Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre’s Animosity is expanding its stable with the one-shot World of Animosity and the addition of a second series, Animosity: The Rise, later this year. But this week, Animosity #9 continues on with human girl Jesse and her menagerie of friends looking to continue their journey west.
Of course, if things were only that easy.
This week's Animosity #9 launches a new arc for the defacto AfterShock Comics flagship title, but nine issues in the relationships are more strained than before and new friends and enemies join the journey with their first huge obstacle taking shape quickly.
Newsarama caught up with Bennett and talked about what lies ahead for Jesse, Sandor, and the rest going into this new arc and has even provided a prose recap.
Newsarama: Marguerite, catching up for the uninitiated, where are we finding Jesse and the crew at the beginning of Animosity #9?
Marguerite Bennett: First off: hello, new readers! Second off: Here is the Journey to the Doghouse.
“On the day of the Wake, the Animals did just that- they woke up.
They started thinking. They started talking. They started taking revenge.
Cows rebelled in slaughterhouses, hens murdered their roosters, an orca at SeaWorld declared his undying passion for his trainer- and a dog in New York City woke up to realize who and what he was, where and how he existed, and that the girl in front of him, his girl, his protector, his child, his Jesse - was more important to him than the sun and the sky and all life that ever had been or will be. He belonged to her forever.
But something happened in that city. No one’s saying what.
And one year later, Jesse’s parents are gone, and Sandor, her dog, her lone guardian, is getting her out - getting her far, far, away, across the wild green yonder of America and all the way to the distant coast. There, in San Francisco, a city seized by the Animals, is Jesse’s estranged half-brother, Adam.
Because Sandor had a secret.
Sandor is dying.
Purebred dogs of his ilk don’t last long in the world, and he’s had five good years - now, he’s got a ticking clock left, and daughter he wants to see grow up happy and true.
Liaising with an agent of the Animilitary - an armed force of animals seeking to create a separate and protected society - Sandor arranged for safe transport out of the princedom of New York City. In exchange, Sandor - a Bloodhound with a keen sense of smell - had to find one of the Animilitary’s missing scouts. The trail uncovered a military coup within the Animilitary, which had been facing a food crisis in the struggle to provide for all the animals - carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores alike - on a bloodless diet that could not sustain them. The coup exploded with Sandor and Jesse inside the camp, and they managed to make it out - along with certain Animals that Jesse had befriended - before the entire fortress was overrun by rebels and the vestiges of the American military.
Riding the back of the humpback whale who had originally ferried them across the river, Sandor, Jesse, and now their companions moved down the coast until the path was clear and safe enough to begin a cross-country road trip. Jesse is growing up, and signs of it frighten Sandor more, even, than they frighten her. Sandor fears, so much, that he will be unable to protect Jesse from all pain, all terror, aware that he will not be there for her adulthood.
But in the forests of Maryland comes a dread specter - a creature like a great red dragon, vomiting fire, and carrying off some of their companions. Sandor and the others go on the hunt, while two dear friends remain to guard Jesse - but the Red Dragon comes for them next.
The Red Dragon is revealed as a lammergeier, a red bearded vulture with an eight-foot wingspan a belly of acid that dissolves bone. It rules its cult of men masquerading as beasts and beasts masquerading as men, compelling them to hunt in its name, and dividing the spoils among the squalid horde. The men-beasts of the woods listened closely to Jesse and her companions, marking their rivalries, their fears, their insecurities. They attempted to divide them, snatching the smallest and weakest, separating them in the disorientating darkness of the woods. The beast-men attempted to lure Jesse from her guardians, pretending to be her parents, calling to her as she slept - but Jesse awoke, discovered their true nature, and fought back.
Jesse, Sandor, and their companions destroyed the Red Dragon and its horde, with Sandor pleading for Jesse not to look, to protect her even from the sight of the horror within. Reunited, and mourning for their dead, the companions moved on through the hills - followed by a shadow shaped like the ghost of Jesse’s mother—or the man-beast that had impersonated her.
The companions sought rest as Hourglass Falls, an isolated waterfall in the hills of Virginia, where creatures - human and Animal alike - come for a moment of peace on their way to greater journeys. The companions tell their tales and origins, and speculate on the nature of their lives now - what they believe is left in life, and what they believe might be waiting for them in the great hereafter.
In this place, Jesse told Sandor that she knew of his secret. Sandor at last admitted the truth - his days are numbered, and he knows that one day, he will have to leave her. Jesse knows what death is now, and while she is unafraid, she will stay with him, and love him, because he is her dog - her good dog.
The specter of Shannon’s ghost - if that is whatever it was at all - dissolves into shadow and moonlight, and Jesse and Sandor fall sleep beneath the haze of stars.”
Nrama: So let's talk about Jesse and Sandor's relationship. With Sandor's secret revealed last issue, there was this moment between them that ended the issue. How would you describe them going into this next arc?
Bennett: Jesse still loves and trusts Sandor, but that love is tinged with the immense sadness of knowing what a liar he is. Sandor tries to keep her safe, but Jesse can now see the cracks in his story, and is beginning to make decisions and become resourceful on her own. In issue #7, Sandor begged her not to look around her in a slaughterhouse, just for her to walk ahead, keep her eyes on him and nothing else, so that she wouldn’t be horrified and distressed by these terrible sightings. She did as he begged, walked back to him, never once glancing left or right - but she knew what was in that barn, all the same. She’ll leave him with the illusion that he has protected her - but nothing can protect you from the growing up.
And for Sandor, he’s watching his child grow up before his eyes, knowing full well he will not survive to see her grow to honorable womanhood - and also experiencing the horror of her growing up before her time. He is terrified for her, but also for the change in her. He is so frightened that she will lose the things that her her, that she will despise the world that he lies about, that he tells her is good and kind. He has to learn to relinquish a lot of his ferocious protectiveness of her, and let her begin to grow on her own.
Nrama: Much like a lot of the series, there are biblical mentions sprinkled throughout. From the American South myself, God was very much difficult to avoid in every aspect of everyday life. Did you yourself have a religious upbringing?
Bennett: My upbringing has less to do with it than the lives of the animals. If you come into a world as a creature with a shorter lifespan than a human being, how do you not feel cheated? What happens next? You’re born, you’re here for ten years, for five, or one, and then – what? Is this it? Is it enough? Is it ever enough?
No one knows why the Wake happened. No one knows where you go when you die. Is it kinder or crueler to be able to see and understand the terror and splendor of life, only to have it taken from you, to live with the knowledge of your own death? Is it worth it? The Animals are just struggling to understand their place in a universe that has radically changed their roles. They want to understand their place in the grand design – if there is even one at all.
Nrama: With World of Animosity coming out next month, do you feel like Animosity #9 would be accessible for new readers?
Bennett: I would highly recommend picking up World of Animosity before jumping into issue #9. If you’re a new reader, it will give you everything you need to know, and if you’re a longtime reader, it will give you a ton of new information on everything from the secret backstories of characters to the broadest maps of the world at large.
I got to write a mini-story for every state! It was bonkers.
Nrama: You kind of touch on something here that has been in the news for a few years now and it's the importance of bees. Can you talk about the significance of the bees here?
Bennett: Bees pollinate 70% of the crops that feed 90% of the world. If the bees die, all the animals that also eat those crops die, which pushes us over that 90% mark. If the bees die, we die. That’s kind of it. Be nice to bees, y’all, please and thank you.
Nrama: Did you feel like you had to change your scripting style going from Rafael to Juan Doe for World Of Animosity?
Bennett: Not so much that I had to, as that it’s a pleasure and privilege to tailor my scripts to the talents and immense skills of each artist in turn. Juan has this wonderful black comedy style, this exaggeration that makes everything all the more hilarious and heartbreaking. Rafael’s art in turn is to sincere, and the outrageousness of the story is all the more powerful and poignant. They’re a phenomenal team, and with Rob, Marshall, and Mike - mwah! *chef kiss*
Nrama:Aside from introducing an old friend of Jesse's in the first issue of the new arc, who else will be joining the crew on their journey to San Francisco?
Bennett: Oh, many friends will come, and many friends will go. Friends - and enemies - will come in all shapes, sizes, and species. One of the delightful cheat codes of the Wake was the number of zoos and private exotic collections (such as the tiger in New York City, kept as an illegal status symbol) that have spread animals all over the world. You have no idea what could be around the corner at any given moment.
Nrama: For those who might not follow your Patreon, short stories and nonfiction are on their way, but do you feel like you have a different mindset when you're constructing those sort of projects in comparison to your comic book work?
Bennett: Aw, cheers! I will be reviving my Patreon on October 1, actually! And yes, very much so. Prose is limitless - I can meander and dive into a character’s head, I can provide Word of God exposition, I can revel forever in indulgences of languages, I can leap around without transitions simply on account of chapter breaks - but in comics, all those things must flow carefully, and fit within twenty pages, with - roughly - no more than five or six panels a page, plus splash pages. Some things, comics does best, though. Those bonkers double page spreads from the first issue could not have been done anywhere else without diminishment.
Nrama: That being said, do you feel like you'd ever consider doing prose adaptations of your comic books?
Bennett: I would 10,000% be open to it! Some things comics do best, and some things prose does best, and some things film or television does best, and I’d love to explore Animosity in every form possible.
Nrama: You already have Animosity: The Rise, World Of Animosity, and the regular Animosity ongoing, do you feel like there's another Animosity spin-off you'd love to take on?
Bennett: The delight of Animosity is that the world is limitless. Every place, every species, every person could have a story. I will write this saga as long as you’ll have me. And for getting this far - I won’t ever be able to thank y’all enough.