“Satirizing” “celebrity culture” is often a cheap and lazy grab for relevance. Throw a few weak jabs at a few easy targets (KIM! KANYE! AMANDA!), bemoan how shallow people are that they follow the every motion of dolts, and collect a paycheck. Social media has made this more intense, and made the “satire” even lazier. Leave it to Jeff Lemire and Steve Pugh to not only take the topic seriously, but make it fresh with, of all heroes, Animal Man.
Buddy Baker is in the limelight because of a surprise nomination for Best Actor. He was in an indie movie about a struggling superhero called “Tights”, and the nomination couldn’t come at a worse possible time. Buddy’s marriage is a wreck, his son is dead, he’s lost all connection to the eminences behind his powers, and he’s emotionally adrift.
Lemire and Pugh have been consistently handing in superb work on this title, and this issue, kicking off a new arc, is no exception. And we see some new skills in action: Pugh turns out to be pretty slick with the layouts, and Lemire, in addition to being a great comics writer, turns out to be really good at satirizing self-centered Twitter douchebaggery.
It’s more than a gimmick, though. Lemire contrasts Buddy’s struggles with the superficial and crappy way other people treat it: “Mullet” is a trending hashtag thanks to his son’s death, for example, and as he tries to take his mind off his troubles by being a superhero again, we see the… variable reaction on social media. Animal Man #21 is a subtly thoughtful issue that often contrasts the frivolity, self-righteousness and nattering of even people who proclaim to be Buddy’s fans with the hard realities of emotional pain, and for that, it’s worth picking up.
On the other hand, maybe you want to see a dead guy curbstomp some clown zombie midgets. Or perhaps the full release list, at the end of the slideshow.
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I’ll always pick up a number one book if I happen to see it, because, hey, you never know. I’d be lying if I said I’m not often disappointed, but Ehmm Theory is goofy and offbeat enough to genuinely work.