Taking place just after the events of ‘Animal Man’ #9, the first ‘Animal Man Annual’ tells the story of one of the past battles between the Red, the Green, and the Rot and warns of things that are coming to the pages of ‘Animal Man’ and ‘Swamp Thing’ very soon.

As the issue opens, Buddy Baker’s family is sitting in their camper outside a motel in Colorado. Maxine steps outside to take socks (the talking cat that was once an Avatar of the Red) out to take a potty break. Outside, Maxine begs Socks to tell her a story of one of the past battles between the three elements of the Earth.

The story that Socks tells is about a man called Jacob Mulllin. The farmland around Mullin’s home was seemingly falling prey to some sort of insidious disease. Animals were dying in horrible festering ways and, to make matters worse, there were rumors of strange creatures in the woods around the small community. When Mullin a group of local citizens, backed by a couple of mounties, take to the woods to burn out the disease, they learn the truth behind it and come face to face with the horrors of the Rot!

In a breakneck night of terror, Mullin discovers that he is the latest Avatar of the Red and he meets the current Avatar of the Green. The two warriors battle the Rot and force it back into balance with the world… but at a terrible price.

Back in the present day, Maxine says that the story is sad and Socks warns her that there is a war coming and that there will be sadness in her future as well.

Jeff Lemire take this “annual” issue as an opportunity to flesh out some of the history of the three elements of Red, Green, and Rot. We learn that the Rot isn’t necessarily evil but that sometimes the elements get out of balance and it’s up to the other two to band together to even things out. As is normally the case with ‘Animal Man’, the way that things get leveled out involves lots of blood, gore, and terrible tormented things.

Those terrible things are drawn by Timothy Green II and he does a great job in the way that he uses thin lines when depicting the Red and Mullin and thicker, more organic lines when the Green or the Rot are central to the art. It makes for a twisting and almost breathing story.

But, in the end, this is an aside to the main tale of ‘Animal Man’. If you didn’t know about Jacob Mullin and his war with the Rot, you’d not lose anything when you get back to Buddy Baker’s trials next week in ‘Animal Man’ #10. Combine the interesting but unimportant nature of the story with a $4.99 cover price and, it must be…

Verdict: Borrow

Story by Jeff Lemire
Art by Timothy Green II & Joseph Silver
Colors by Lovern Kindzierski
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Travel Foreman