[27 April 2012]
PopMatters Comics Editor
A little while ago, I began to appreciate Jeff Lemire’s entirely new take on Animal Man. The traditional “freedom” narrative is this. Get on the two-lane and go. Greil Marcus was formative for me in this, absolutely necessary reading. It was his reading that saw that inner struggle with freedom in Bob Dylan, and read that struggle as choice having a geography. Either you go Back East where it’s safe and you know how things work. Or. Or you Head West, and make a stand in a new world, and a new kind of living.
But Jeff found an even deeper level in the Bob-Dylan-get-to-freedom story. What if an entire family could be mobilized in this? Not in the gentle hum of thunder way that Hunter Thompson de-romanticized in Hell’s Angels, but an actual family. In doing this over the last few issues of Animal Man Jeff has only emphasized that point that Out West, is exactly as safe and sedate as Back East. And that the only true freedom, is a momentary freedom, and one that exists on the road, in the moment of choice, when all your internal resources are focused on the task.
So Jeff had found the inner Bob Dylan of Animal Man, a truly unique way of framing the character after seminal runs by writers like Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan. Issue #9 is really Jeff turning another corner. Just as we did with “All Along the Watchtower”, Animal Man #9 moves us from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix.
Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, has entered a long, cold, visionquest that has him drawn deeper inside The Red, that mystical space that connects all living animals, human and beast alike. As with Jimi Hendrix’s “Watchtower”, where the focus of the piece is the sublime guitar, we step outside the formal strictures of narrative to encounter a glorious, lofty visions that guide us through the deeper recesses Buddy’s dream state.
This is a Animal Man at it’s very best. Please enjoy your exclusive preview.