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Grant Morrison

Animal Man

Animal Man was this month’s selection from the Goodreads group  I Read Comic Books and because of it I was introduced to the kitschy awesomeness of Grant Morrison’s 1988 take on this B-level superhero. The graphic novel starts with a lengthy introduction by Morrison that explains how he and other Brits were contacted after Alan Moore’s success with Watchman and Swamp Thing, to give life to DC’s back catalogue of superheros. Morrison choose Animal Man and the rest is history.

The story establishes Buddy Baker as a married “everyman”, who as he nears thirty is having an identity crisis. In this world, heroes are common with Superman and Wonder Woman being the recognized top tier, with the other heroes scrambling to find a niche and a super-group. Buddy struggles to provide for his family, so he wishes to gain recognition, hoping to join a prestigious group and use his powers of temporarily picking up the abilities of animals nearby. Despite the campiness, the stories could be more nuanced than you would think. Animal cruelty,  family responsibilities, societal commentary and humanizing villains are all tied into the story lines. However, these themes are inconsistently used, as sometimes they are pulled together in  a witty way, but other times they are groan-worthy.

So let’s talk about The Coyote Gospel. OMG- I loved it. The jokes were so sly- starting with the trucker (who looked like Freddie Mercury) and hitchhiker singing the The Modern Lovers song Road Runner right before they accidentally struck the human like coyote in the desert. Animal Man is actually just a secondary character in this chapter as the coyote man and trucker duel it out. This homage to Will. E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, and comparing him to Jesus, was a trip. By coincidence I attended a small anime convention last week and as I was looking through the bins of posters of comic covers, I ran across the picture of Animal Man being painted on the road in an obvious crucifix symbolism. One week ago I would not have known who Animal Man was or the significance of the pose, but now I can claim more credibility as a comics fan!

I also picked up the recent Jeff Lemire version and absolutely hated it. The art was grotesque and I quickly put it down. Which goes to show that no matter how good the story is, art can torpedo a graphic novel. Luckily this first version has strong art with a Golden Age vibe and it elevates the stories. Artists Chas Truog, Doug Hazlewood and Tom Grummett, with some Brain Bolland covers, bring the Baker family to life along with the animal menagerie that Buddy encounters in every chapter. All in all, I enjoyed this graphic novel especially the deeper themes of animal rights activism that Animal Man advocated for.

-Nancy

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Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2)

Diana is back in Man’s World, preaching the Amazon way of peace and love. There are many who believe in her message, and receive it well, but there are many and more who think it’s unnatural – even dangerous. The US government has decided Diana Prince is a threat. They’ve discovered a weapon left on Paradise Island during World War II that could neutralize the Amazons – and Wonder Woman herself. All they have to do is pull the trigger…

I loved Earth One Wonder Woman when I read Volume 1, and I still love it now. The character is updated and challenged for modern times here. It’s heartbreaking how real her story feels: a woman, standing up and sharing her ideas on how to make the world a better place, only to be questioned, ridiculed, and labeled a threat by the men in power. There is an excellent passage in which Diana is questioned why anyone should listen to a a message of peace through loving submission spoken by a privileged princess. This one made me think, and I do love books that make me think.

Just as in the first volume, the art is excellent. The characters are solidly drawn and wonderfully expressive. There are still panels which are surrounded by the Lasso of Truth, or lightning, or other motifs; where I remember the first volume overdid these a bit to the point where it was hard to read, this volume did a better job of balancing them out. There are many Easter eggs once again to past incarnations of Wonder Woman’s character and story arcs, which are delightful for long-time fans to pick out.

Earth One definitely isn’t your mother’s Wonder Woman. That’s what I like about it 😉 This will challenge your perception of this DC staple in today’s world. As ever, looking forward to the next volume.

– Kathleen

Morrison, Grant, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2). 2018.

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