of celebrity culture on a superhero, plenty of gore and violence, the characters are still loveable, and great art across the board make this series still one of the best. Again, I was tempted to give a 5 star rating, but I am giving it a 4 ½ star out of 5,because some readers might not like the dark tonality shift, the short focus on the "Splinter Species" arc, and the Annual/Issue #20 mostly stand alone tales. None the less, if you have been reading Animal Man since the get-go, this is still a great series and ends on a massive cliffhanger where you will want to see next.
So after this volume, I am sadden to say/write it, but Animal Man will be cancelled in issue #29. That makes volume 5, Animal Man Vol. 5: Evolve or Die! (The New 52), the next and final volume of Buddy Baker and family together as the last. I do not know why it is getting cancelled either for lack of revenue or something, but this great series will end. Thankfully, Animal Man will live on under writer Jeff Lemire in Justice League United, a newly formed version of Justice League of America, only in Canada and in Space. But that book will be nothing like this series and will not have the Baker family in it. So Animal Man fans pick this up and finish up the remainder of this phenomenal series when it comes due.
This volume kicks off with the Annual. The Rotworld saga is over and Buddy Baker, a.k.a. Animal Man, lost the life of his son and the rest of his family because of it. This chapter/issue is a great piece showing Buddy's sorrow over losing his son and how the paparazzi hound him because he used to be a small time actor as well as an ongoing small time superhero. As Buddy falls deeper into depression writer Jeff Lemire chooses to have the adventure of this annual be set in the past to show a happier time when Cliff was still alive. The flashback takes place early in Buddy's career when his wife, Ellen, is pregnant with Maxine and Cliff not only was alive but did not sport the mullet. The adventure sets up Buddy picking Cliff up from school as Animal Man and sees the local police in trouble. He checks out what is going on to find out that a nest of giant spiders have set up in a little neck of their California area and are grabbing people to take back. Buddy tries to make a connection with them to try and drive them away but in doing so an army of them come out and snatch a bunch of people including Cliff. Buddy goes into the lair and discovers some surprises about his foe that then ties back into the present. This story is a great standalone as well as touching on the current events of Buddy. It shows off why he is such a great small time hero as he is not blessed with wealth and smarts nor wants to go into a perceived enemies lair punching away. It also is a very touching look at how parents just want to protect their children. Travel Foreman provides the creepy crawly art here which is so great great to see him drawing Animal Man again like back in the first volume of this series.
Issue 20 is a follow up to back in the first volume's chapter/issue 6, where it finishes up the indie short film Buddy was in called "Tights". The movie is almost like a parallel world look at the Baker clan and how things could have been so different if Buddy had desired the fame more and Maxine had not been as supportive of his choices. The movie seems a little random at times in terms of being a twisted mirror reflection of Buddy and family as opposed to the first part back in the first volume. Lemire did not quite pull off the magic and creativity here as he did the first time but it is still very good. John Paul Leon returns to illustrate the movie section.
Issues 21-23 are the three part Splinter Species arc that is just a set up for a larger threat in the next volume. The story starts with Buddy getting word that he has been nominated for the best actor award for his role in "Tights" as he dwells in booze and despair in some apartment. Lemire and artist Steve Pugh provide a twitter like scroll, on some pages, showing the world's different reactions to this announcement and just Buddy's life in general. Lemire shows how intrusive and cruel the public can be as some people claim the death of his son was faked in order to gain publicity to be nominated. Buddy shakes off his blues and the paparazzi as he investigates the disappearances of animals around the southern California area. His search leads him to a twisted group of fanatics that have been integrating themselves with animal parts to become more in touch with the animal kingdom, as they are also jealous of Buddy's connection witch stems from the Red. They also want Buddy for their master (an old DCU villain making a New 52 appearance, the back cover of this volume ruins it by the way) who wants Buddy to enter the Red and take it over. All of this mayhem is illustrated wonderfully and grotesquely by Steve Pugh.
There is a duel narrative going on in this arc as Lemire shows Ellen and Maxine staying with her mom as they cope with Cliff's death and being separated from Buddy. Maxine is still the avatar of the Red and has former totem member Socks the cat and uses his help to enter the Red and explore what is now her kingdom. The other totems want her to learn her role as the Avatar of all living animal life but as she explores the Kingdom of the Red she believes Cliff can be found in there. Artist Francis Portella illustrates Maxines adventures of the Red and has a more bouncy and upbeat style which is a little jarring given the content it's covering. His presentation of Maxine is weird as well and does not match a four year old girl but looks like a little jolly person. This story is the better of the two as Maxine's grieving process is presented to full effect and as she learns some hard lessons. The takeover of the Red is pretty good if abrupt with a random betrayal. The real shortcoming of the splinter species arc is that the new antagonists are barely touched upon and serve as more of setup for an old DCU character even though they prove to be a good threat to Buddy and we are left with unanswered questions that would have been great to be explored.
This volume is great to getting Animal Man back to his own world and own adventures after the long Rotworld saga. It has it's fumbles but overall is still a great horror superhero story that touches on themes of family. Sadly the next volume will be the end of Lemire's run and the series altogether as it ends with issue 29, primarily due to Lemire being involved in so many other projects but he will take Animal Man with him into his highly anticipated Justice League United series.