Rotworld is over, but the threats that spawned it have yet to abate. Now our heroes must travel back in time and prevent the entire tragedy from happening. But in ANIMAL MAN #18, will the day he returns home be “The Most Tragic Day In Buddy Baker’s Life”?
Can’t see how, given he’s experienced the death of his entire family before. Twice.
Getting people up to speed: Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, is a minor champion of the Red (the force connecting all animal life). It’s true avatar, however, is his daughter Maxine, whom he was recruited to protect until she grew into her powers. That ended up being difficult, as she and Buddy’s entire family came under attack by the Hunters Three, agents of The Rot. Realizing The Rot would just keep coming after them – and then take over the world when they were dead – Animal Man teamed up with Alec Holland the Swamp Thing to venture into The Rot itself and fight its avatar, Anton Arcane.
Unfortunately this was a trap, and they were transported a year into the future because for whatever reason The Rot transcends time. And because Buddy and Alec weren’t there, their loved ones died and the Rot did exactly what they feared it would do in their absence: take over the world!
That was Rotworld, where everything sucked and everyone died.
Fortunately, the Parliament of Decay – the mysterious forces that command the Rot – realized that their avatar Arcane royally screwed over the entire world in the worst, most unsustainable way possible, and they had a change of heart. Before it rotted off. So with what remained of their power, they let our heroes return to the point where they’d be able to save their loved ones and stop the madness before it even starts.
And for Animal Man, it starts with Maxine cornered by the Hunters three sans one (the other guy I think got killed for real or something, I don’t know so much about that). All he has to do is beat both of them – and also William Arcane, but go read Swamp Thing if you want to know about him because I’m in no mood – without anyone dying.
So yeah, let’s talk about the tag-line for ANIMAL MAN #18. Most tragic day in Buddy Baker’s life? Not quite.
Sure, it’s tragic what happens. But as I mentioned before, Buddy has lost his entire family, technically twice. The first time was when Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, when the writer used their deaths as a means of adding angst to Buddy. A thing Buddy himself called Morrison out on as being stupid and cruel, in one of the greatest fourth-wall breaking moments in the history of meta. The second time was in Rotworld, where his family all dies because he wasn’t there.
Well, except for Maxine, who becomes undead and he has to kill her himself. Buddy Baker just can’t catch a break.
Yes, both of those instances where his family died were reversed – the first by Morrison’s author avatar and the second by way of time travel obviously. I’m going to hazard a guess and say this tragic thing won’t be, though. So honestly whether you think this is the most tragic days in his life or not depends on whether permanence takes precedence. And whether you think Buddy having to kill his daughter and what happens here as being part of the same long day.
And whether you think the bit where his family died the first time is even still canon. But now we’re getting into the heavy meta-textual knotting not seen since the ending of St Elsewhere.
Lastly, either this or the next installment can act like jumping off points for readers. Next issue will probably focus on the fallout from this one, as well as setting up for the next big storyline. Truth be told, I’m glad, because I think I might break off soon, if not now.