BOOK REVIEWS/REPLIES (2015): Morrison, Truog, Hazelwood, Grummet, Cullins, Montano, McKenna, & Farmer’s (2013) Animal Man (Omnibus Edition)

9 March 2015

Summary (TLDR Version)

A collection that really benefits from appearing as a collection; a collection that successfully turns into a graphic novel.

Framing/Background for Replies

If you’ve already read this section this year, you can skip it; if you’ve read the previous years, I’ve updated it. Either way, it describes the aim of these book replies.

Three years ago in 2012, I set myself the task to read at least ten pages per day and then write a book reply (not a review) for each one I finished (or gave up on).[1] These replies don’t amount to Amazon-type reviews, with synopses, background research done on the author or the book itself, &c., unless that struck me as somehow necessary. Rather, a book reply—as distinct from a reaction (review) or a response—focuses on what in these pieces I could not have said (or would not have known to say) except that the encounter of this text and my consciousness brought it about.

Consequently, I must at times necessarily say poorly informed stuff, &c. And while some people in the world may expect public speakers to possess omniscience so that they won’t bother to engage in a dialogue to uncover how to make the world a better place, then to the extent that each reply I offer provides an I found this helpful in this book, it becomes up to us (you, me, us) to correct, refine, trash and start over, or figure out what else we might do as part of that attempt to make our world better for us and everyone.

And someone won’t bother to take up their end of that bargain, that points blatantly to a central part of the problem that needs a solution.

A Reply To: Morrison, Truog, Hazelwood, Grummet, Cullins, Montano, McKenna, & Farmer’s (2013)[2] Animal Man (omnibus edition)

I have a memory of reading something that very disimpressed me by Morrison (the Invisibles), and only the sheer length of this tempted me back. Good for that.

While obviously replete with some patently silly stuff, the moment significant part of this issue involve the way the writer publicly implicates himself in the relevance, or irrelevance, of the genre he works in. this appears most of all in the breaking of the fourth wall at the end, when the character of Animal man confronts his then-lifewriter, but it shows up more subtly in the way Morrison tried to integrate his real-world issues about animal rights (an vegetarianism) into the issues. This appears also in his attempt to make sense of the discontinuity that results from him taking over someone else’s writing project for the character.

This obviously embodies the sort of critique of form that Moore’s Watchmen so thoroughly proposed, but Morrison seems simultaneously more inside and outside of that issue. In other words, if Moore represents purely an artist, a figure who would have cropped up as a major writer in whatever form the culture had available at the time, with Morrison it seems more that he would only have appeared as a writer of comics. If Moore can take the genre as a genre less seriously, whether to critique it or to leverage it to whatever project he wants to work on, for Morrison—at least in this run—he seems more obliged to accept it at a kind of face value, even when he turns it inside out at the end.

Put another way, that Morrison appears in his own issues puts a more personal slant on things than Watchmen. You might not know where Moore stands at some point—especially about the character Rorschach—but with Animal Man, one already knows where the author’s identity tends to reside, even before he bifurcates into his own representation in order to speak with his creation.

Perhaps because this “self-conscious” element remains so thoroughly a part of the various texts it makes the turn at the end seem less contrived and very well-integrated into the whole thing. It certainly represents an appropriate closure. And the frame-busting episode, thanks to the Psychic Pirate, makes not only an impress tour de force but also, again, a logically motivated episode in the whole arc of the thing. Thus, the soul-searching at the end of the run hearkens back to the “soul-searching” of the run itself as Morrison tries to work out the incoherence between previous version of Animal Man and his own incarnation of him.

Of course, the thrill of reading each next edition has its own charm, but collecting all of these issues together helps put the whole arc together in a way it deserves. This means a few issues could get left out without going missed, but this in order to strengthen the arc overall. In other words, while this represents a collected series, it does for the most part represent an actual novel.

This and Hines Duncan the Wonder Dog (part 1) supply some serious grist for animal rights activism. I could say more, but more simply I’d recommend reading it. You have to winnow through some patches, but this collection doesn’t waste your time usually.


[1] I planned also to devise a way to randomly select books to read (given certain constraints) from the public library; this, to avoid the tendency only to read books that pique my already existing interests. I haven’t followed through on this yet.

[2] Morrison, G, Truog, C., Hazelwood, D., Grummet, T., Cullins, P., Montano, S., McKenna, M., & M. Farmer’s (2013)[2] Animal Man (omnibus edition), pp. 1–708.

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