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Animal Man #20 Review: The Last Picture Show

Poor, poor Buddy Baker. He's been nothing but put upon since Animal Man's relaunch. He only wants what's best for his family and to maybe get a little crime fighting in. How does he get repaid? He and his family have to go on the run from decay personified: The Rot, he gets stuck in some elseworlds nightmare, he finds out he's not the true avatar of the Red, and to top it off SPOOOOOOOIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLER: his son dies.

So for the past 19 issues it has been nothing but nonstop running and fighting in the face of the Rot. Both in the main universe and in the "Rotworld" parallel universe. Much like at the end of the Night of the Owls arc, the audience needs time to readjust, especially after its tragic end. In a wise choice, writer Jeff Lemire obliges.

The bulk of the comic is a condensed version of Buddy's movie Red Thunder. The film follows a "real life superhero" who gets beat half to death, but ends up becoming a huge celebrity because of it. It's the classic rise and tragic fall of an icon story. It also closely mirrors Buddy's actual situation quite well. It's almost a genius retelling of his personal journey so far.

This issue has no physical action, with the two key fight scenes happening off panel. However, I wouldn't go as far as to call it boring. It's filled with complex character relationships and dramatic tension surrounding a main character who just can't help but destroy himself through a series of poor decisions.

The art, by Timothy Green II and John Paul Leon, is much more refined in this issue. Without any fantastic, almost psychedelic, characters to draw, the artists have seemed to focus more on details and strong composition. It almost seemed like the art style was different as first, but was only a shift in subject.

The most interesting little tidbit is glossed over here, probably out of necessity. This movie within a comic book was made in the DC main universe but is set in a world without superheroes. It's such a fascinating idea, because of course there would be a ton movies about superheroes in the DC world. They're apart of everyday life there. So some of their movies, probably some of all their fiction, toys with the idea of "what if we didn't have hundreds of costumed people?" which is ostensibly our universe.  We make movies about the DC universe and they make movies about our universe. Whoa.

This issue is slower and light on the costumed punch fighting, and if not for a surprise development at the end, doesn't effect the overarching plot too much. However, it's a solid issue with some good dramatic moments that manages to tell a good looking stand alone story.



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