Going back in time, four years, right before Maxine was born, Buddy takes on the Spider Queen who has been kidnapping people, including Cliff.
I'm always a bit leery going into annual issue because it truly is a mixed bagged. With ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2, the reader is treated to a solid, very emotional story that fans of the series will really dig. Dealing with the loss of a child can't be easy, and writer Jeff Lemire explores that here. It's tough to watch Buddy deal with his son being a part of the media stampede, and it's even tougher to watch Buddy relive a moment in the past where he and his son had an adventure together.
As far as an annual issue goes, this one works extremely well. It plays off the past year of ANIMAL MAN well, and it introduces a pretty cool new character (Spider Queen). There's usually two types of annual books: An issue that is a complete stand-alone and an issue that heavily ties into the current events. While this book does tie in heavily to Buddy dealing with his son's death, it also works well as a stand alone. ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2 is a nice mixture of both of these types of annual issues.
I've been loving Steven Pugh on ANIMAL MAN, but a part of me misses Travel Foreman. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both artists are fabulous in their own rights. However, I really missed how Travel sets up a page. When things get a little surreal in the story, Travel always has a way to set up a page that feels so unnerving. The unsettling panels, with weird disfigurements also fit the unnerving panels.
I found myself really liking the Spider Queen. Her and Buddy are the same on so many levels. They just want what's best for their children and to protect them. I also like the look of her and her powers. While this character isn't a villain that needs to come back, I'd love to see her again mainly because she really isn't an outright villain, like Biowolf in the opening.
Travel's art is a bit rough at the end of the issue, in the face department. On top of that, the inks are a tad too heavy, and it becomes a bit distracting. Again, this happens at the end of the issue.
I've read a few of the Annual issues that were launched this week, and this was my favorite one. Just like with most annual issues, this really caters to people who have been reading the book the entire year, and while I feel like a new reader could pick this issue up and really enjoy it, those who have gone through Cliff's death, with Buddy will appreciate this on a whole other level. It was great to see Travel Foreman back on the book as well. I love how creepy and unsettling his art can be. Overall, I really loved this issue and so will you.