Two issues in, Animosity is proving to be one of the most original debuts of the year. The AfterShock series takes place on an Earth where animals suddenly gain sentience. Naturally, confusion leads to violence which only ratchets up the narrative’s tension. However, there is more to the title than a tale of animal resentment run amok. Writer Marguerite Bennett, along with artist Rafael De Latorre, are crafting a nuanced portrait of humans’ relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. At New York Comic Con, I had the chance to speak with Bennett about the series.
Bennett confirmed that the variety of perspectives within the book was a deliberative choice. Both issues of the series highlight the diversity of animal reactions, avoiding any type of monolithic reaction based on species. Some birds remain friends of humans, some go on murderous streaks. Others want to be left alone. Bennett explained that her goal was to mirror the complexity of human personalities. With these threads she weaves a large canvas which allows her to explore social issues. If humans had difficulty allocating dwindling natural resources amongst themselves what happens when new species demand a fuller share? How about when all those dogs, cats, deer and so on wish to have the same freedom to be fruitful and multiply that humans have guarded so zealously? At a time when fear and mistrust inform too many racial exchanges, why would we expect cross-species interactions to run any more smoothly? Bennett sounded eager to use her “crazy” world building to delve into something deeper than a thrilling adventure story (though, for the record, the book does that element pretty well too).
While Bennett is currently writing one of the best new series of the year, several months ago she brought to an end one of the year’s most idiosyncratic. Angela: Queen of Hel was a quirky, fun romp through the terrors of Hel and gentrifying Brooklyn. I mentioned to Bennett how much I missed the book, especially the meta-quipping co-lead Sera. Bennett commented that she felt the same, observing that she does not have an opportunity to write character with a voice like Sera’s. She may be working on several titles with differing tones, yet none of them provides quite the same style. Her observation was a reminder of what made Queen of Hel such a distinctive series.
Key to Hel’s success was Bennett’s fine eye for character, finally giving Angela the full-bodied personality missing from the first twenty years of her existence. At DC’s All Access panel, Bennett spoke about the importance of nuanced characterization. She started by reflecting on the experiencing of watching Batman: The Animated Series. (The seminal influence of the cartoon was a reoccurring theme in our conversations with creators over the course of the convention). As a young girl, Bennett was not attracted to any of the “good” characters, preferring instead Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. These were women who possessed more complexity because they were free of the designation “role model.” Years later, Bennett was excited to see Batwoman break this pattern. Here was a heroine with a nuanced personality. She made mistakes or could be overwhelmed. She was also queer which made the fact that she was not a plaster saint of inclusivity even more impressive. She is a human being, instead of an aspirational symbol. This is why Batwoman means so much to Bennett, who identifies as queer herself, and why she was clearly honored by the opportunity to co-write Batwoman’s new title launching in the new year. Hearing Bennett describe her conception for Batwoman, suggests that fans of both the writer and heroine have much to look forward to in 2017.
For those interested in hearing more from Marguerite Bennett, please listen to our NYCC Podcast #2, where she discusses her DC Bombshells series and general working methods.