It’s been a long time since we visited the world after The Wake. Animosity #15 came out at the very beginning of August, only for the next chapter to wait until the middle of October. It feels even longer for how good that last issue was.
Like its predecessor, this issue spends a solid portion of its time expanding our understanding of Kyle. After learning what frightens him, what motivates him, last issue, we see how those driving forces shape his story into one of tragedy.
The world of Animosity is not a kind one. The meek don’t get far and those that try to remain meek are tested, often beyond their breaking point. Watching Pearl and Kyle navigate that world to be together gets to your heartstrings quickly and Marguerite Bennett plays with the tropes and telling of the story just right to leave you hungry for how it all goes wrong. Certainly, it’s a bit simpler than Bennett’s best by the time Kyle is being told his fatal flaw by his mother figure, but the crushing inevitability of tragedy is used well to steamroll over those complaints. It all builds to a haunting still point…right before the final page turn gives you exactly what you want.
Meanwhile, this issue returns us to Jesse in the Walled City. Bennett began her comics career primarily as a horror writer, and you’ll not see a better example of why than when she’s able to write a villainess with absolute certainty in her cause. Bennett has never been shy about putting fascism in its place, morally or historically, but this issue is a crash course in the messed-up values that militarized nationalism instills.
The parallels are rather clear, some might say too much so, but it gives an authenticity without demeaning the history behind the story. It’s all here: the idolization of motherhood, the revisionist history full of convincing tautologies, the euphemistic language, the secularization of religion and the religiosity of new secularism. Bennett depends on existing frameworks, but she also paints a hauntingly specific picture of being captured and complicit within a fascist state in half an issue. And as she peppers little triumphs and survivals, if not escapes, through Jesse’s story, Bennett both distracts and prepares you for the quintessential question of these horrific scenarios: is it better to be a tarnished hero or a corpse with your principles?
The writing is dense but quick and the layouts of each page not only allow the book such indulgences, but to make ample space for them and provide the issue with a sense of urgency that helps it hit home.
Series regular Rafael de Latorre is joined by Ornella Savarese this month. It’s not entirely clear whether Savarese was a penciller or an inker on the issue, as either way the two artists fit together almost seamlessly. If one handled certain pages and the other the rest, I can barely detect the change. That’s not to say that Savarese’s impact is unfelt, however. There’s a scratchier line and a harsher ink about this issue that gives it the desperate air that Bennett is trying to imbue her story with.
Around that, all that has made this series work visually is still there. Animosity is an attractive series, but it’s rarely one that bowls you over by the force of its visuals alone. The storytelling and imagery tend to be the draw rather than the style. Luckily the series has and continues to focus in on just the right emotions, communicating exactly what the reader needs and turning scenes like Jesse being force fed from a thoughtful idea into an arresting and horrible cinematic experience. What’s more de Latorre has always excelled in drawing nearly any animal that Bennett can conjure up in her scripts. A miserable bear shows up shortly into the issue, looking very much distinct from most people’s image of a bear, but it’s immediately clear what it is and what they’re feeling.
The issue also deserves commendation for its depiction of Kyle. With a minimum of unnecessary lines, de Latorre and Savarese map out his facial structure exactly. His pages, largely simple by design, come alive because you can see the complexity of his emotions and recognize his face from the world around you.
The colors are restrained and generally straightforward but Rob Schwagner makes his presence as colorist known when it counts. Occasionally emotion will well up in a flare of blood red or the blue of the sky will break through the drab world of the city. Perhaps the best of his work is in the simple presence of Jesse’s pink dress and the light-consuming sternness of the Headmistress’ hair.
Following a standout issue of the series, Animosity #16 not only holds its own but keeps that beauty and potency alive as it reconnects to the current plot. Kyle’s story unexpectedly continues to develop as Bennett crafts a disturbing and all too real world within the Walled City. Some may find the parallels too obvious, but Bennett dives right to the heart of the historical realities, digging into whatever blood and viscera it takes to bring out the sad point that lies behind the pretty face that fascists put on their works. With de Latorre, providing his standard good work, backed up by Savaresse, the book looks sharper than ever without losing any of what’s made it great. There’s plenty to enjoy and consider here. With all the drama and desolation of The Walking Dead and less of the gore and aimlessness, Animosity is a series you’ll wish you didn’t have to wait for more of.
Animosity #16 is currently available in comic shops from Aftershock Comics.