Aftershock’s ANIMOSITY focuses on a young girl named Jesse and her dog, Sandor. After all of the animals on Earth experience The Wake, where they gain sentience and revolt, our heroes traverse from the East Coast across the new hybrid colonies of the United States to reach Jesse’s older brother on the West Coast. Jesse and Sandor’s relationship is built on pure love amidst a world of scavenger groups, cannibalistic animal cults, and rogue military battalions.

Writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Rafael de Latorre introduce a number of ways that the dominant group (the humans) reacts to the arrival of the group “invading” their culture (the animals). Throughout human history, counter-cultural movements have elicited a myriad of different reactions. From the French Revolution to the Suffragettes/Suffragists, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Gay Rights Movement, the dominant (and dominating) society always reacts to the “invasion.” Sometimes these reactions are positive. These can range from a simple embrace between two people to group protests consisting of supportive human minds. Sadly, this is not the norm, as evidenced by the presence of hate groups, internment camps, and attempts to “cure” the “problem.” Through the human-animal struggle, ANIMOSITY shows a world that is tearing apart.

In this article, I will be analyzing four ways in which ANIMOSITY’s fictional society reacts to the waking of the animals. The focus will be placed on the reaction of the dominating group. The dominating group is the one in society with power and privilege. It is the group that defines the rules of the world. In ANIMOSITY, it is the humans. The counter-culture group, on the other hand, is the group breaching these societal ideals. In ANIMOSITY, the animals are the counter-culture group. Because of The Wake, the animals have broken into the dominating culture and represent a new way of life that differs drastically from the previous worldview. In a world where animals enact laws of nationwide vegetarianism, only a fraction of the population is willing to follow suit happily.

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1. The Loud Mouths

ANIMOSITY #2 Courtesy of Aftershock Comics

In issue #2, Sandor and Jesse’s mother witnesses the preaching of a religious bigot. He claims that animals do not have souls and therefore do not deserve equal treatment. This scene exemplifies one way the dominant culture resists the counter-culture. No matter what form the counter-culture takes, the humans of ANIMOSITY fall back onto all of the old ways of their society. They turn to their holy books and their politics to explain away their great fears. Some higher power justifies their hatred. They don’t see that their ways can be more destructive than examining their failings. These people don’t see change as growth or evolution. “Changing” is synonymous with “losing.”

Though his ideas are destructive, the preacher has gathered a following of like-minded humans from the dominant culture. Bennett and de Latorre use the real world figure of the sidewalk apocrypha preacher to show how the loudest voice gets the attention in our culture. Despite this, the voices we care most about — Sandor’s as our calm protagonist in this scene — speak truth to the reader. With their open minds on our side, we can easily walk past this man and this brand of social destruction.

Some voices cannot be as easily overlooked. Also in ANIMOSITY #2, an animal-human political summit goes south when a religious zealot detonates a bomb during the proceedings. For the sake of his beliefs, this man kills himself and dozens of others because he cannot accept the new equality of animal and human. With real-world parallels to the Ku Klux Klan, Al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups, this obvious hatred destroys lives and deters the coming of progress.

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2. The Fixers

Animosity #3 Courtesy of Aftershock Comics

Speaking of societal progress, it is one thing to study the world. It is another to use gained knowledge to try and “fix” the world. Certain members of a society will take on a role of a Fixer, who uses the scientific, medical, sociological or other “empirical” tools to remedy what they see as the cultural infestation that is the counter-culture.

Fixers have a minor role in ANIMOSITY, though I expect Bennett and de Latorre will explore this side of anti-cultural thinking in later issues. The only example so far appeared in issue #3. While Sandor aids the Animilitary, a militarized group of animal soldiers, Jessie helps the kitchen staff. Human scientists from a nearby military base are being held hostage by the group and reveal that they have discovered the cause, and a cure, for the Wake.

Humans have used pseudoscience or misused facts to attack the counter-culture. Should you be labeled “Other,” certain scientists seek explanations or cures. While the Loud Mouths try to create groups of Others, the Fixers take it further, stating that this counter-culture is so flawed that it needs to be eradicated. In ANIMOSITY, certain markets even sell pills and discount lobotomies (performed by both animal and human) to any animal wishing to fall back. Some animals receive payment to “fix” their brethren by drugging and/or scrambling others’ brains. These animals have been corrupted by humans’ vision of normalcy. In a world where a cat named Pallas has an intimate knowledge of medical procedures (seen in ANIMOSITY #3), some humans still think they’re the height of evolution.

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3. The Pent-Up Aggressors

Aftershock #2 Courtesy of Aftershock Comics

One of ANIMOSITY’s primary aggressors is Jesse’s father, Oscar. In the chaos of the new world, Oscar willingly works beside Sandor to provide for his family. But at the end of the day, Oscar remembers the horrors of The Wake. Birds tore apart his neighbors. Zoo animals killed pedestrians in the streets. In his mind, he believes that every animal is as destructive as the rest. After the aforementioned summit bombing, the gathered crowd falls into chaos. When a looter harms and steals from Jesse, Sandor rips his throat out.

Oscar’s assumptions about Sandor and the other animals are verified. Sandor killed without hesitation. It doesn’t matter that he did so to save Jesse. Sandor’s “willingness” to kill dropped Oscar’s mask to reveal his hatred-fueled aggression. Every sentient being is susceptible to failure, but Oscar cannot accept that animals deserve equal rights and treatment. So he attacks Sandor. Oscar finds his justification “knowing” that his family is Sandor’s next target. He refuses to see his own hatred as a failure in the face of his fear.

We all wear masks, out in public and with our family. Some masks hide our insecurities. Others, though, bury deep hatred and bigotry. Unlike the Loud Mouths and Fixers, the Pent-Up Aggressors monitor the “invading” group’s every step and punish every misstep. Masks can save someone from society’s dangers, allowing them to live safely. However, masks have the greatest potential to be a source of danger. Oscar wore a welcoming mask. At the very least, it is accepting of the new world order. But, in the end, it could not contain his pent-up anger. His mask cracked and his aggression spilled out.

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4. The Girl and Her Best Friend

ANIMOSITY #2 Courtesy of Aftershock Comics

This particular reaction to the counter-culture tends to be the minority. In ANIMOSITY #1, when Sandor first wakes up, his first words to Jesse are “I love you, baby girl.” Instead of screaming or questioning, Jesse simply smiles, returns the words, and embraces her best friend. The beauty of this scene is that Jesse simply accepts and understands every bit of the animals at her side. When she first enters the Animilitary base, Jesse’s first action is to share her food with those around her. When one of the animals in her group goes missing, she is the first to volunteer to help find him.

Without question, Jesse simply accepts those around her. She believes in their goodness and rightful place in society. More interestingly, as a child, she represents what the new generation means to the battle for human rights. Older generations have decades of conditioning to break through. Years of life lessons and experiences have shaped their worldview. It is a difficult thing to break. That does not mean at all that it isn’t possible, of course. It just requires a bit more patience from both sides.

Newer generations, though, experience the new world from the start. Through television, school, and proper parenting, these children can be immersed into the best parts of the new and old cultures. It may sound cliché, but young generations have the greatest opportunity to change the world. By embracing true empathy, young people can embrace the world they want to see. That is what Jesse represents: the ideal reaction to a counter-culture’s plea for acceptance.

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Empathy and ANIMOSITY

If ANIMOSITY has taught me anything, it is that it doesn’t take courage to embrace those around you. It takes empathy, love, humanity, and understanding. Adults need to carry these aspects into the world each day. Our most important job, though, is to instill these in our children. Jesse represents an ideal reaction to a counter-culture, but sadly, the majority of the mainstream society is far less willing to change. ANIMOSITY forces its readers to see the true undercurrents of our mainstream society. Humanity is not adept at accepting change, and our inner insecurities and fears often overcome our need to be a unified species. However, for every bigot, there is a voice screaming in protest, a voice crying out for love, empathy, and the right to true human equality.

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