There comes a point in everyone’s life when they wish animals could speak. However, not a lot of people wonder the consequences of such sentience, and if that might be a good thing for society as a whole. Enter Aftershock Comics’ Animosity, an ongoing series that delves into a universe where every animal suddenly develops logic and reasoning, as well as the ability to speak. Illustrated by Rafael de Latorre and written by Marguerite Bennett, the first two issues masterfully critique this interspecies interaction while slowly building its world through its visceral art and provoking dialogue.
Animosity’s first issue opens up with a seemingly ordinary vermin situation; tasked with killing a few rats, an exterminator gets ravaged by them as cries of “die bastard” are yelled. After an introductory page quoting the biblical book of Genesis, we’re treated to three two-page spreads with almost identical art, showing eight different scenarios with animals playing out. By the third spread, which kick-starts the world changing event known as the Wake, each panel’s animals gain sentience and react to their situations differently, ranging from comedic (a bunch of pandas shooting themselves with rifles) to horrific (baby hamsters trying to run away from their mother, who is currently eating one.) It’s the final panel, a dog and his owner, on which the series is focused. Sandor, an old yet trusty canine, speaks to his owner, a young child named Jesse, as she’s astounded by the situation at hand. It’s these moments (complete with Sandor crying tears of joy) that humanizes the comic.
However, the surprise and heartwarming times are short-lived, as other animals begin to rampage the complex where Jesse and her family are living. After fleeing for safety, Sandor and Jesse are separated from the rest of the neighbors. After a brief encounter with a hostile animal, Sandor, concerned with Jesse’s safety, promises to take care of her. The second issue jumps around through the year after the Wake, as human and animal relations are tense; some circumstances leave Jesse with only Sandor as her protector as they begin their journey to find shelter.
One of Animosity’s greatest strengths lies in its complex diversity. Like their human counterparts, animals in this universe react to the Wake differently. Throughout the two issues, we’re treated to bits and pieces of this interaction: a couple of birds express their disagreement with living together and having kids in a nest, chickens try to pawn off their eggs in a market, a cat threatens an abusive boyfriend to not hit its owner. It’s these small things that make the comic unique; every animal has a different personality, and create a pseudo society that runs analogous to our own.
While it focuses mostly on the animals, Animosity does have a human lead in Jesse; while she is a main character, her role is a sort of deuteragonist at the moment. The two issues put Sandor in the spotlight, with Jesse acting as a person that he has to protect at all time; she is his motivation to live. Jesse’s character is reminiscent of Clementine in season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, a fragile yet growing child that is slowly succumbing to the world she lives in. Time will tell if she develops much like Clementine, but for now, she’s a background motivator for the protagonist’s journey.
The art has stark contrasts to warm and visceral imagery, with panels of blood and gore overpowering idyllic ones. This is expected, since the tone of the comic is meant to be unnerving and uncomfortable. While there are respites in both issues, Animosity mostly barrages you with vivid shades of red with blood spatters of varying darkness.
Perhaps the highlight of the second issue is a public conference with a senator signing a deal with a moose and two squirrels, with the latter armed with firearms should the agreement go sour. Animosity is rife with bizarre, comical, and dreadful scenes that complement the comic’s universe. The series also deals with the religious aspects of such a revolution, as Genesis is frequently mentioned with sidewalk preachers and fanatics to justify humans’ superiority over the animal kingdom regardless of the sudden event of sentience. The main character’s family celebrates the Jewish feast of Shabbat before the attacks, and Jesse’s father holds reservations when Sandor uses his “Christian name.” These religious and ethical themes are explored well, and with time, could be used to spark a genuine conversation with faith.
While the comic is almost perfect with its depiction of a society of talking animals, the pacing could use a little work. Both issues are a bit shorter than usual due to the way they’re printed, and both left me wanting a little bit more. The aforementioned spreads in the first issue don’t help matters in terms of length, and the second issue jumps through the immediate timeline very quickly. It was a bit hard to catch up with it during my first reading, but I’m sure the pacing will start to slow down once the world is built and we get to see more of Sandor and Jesse.
With a third printing for the first issue and a second on the way for the second one, Animosity is sure to be this year’s indie breakout comic. Once the pacing finds a solid footing, it will be near perfect. With a great interaction dynamic, intriguing plot, and visceral art, this is a comic that I would recommend to fans and new readers alike. Aftershock Comics has a winner on its hands.
Animosity #2’s second printing is scheduled for release October 12. Animosity #3 will be released October 26.