Animal Man was created as anthology space filler by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino in 1965. Back then Wood’s priority was a hero with the power to mimic what animals could do, and the logical means of enabling that wasn’t considered greatly important given a limited page count. The result was Buddy Baker gaining super powers from being near an alien craft when it exploded.

Having revived Animal Man, Grant Morrison decided his over-riding theme was going to be layers of reality, so revisiting Animal Man’s origin plays directly into that idea, and the bulk of Origin of the Species takes that simplistic origin and beefs it up. Along the way Morrison accounts for the similar Animal based powers of B’Wana Beast and Vixen. He has to begin with the legacy of a crossover that left Animal Man’s powers operating randomly, rapidly discarded, before moving on to the aliens who’re part of that original origin. Morrison would become known for conceptual density and messing with reality, and this is an early example. It’s a little clunky in places, but a satisfying reconfiguration overall with the dire warnings of worse to come for Buddy.

While Tom Grummett draws the opening story, improving on his outing in Animal Man, and has another good chapter later, the remainder of the art is down to Chas Truog whose work changes little throughout the run. There’s a reason later collections were titled Animal Man by Grant Morrison, not Animal Man by Chas Truog. Storytelling clarity is a strength, and occasionally he breaks free from a limited imagination to produce a page like the sample, although that could have been laid out by Morrison. Otherwise it’s business as usual with misproportioned people and the story told in a rudimentary way.

Once the origin is dispensed with there’s a chapter supplying considerable foreshadowing. Who is the introspective man wandering along a Glasgow canal path? Who is the distressed man in the Bakers’ garden? Who is the Native American psychiatrist? And who is the killer posing as an advocate of religion? The answers to almost all those questions will have to wait until Deus Ex Machina, as Morrison has some information about whaling and animal testing to pass on, definitely less widely known then than now, but still horrifying.

There are still a few bumps along the way, but this is a more consistent collection than Animal Man, and the really strange stuff is still to come. The entire series under Morrison is also available as the Animal Man Omnibus.