On top of delivering another issue of the ever excellent Animosity and announcing a new addition to the brand in the form of Animosity: Evolution, last week also gifted us the second issue of the Animosity: The Rise miniseries. It makes sense that the world of Animosity is expanding, after all, that’s effectively what the series is about, as this issue so expertly reminds us.
As a Veterinarian, Adam North occupies a uniquely elevated position in the world after The Wake and this issue shows us what that position entails. Marguerite Bennett transports us to that world with a haunting lack of judgement and a quiet desperation that you never forget is just loud enough to deafen if you’re not careful.
Bennett has always excelled at writing about society, power, and inequality without sacrificing bite or respect and Animosity presents an unusually complicated lens through which to view them. It’s not a simple switch, it’s not ‘what if animals kept humans as pets’, and it’s not a full on Animal Farm scenario either. The animals are a coalition of many parts and factions and the humans are an underclass not solely because of prejudice but because of well founded fear of their past actions.
Though the entire city is theoretically in play, Bennett wisely limits our area of focus to the Hoppswilde Hotel, bringing an air of claustrophobia and alien change into the story. After all, it is unsettling to see animals becoming like humans, but it is perhaps more frightening to see humans becoming like animals. And that is effectively what is happening as Wintermute’s attempt at paradise seemingly takes its model of communism from the termites, their man-made mound jutting into the San Francisco skyline.
We are frequently reminded of the threat of starvation by both sides and, though it might become a little tiresome for some, it succeeds in driving home the motivations at play. Wintermute is right. We couldn’t survive left to our own devices with such a massive population increase, and to do so ethically… Only together could any community manage. But as convincing as Wintermute’s honest socialist sentiments may be, in execution they call to mind the unfortunate reality of historical regimes driven by the same motives. Wintermute has no goals beyond survival and whether that makes her a hero or a villain, it absolutely means that she cannot afford to care about anyone.
The wolf dog’s self-aware reluctance is fascinating. She sees where this line of thinking can go and, whether she insists on avoiding it by force of will or merely avoiding the appearance of unfairness, you can practically hear the gears clicking within her head.
She explains all that she can, or all that she cares to, challenging readers to offer a better solution and almost separating Wintermute, the character, from Wintermute, the villain, who hangs over the story like a specter.
It also helps that a flashback near the issue’s start immediately provides us a grounding with Adam, who continues the themes of community and uncertainty, but in drastically different ways. We know early on, and only gain more proof, that Adam is a decent man, but he’s passive, seemingly only able to ethically leverage his privilege rather than actively contribute as an equal, whether that means to his captors or his fellow humans.
Bennett’s mix of heady apocalyptica and emotionally solid storytelling elevates this issue well above its predecessor, even if some of the absurdist humor is missed. Where The Rise #1 was a fun F.A.Q. for the main series, issue #2 becomes a must read examination of this world, a fact that makes perfect sense in light of the Evolution announcement, which seems to be a continuation of The Rise in all but name.
It should also be noted that the effects of this miniseries’ shipping schedule are interesting. Having waited several months between issues, Bennett wisely lets this one stand on its own enough for new readers or those who have forgotten issue #1 to get their feet again. You could probably just pick up this issue and be ok as long as you understand the basic premise of Animosity.
However, while they will probably be invisible to late adopters, this issue does contain a number of explicit references to The Rise #1 that reveal how connected a reading experience they are intended to be.
Juan Doe brings a haunting quality to his colors and layouts that really make this issue tick. The odd use of sickly greens and unnatural purples create an atmosphere that’s attractively off-putting. Everything feels wrong but kind of nice, and that’s a great tone for this story.
The composition and placement of individual panels also proves a particular skill. It’s almost like a prose writer doing brilliant things with spaces and punctuation in its effect. Scenes take place from very particular angles and the combination of page design and panel composition make sure that you hold your breath when Doe wants you to.
As with any artist on an Animosity book, Doe’s skills in drawing animals are vital, and luckily he is up to populating the book with the sheer number of different creatures that the story demands. However, there’s no denying that Doe’s basic draftsmanship leaves something to be desired.
There’s a lack of consistency in the art that really drags the issue down. It feels like there are two styles at war in this issue, one thinner and more realistic and one more at peace with itself, with heavy lines and simple faces. It’s quite possible that the choice was intentional, but it’s not very pretty.
And, sadly there are also just times that the art looks wrong. Facial dimensions are notably malleable and the amount of detail given to characters and elements can differ drastically within a single panel. It took me a long time to figure out what animal Adam was operating on in one panel. Horse? Tortoise? I’m pretty sure it was a horse, but only because of a second angle.
But Doe continues to defy easy classification with some potent backgrounds and excellent use of impressionistic lines to communicate with the audience. It’s not easy to generalize about the art in this one, but it certainly feels of two minds a majority of the time.
Though mercurial artistic quality and a lack of action may turn some readers off, Animosity: The Rise #2 makes it painfully clear that this world can not only support multiple titles, but can deliver quality stories even without Sander and Jesse. Bennett and Doe imbue this book with a force and thoughtfulness that are hard to ignore. If you’re a fan of philosophical speculative fiction that considers real concerns without obsessing over how ‘hard’ its sci-fi is, Animosity: The Rise will scratch that itch and deliver memorable characters and genuine emotion as it does.