The second of the two-part "Hollywood Babylon" story from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Rafael Albuquerque continues the horrific melodrama of the Baker family seeking reconciliation while the Red boils around them all. Letterer Jared K. Fletcher and colorist Dave McCaig round out the creative team, giving "Animal Man" #25 a crew that is three-quarters of the "American Vampire" creative engine.
The unique piece to "Animal Man" #25 not found in a typical issue of "American Vampire" is writer Jeff Lemire. In over two years of chronicling the adventures of Buddy Baker, this issue is the most straightforward superheroic adventure Lemire has crafted for Animal Man. That spins out of the plot where a handful of goons from the Church of Blood have seized control of the eighty-fifth Hollywood Screen Awards, threatening to kill all in attendance unless Animal Man surrenders. Buddy has no intent of surrendering, but rather sees this as a possible opportunity to find his lost daughter. "Animal Man" #25 has fisticuffs and Buddy Baker summoning animal powers to charge up those throwdowns. It even seems to almost find a happy spot to share with readers, before Lemire pulls the world out from under Buddy's feet at the conclusion of this issue.
Albuquerque is a masterful choice for this title as he seems remarkably adept at handling the quiet moments between Buddy and Ellen as well as the panicked flight into exile led by Shepherd towards the Mountains of Muscle in the Red. The artist brings all of the creepiness and hard-edged artwork that make his issues of "American Vampire" so visually thrilling and adds that to the dark, haunting story from Lemire. Colorist Dave McCaig is as integral to the twists that pop up in this issue as Albuquerque. Like the artist, McCaig delivers at every opportunity, making Buddy's journey magical, exhilarating and frightening. The art crew for "Animal Man" #25 alone makes this comic book worth checking out, even if the story is gritty and grim.
That said, it's disappointing that the conclusion of a two-part story is left so incredibly open-ended, but that is par for the course at DC as one adventure tends to lead directly to the next. The upside is that, prior to the final bewildering page of this issue, Lemire works rather diligently to bring Buddy and Ellen back together. After months of crossovers and more downbeats heaped on top of that, "Animal Man" #25 feels like a step in a forward direction. It's too early to tell if it's the right direction just yet, but Lemire gives Animal Man some purpose beyond just being an avatar of the Red. Buddy now has a recognizable foe and a task in front of him. This issue displays that Buddy can act like a hero, so maybe readers will see more heroic deeds from Buddy Baker in the near future.