Throughout my childhood, any time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always had my answer. I have always loved animals and grew up with an assortment of animals that fostered that love. Until I hit my first biology class in high school, I knew I wanted to help animals by becoming a veterinarian. And then I discovered that I hated biology about as much as every other science class and had to set aside those dreams and settle for just surrounding myself with animals. I currently have a cat and two dogs and would probably add to my pack if it wouldn’t drive my boyfriend crazy. Like many animal lovers, I talk to my fur babies regularly enough to be considered crazy, though I never expected them to answer back. But what if they did? What if animals could think and reason the same way that we do? In the new graphic novel series Animosity, published by Aftershock, the world is upended when animals suddenly gain consciousness similar to humans and the status quo is abruptly altered. Written by Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Rafael De Latorre, Animosity asks hard questions about the way we treat animals and what it would be like to go from bestial to reasoning creatures in a heartbeat and what that might mean for the world. The series is ongoing, so far consisting of nine issues. The first eight issues have been collected into two volumes, which I will be discussing for this week’s review. If you ever wondered what it’d be like if animals could speak (and not just about politics), join me in the review of Animosity!
The series begins as the world is confronted with the social upheaval of the Wake. On the first day of the Wake, all of the animals in the world suddenly “woke up” and realized that beyond survival instincts or affection, they could think and reason for themselves. While some of them had attachments to their humans, many had not been treated nearly as well and were ready for revenge. In the upheaval that followed, humans and animals fought for power against each other and themselves and few could feel safe as the food chain and power structure flexed and changed. Beyond that, now that they could reason, how could animals defend their own instincts among themselves? In the midst of all of this, a young eleven year old girl named Jesse Hernandez and her bloodhound dog, Sandor, are faced with a journey across America to re-united with family in San Francisco. Can the duo make it from New York City across the disputed territory of the United States in one piece? And while Sandor has done his best to shield Jesse from the harsh reality of this post-apocalyptic world, his own bestial nature has led to decisions that aren’t easily defended. It’s up to Sandor to protect his girl as best he can as they contend with both humans and animals on their quest to reunite Jesse with her half-brother in San Francisco.
As both a dedicated animal lover and an unapologetic omnivore, I’ve long had to face my own reckoning with that conundrum. My answer has long been that humans have been omnivores for much of our history and the food chain is a reflection of that. Unless criticized, I do my best not to judge others for having different choices. Part of what I like about Animosity is that it asks hard questions about how we treat animals and where we get our food but doesn’t get too much on the vegan preachy train (though it may occasionally get close). It asks equally difficult questions about how animals would deal with the moral quandaries of the food chain if they could reason for themselves. Most of all, many of the carnivores (and Sandor in particular) are faced with how to reconcile their bestial natures with their more logical desires. Sandor has done terrible things in his desire to protect Jesse and of some of them Jesse is blissfully unaware. Is Sandor making the right choice in keeping her naive or are his lies hurting her more than the truth would have? This story is as much about the struggle of being a parent and protector as it is about reconciling caring for animals and eating them. There are no easy answers as Sandor and Jesse discover and there are few people or animals they can rely on unequivocally. Animosity isn’t perfect and there are certainly parts of the story that drag. The second volume spends a lot of time on the philosophy of the animals and only the intense parts of the action save it from getting dull in places. The overall tone of the story is very grim and it will be interesting to see if Bennett can follow through on some of the potential darkness that may be coming in future issues.
One of the greatest strengths of Animosity is the art. The realistic illustrations by Rafael De Latorre make good use of line detail and excellent use of shadow to match the dark, grim tone of Marguerite Bennett’s writing. In combination with the excellent job of the colorist Rob Schwager, the panels vary from grim, forbidding tones to absolutely beautiful landscapes and animals in a way that helps to keep the story from getting dull or repetitive. While it has fantastical elements, the appearance and abilities of the animals fit well with what the animals are capable of in reality and I was impressed by how the team made it feel so realistic and strange at the same time.
Animosity is a series that attempts to answer a very intriguing “what if?” question. While it has its moments where it stumbles, the series is compellingly grim and asks a lot of tough questions that readers may or may not be quite ready for. Beyond the moralities of what we eat, how do we defend the choices we make when protecting those whom we love? Is lying or the truth better to keep them safe? There are no easy answers, as both Jesse and Sandor discover, but the journey (and the relationships that they make with those around them) is an interesting one.