By Marguerite Bennett, Rafael De Latorre & Rob Schwager
There are many memorable moments within Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man, a mesmerizing portrait of fanatical, out of touch nature lover, Timothy Treadwell. The most haunting image is a close-up of a grizzly’s face, as Herzog’s narration calmly observes that there is no “secret life” of the bear, no deeper truth to be learned from its existence beyond the simple, single-minded pursuit of food. One of Treadwell’s many flaws was his inability to acknowledge the brutal side of nature, believing instead in a Disneyfied world of good-natured creatures who would never harm each other, even for sustenance. At one point in Grizzly Man, Treadwell bemoans the death of a small fox, literary unable to process that it probably served as food for those bears Treadwell was trying so hard to “protect.” In the end, such naiveté would cost Treadwell his life. However, while Herzog’s somber reality-check is essential for anyone who was raised with funny animal cartoons and comics, it is only half the story. Like human nature itself, animals are more complex than any straightforward categorization. This willingness to see shades of grey is essential to the success of Marguerite Bennett’s new AfterShock series. Animosity. By choosing to focus on diversity, instead of uniformity, she creates an engaging, strong debut issue.
When Animosity was first announced it sounded like a fairly clear-cut, if intriguing, premise: one day the animals “wakeup” and decide to get their revenge on humanity. Humanity has definitely abused animals in enough ways to justify such behavior. Bennett has experience writing literate horror, as readers of her first AfterShock title, Insexts, know; what Insexts fans also know, though, is that Bennett has an ability to twist expectations. True, Animosity starts out as expected, as several rats viciously attack an exterminator. What follows though is quite fascinating. There is a two page spread depicting animals in all sorts of situations from pets at home to pandas on a reservation to sloths in the wild. This same grid is then repeated with the animals waking up. Here the reader braces themselves for carnage and some does arrive when the page is turned once again. Deer leap off an overpass onto the passing cars below, as the deers’ leader yells “Kill them all!” The pandas turn violent as well, seizing their captors’ gun and turning them on themselves. “Why did you keep us alive for so long?” they ask. A cat warns a man that if he hits the woman sleeping beside him one more time, the cat will rip out his eyes. An orca in a Sea World type setting declares its love for its trainer. A lizard informs his owner that the owner’s partner is cheating on him. A dog about to be euthanized tells its owner not to be sad; “I forgive you.” A young girl, Jesse, hugs her dog Sandor.
Sandor and Jesse are rapidly swept into the chaos of unfolding events. Flocks of birds dive bomb the residents of New York City, while also downing commercial airliners. Bennett and artist Rafael De Latorre do an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension. Despite the kindhearted animals lending their support, the reader cannot help but fear for Jesse and her family. Yet, through it all, Sandor protects Jesse leading to an affecting final page which cannot help but move any animal lover.
De Latorre does a great job bringing Bennett’s script to life. Some of the strongest sections of the issue, such as those three consecutive double page spreads, rely almost entirely on visuals in order to convey their mood. The expressions of his animals reflect the variety of their thoughts. Some are vicious, while others are cuddly. Some are as confused as the people are. At the same time, he fills the pages with details that ramp up the sensation of terror. One of the freakiest sights from Wednesday’s comics is set inside a sushi restaurant, as an octopus silently climbs out of its tank, tentacles brandishing knives. De Latorre is able to frame the action within a large canvass without losing sight of the two protagonists at the center. Thus, when the last page arrives, he is able to clearly express the various emotions of the moment.
Anyone who has ever owned pets can immediately vouch for how animals have their own distinct personalities unrelated what species they are. For my part, I currently own two cats, who are near polar opposites of each other. Acknowledging this truth is one of the reasons for Animosity’s success. The other is the excellence of Bennett and De Latorre’s storytelling skills. Based on the debut issue, Animosity has the potential to be a great series.