Animal Man (1988 Series) #4
Title: When We All Lived in the Forest
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chas Truog & Doug Hazlewood
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Cover Art: Brian Bolland
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Animal Man has tracked down the rampaging B’wana Beast, whose grief-fueled rage has pitted him against S.T.A.R. Labs and, in the process, infected the hero with a genetically manipulated strain of Anthrax. This issue, the two face off – but how hard can Animal Man fight against a hero whose cause he agrees with?
The hero-fights-hero trope was even overdone in 1988, but Grant Morrison at least found a way to make us sympathize with both characters, making for a more compelling story. While B’wana Beast’s rage is justified, he’s a danger not only to himself but could potentially infect the entire state of California if the anthrax he’s carrying is transmitted. Morrison uses an interesting application of Animal Man’s powers here, something we haven’t seen too much of in recent years, and that’s probably to the good. If you followed this to its logical conclusion, Animal Man could theoretically be the most powerful superhero in the DC Universe, and that doesn’t really fit the perpetual B-list, underdog tone of the character. (Even now, when he’s once again become a critical darling, he seems farther removed than ever from the likes of the Justice League.)
Chas Truog’s wildly inconsistent art swings back to the good end of the spectrum in this issue. The fight between Animal Man and B’wana Beast is exciting, with some great action. It weakens when B’wana takes off his helmet – his unmasked face looks simply bizarre – but that’s not a big problem in context of everything else. And the last two pages, an epilogue to this opening storyline – are absolutely haunting, some of Truog’s best work on the title to date.
Now that Animal Man has been reintroduced and we’ve got a clear sense of his place in the DC Universe, I’m anxious to see what Morrison did with him next.