One of the most engrossing books from upstart publisher Aftershock is by far and away Animosity, by artist Rafael De Latorre, colorist Rob Schwager, letterer Marshall Dillon, and writer/creator Marguerite Bennett.
If you haven’t heard of it by now, it’s the story of a dog and his girl set in a time where all animals on Earth have gained human-like consciousness and have reestablished the pecking order of society. The first two books of this series introduce us to the characters and to the modern society under the rule of animals, and the third issue takes us into a tense situation of the dog, Sandor, trying desperately to get his girl, Jesse, to sanctuary in California. Actually, “tense” is an understatement here, as there is political intrigue, paranoia, prejudice, and a host of other negative feelings spilling out.
Sandor, looking for safe passage to Cali, had previously made contact with a crow that said it can hook them up with a group called the Animilitary that will see to it they can be smuggled to salvation. It’s a heart-warming opening between Sandor and Jesse, as he asks he to do homework, and she asks him to catch Pokemon… and that leads into a humpback whale being more precious than human language can describe.
The first bit of praise goes to letterer Dillon, whose performance on one of the most overlooked aspects of a quality book is otherworldly. He finds the right speech bubbles for various animals, keeps the words from overtaking the panels, and in general makes it so much easier for the reader to lose him or herself in the story. His work is tight and creative, especially in this issue.
The reason the animilitary wants to enlist Sandor is simple: dude’s got a superior sniffer, and they want to find out what happened to one of their members. Sandor makes a deal with Mimico, the leader of the outfit, and they begin a fascinating hunting expedition for Pearl. Apparently, the animals have stumbled across human scientists that claim to know how the awakening occurred, and were taken hostage by the animilitary. The human government is eager to get them back, and there’s speculation that humanity needs those people to reverse the animal’s sentience. Nevertheless, Mimico just wants Pearl back despite Sandor’s urging to the contrary.
Jesse’s spotlight in this issue is a testament to De Latorre and Schwager – they combine to portray the young girl not as a forced human counterpart, but as a young girl whose sincerity is present with every action: the flashback of her picking Sandor from the litter is believable and innocent, her making friends with the animals in the stronghold doesn’t feel forced, and the ambiance around her is warm and inviting. It’s easy to cock up something like this to cringe-worthy levels, but these two combined artistic forces to heart-warming levels of effectiveness.
And then there’s the discussions that take place in this issue. Holy shit, it’s like following a good episode of 24, in that the stakes are continually present in the discussion, but there’s room for doubt and intrigue at every step. The humans and animals are in an uneasy alliance, and each side has done horrible things to the other to gain the upper hand (the end of this issue provoked an audible gasp from me). And yet, Sandor’s single-minded concern for Jesse trumps it all. His dialogue alone makes this book a must-have, but it’s the way all the animals converse with one another that shines a light on how special a talent Bennett is.
She’s done amazing things for feminism in comics thanks to Bombshells, she’s portrayed sexuality in innovative ways in Insexts, and her work here in Animosity is uncanny; there are so many emotions that are tapped throughout this series, so many avenues to let the reader’s mind wander into this world. Bennett is a storyteller at the top of her game, and consuming this story really proves the fact.
Animosity 3 is yet another stellar issue in a book that should be at the top of everyone’s pull list. The art is spectacular, the story powerful, the lettering sublime and editorial choices (big props to Aftershock founder and former Marvel editor Mike Marts for lending his skills to this story) daring. The crown jewel of Aftershock continues to shine like a diamond, and by God, that Harambe variant by Mike Rooth defies reason in its absolute dominance. I must have it.