Animal Man #5
After an argument with his family, Buddy Baker heads to the desert for some time to think, but there he meets an usual creature: a wily coyote with the bizarre ability to survive brutally fatal attacks.
In Animal Man #5, writer Grant Morrison takes readers into deep meta territory to push the character, and the comics medium overall, into a bold new direction that absolutely stands the test of time. The Coyote Gospel is a story that utilizes the comics medium in a fresh and exciting way, and despite being slightly lesser known among Morrison’s illustrious work, it’s a true classic.
Originally conceived as a four-issue miniseries, Animal Man found new live with a radical direction in it’s fifth issue, which ultimately served as a catalyst in the series until issue #26. It’s the story of Crafty, a coyote with a directive straight from God, and the seemingly random meeting with Animal Man with revelations that are both shocking and revealing. As an overt nod to Wile E. Coyote and general Looney Tunes goofiness mixed brilliantly with subtle tones of divinity and new-aged vigilantism, the issue captures many different elements remarkably well.
Animal Man #5 is a meta exploration and purposeful diversion of popular superhero comics of its time, telling a story that finds purpose in the journey rather than the destination. It’s an example of what the comics medium can do free from the confines of gritty realism that remain popular even to this day. Grant Morrison is firing on all cylinders with this issue as he defines the next twenty plus issues of this now-iconic run.
It isn’t just Morrison who pulls off such excellent work though, as the artistic team delivers some powerful visuals. From Crafty’s cycle of death and revival to the incredible story that got him to this dark place, the artwork has an aura of mystery that is clever and truly impressive. The color palette helps to bring in a more whimsical aesthetic but the themes handled are sure to keep you intrigued. By the end, when Crafty’s hardships are made clear and the inevitable loss that comes from Animal Man’s inability to actually read Crafty’s important message are revealed, it’s almost impossible to not be left reeling.
God being depicted as a cartoonist is one of the most memorable aspects of this story for me personally, as it ties into the most meta aspects of the issue which is featured on the cover as well. Breaking the boundaries between artists and their creations is something not easily done in any medium, but this entire creative team has such a firm grasp on how to do this well and it shows in Animal Man #5. It’s a one-shot style issue that exemplifies the power of comics and is sure to have you hooked on this strange run of Animal Man.
Leave the gritty, dark and easily relatable emotional struggles behind and dive into a more nuanced story that begs for your engagement and will have you thinking about it long after you finish.
Animal Man #5 is a meta exploration and purposeful diversion of popular superhero comics of its time, telling a story that finds purpose in the journey rather than the destination. It's a true classic.
SUNDAY CLASSICS: Animal Man #5: The Coyote Gospel
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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