Usurped Crossover #2: Morrison's First Strike

ANIMAL MAN #6, DC Comics, Holiday 1988
Today, he's crafting event books that throw other writers into a tailspin (cue Chuck Dixon: "But Batman can't diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!!!"), but there used to a be a time when Grant Morrison was on the fringe and had to incoporate crossover events into his own storylines. Storylines that really weren't made for it. Take Animal Man, for example. Here's a quiet, slightly (for now) postmodern series about a family man who's thinking about becoming an animal rights activist because he's not very good at the superhero thing.

How is he going to make Buddy Baker cope with (wait for it...) INVASION FIRST STRIKE! Oooh. It's the story where all the alien races in the DC Universe band together to invade Earth. Not a bad one, by these things' standards.

So does Morrison just throw Animal Man into a crowd scene, maybe have him do battle with a cadre of Khunds? Nope. Buddy doesn't even KNOW there's an Invasion on.

Really, it's the story of Thanagarian artist Rokara Soh who, on the first page, commits ritual suicide by downing a beaker of poison. Ah the "Hawks", such a martial race. Even their art is part of the war effort. Soh is paired up with his own Hawkgirl for a mission to America's West Coast.
You can really cut the sexual tension with a knife, can't you? Her role is important only in the comic book sense. While art-boy sets up his thing, she gets to fight Animal Man a bit, fulfilling the comic's quota of superhero action. After losing the first round, he takes it to the water, where the hunter becomes the prey.
Losing control of the belt, she goes way up into the atmosphere, then falls to her death. Soh is forced to call on birds and Buddy nearly gets pecked to death, spending the rest of the comic either hung up in a tree or on all fours on the ground. He's a real Grant Morrison hero: Clueless and ineffectual.

But just what was he trying to stop? Soh's "lifebomb" is part artwork, part weapon of mass destruction.
To sum up: Dude downloads his entire life into the bomb, it plays like a Proust novel (each memory keys off another memory ad infinitum), and when it detonates when it hits that life's most emotionally charged moment, making the artist's life flash before your eyes as you die, die, die. Only in a Grant Morrison comic, right?

What follows is a sort of biographical poetry of words and images, moments both high and low of the artist's life, building to an obvious crescendo as Buddy basically freaks out:
And since it IS a Morrison comic, it ends with a deus ex machina. Our Hawkman (I miss that version of that guy) just strolls over and turns it off with just a touch. It's the usual Morrison anti-climax, though still new at the time, and certainly a leitmotif in this particular series. In fact, far from being a one-off aberration, this issue resonates later in the run when the same exact deus ex machina is used.

In some trade collections, the crossover issue might as well be excised for all the relevance it has to the actual story arcs. But having Animal Man always on the margins of everything Big that's happening means you never even have to explain the event. It just works, and it's integral to the entire series. Animal Man is the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of the DC Universe.

3 comments:

rob! said...

brian bolland draws the hottest women...

mwb said...

Interesting combat outfit she has.

You have to wonder what she would wear to be seductive?

Siskoid said...

And so the combat suspenders were deemed a hazard.

 

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