There’s something fresh and yet undeniably familiar about Aftershock’s Animosity. The familiar is the format, a standard of modern indie comics. From its simple what-if concept to its small scope and survival-level goals, Animosity recalls Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, and countless others. What’s new, however, is the heart and humor Marguerite Bennett and Rafael De Latorre find in their apocalypse narrative.
Animosity wonders: what if all the animals just ‘woke up’ one day? Suddenly gifted with sentience, our animal brethren discover that they’re not too keen on how we’ve treated them. It’s the kind of revolution that bearded Marxists only dream of and humanity is truly and horrifically outnumbered.
Bennett spends about half of this opening issue introducing us to the concept of ‘The Wake’ in a characteristically clever manner. Though it seems like she’s being glib, this section is essential, establishing not only tone, but the rules of this brave new world. The animals clearly remember the time before but Bennett establishes, quite viscerally, that there HAS been a seismic shift in their awareness. What does it mean, I can’t help but wonder, to take revenge on the humans’ mistreatment with a bleeding carcass between your jaws? It’s not clear how deep the series will dive into such issues, but the setup we’re given here offers plentiful food for thought, even if you’ll have to hunt some of it.
And while this series could have read like some bizarre treatise on veganism or thoughtless revenge horror, Bennett makes it clear how she’s approaching this series, “We all make our peace,” a carnivorous vet says with a smile, “I’m not preaching.” The only problem is that the 99% of species have decided to make their peace in the fashion of Robespierre.
But while Bennett is as literate as ever, it’s humor that makes these early pages truly delightful. From an iguana’s honesty to a polar bear’s reflections to pandas’ thoughts on conservation, the absurdism of the situation is milked for all its worth with an incredibly dry, matter of fact delivery that not only forces you to accept it but supports those reactions that are more horror than comedy.
Bennett and de Latorre use the physical limitations of comics to fantastic effect in these pages, communicating time, scale, and surprise through a clever series of compositions. It not only forces us to wrestle, however briefly, with the unknown but establishes how small we are, how utterly surrounded humanity is, and how global this story could be.
But a high concept and some genuine laughs won’t sustain a series. Enter Jesse and Sandor.
A boy and his dog is one of the simplest and most accepted cores that a story can be built around, especially to the Spielberg generation, but it’s rare that a story opens a window to that core so quickly or completely, not to mention as earnestly in a limited space, as this. Bennett, rather pointedly, DOESNT explain, doesn’t elaborate on the connection between these two, letting actions and the depth and sincerity when Sandor tells Jesse that he loves her carry the issue.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some solid moments, there’s some wonderful appeals to archetypes in the issue’s climactic staredown, but there is no denying that, at this stage, Animosity has given a lot more support to the ongoing series than this individual issue. Though the plot stays engaging throughout, the action is a little rushed and simple towards the end. You can feel Bennett’s need to hit all of her story beats wrestling with her desire to put flesh on the bones a little bit.
Luckily for the fledgling series, Sandor is heartbreakingly sincere. Though I can’t ignore the places where content is light, this issue has more than enough emotion and care to make a fantastic short story and plenty of potential to launch us forward.
Rafael de Latorre will be familiar to Aftershock readers as the artist of Conner and Palmiotti’s Superzero, and, to be honest, based on that, I initially didn’t know what to expect. The art here is notably different from what that series offers. Where Superzero aims for sleek, rounded cartooning, Animosity prefers angrier shapes and more sketchy inks. There’s a greater blending of realism and exaggeration in this series that demonstrates de Latorre’s range rather nicely.
Even so, de Latorre’s is hardly the first look you might think of for this concept. Despite the appealing qualities and polish that de Latorre brings to both books,his lines lack a certain authority that you’d expect from a book that could easily fit in at Image.
Oddly enough, our theoretical lead is probably one of the weaker characters that de Latorre draws into life. Jesse’s frank, youthful face is probably the most alien of the memorable characters and her body language can be a tad stiff. It’s odd, especially because there’s no evidence of this problem in the other humans. De Latorre draws an array of human characters that all look alive and distinct, seemingly regardless of their importance to the story. I really value, perhaps, overvalue, art that can depict facial diversity without distracting and Animosity definitely delivers in that regard. But while I’m impressed by his humans, it’s de Latorre’s skill at rendering animals that’s most impressive.
All artists have something that they don’t like to draw, be it horses or water or cars, but there’s no evidence of what de Latorre’s might be here. From every class and clade, de Latorre fills Animosity with confident and capable creatures. It’s a demanding assignment that would challenge plenty of more famous artists, but obviously de Latorre is your man when you’re looking for animals. Even better, he’s able to cheat their anatomy to give them highly recognizable expressions and do it without turning the book into a Hanna Barbara cartoon.
Artistically, Animosity isn’t overly flashy and that can feel odd at first, but don’t let it distract you from what de Latorre is doing, because his range is deadly.
Animosity #1 kind of feels like a prologue rather than a full introduction to the series, but what a prologue it is. We don't fully get to the meat of the series, but this issue is funny, poignant, and devilishly clever. With literary references from The Jungle Book to A Game of Thrones coexisting beside 'evil' hamsters and vandal raccoons, Animosity is a strange bird, but, unsurprisingly, it's one that speaks to you.