Following the aftermath of ANIMAL MAN #18, the Baker family deals with the death of their son, Cliff, who sacrificed himself to help end the Rots' reign of terror and turning Earth into Rotworld. Problems between Ellen and Buddy arise, and Buddy heads to the Red to try and talk to the Totems.
What an incredibly sad and emotional issue. We've seen a lot of death in comics in the past few months, and I feel like this issue deals with the aftermath appropriately. We get to see these characters grieve and just be humans, for once. The funeral scene is pretty hard to get through. It's a very realistic scene. It's tough to see so much taken from the Bakers, and then watch Ellen and Buddy go at it. How much more can this man take? He's saved the world, but in turn, the world just craps on him. This issue is written so well by Jeff Lemire. It's one of those few issues that got me teary-eyed.
Toward the end of this issue, as Buddy makes his was to the Red and tries to talk to the Totems, we finally find out who's really in control here. In earlier issues, it seemed like the Totems and Buddy were a part of a partnership, but here, we get to learn that the Totems aren't as passive and friendly as they seem, and we get a nice surprise ending.
This is Steven Pugh's best issue yet. The art is very clean and crisp here. In this issue, Pugh works with colorist Lovern Kindzierski (who also did the cover), and they compliment each other incredibly well. The third page featuring Buddy and Ellen grieving in their own way is incredibly beautiful, and I love the inking in here. It adds so much to the page and the grief these characters are going through.
One really small thing I loved is that there is a shot of Cliff's gravestone, and there are some leaves floating by. Two of the leaves cover up the years Cliff was born and died. I find that this doesn't date the book, so future readers can pick it up and not be distracted with when this originally came out.
I had one small problem with one line of dialogue where Buddy tells the totems they know where they can shove their rules. It's a tad cheesy, and while Buddy is very angry and in a lot of pain, I found that one line to be pretty bad.
Also, the issue isn't new reader friendly. In fact, this book hasn't been very inviting to new readers since issue #1. It's be the same story line for the past #19 issues, and while #20 will be starting a new adventure for Buddy, which could in turn make it a bit easier for new readers to jump on, so much has happened to this character and his family to make it easily accessible.
What a fantastic issue! ANIMAL MAN #19 does a great job at wrapping up the aftermath of the Rotworld story arc. Lemire does a fantastic job telling this tale and bringing some emotional reality to the book. As far as art goes, this is my favorite issue with Pugh on the book. He really hit it out of the park here. My only problems with the issue is that it's not really new reader friendly and one line of dialogue rubbed me the wrong way.
Aside from all that, I'm very interested in where this book is going, after the later events of this issue. This book is going to have a bit of a change. It seems it will be moving more towards a super-hero book than anything else, which will bring in some new readers.
Overall, I highly recommend this issue.