WE3

It’s hard to resist one of those stories, like Incredible Journey (aka Homeward Bound), about intelligent and courageous animals struggling to find their way home. We love our pets, and we love stories about them that treat them with respect and affection.

In WE3, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely put their own horrific science fiction twist on this type of story. A dog, cat, and rabbit have been adapted by military scientists into automated fighters, resembling cyborg robots with animal heads. When the project is about to be shut down, the three escape. Here, they’re not seeking a home so much as continued survival, even in their tortured state. Their quest for freedom and the way they no longer fit anywhere — they’re not animals, not soldiers, and distinctly not human — is immensely sympathetic. The result is a condemnation of a military/industrial system that warps living things and then discards them without thought of the potentially devastating results.

Due to brain implants, the three can speak, although their dialogue is limited, as befits their animal natures. The rabbit is the most simple, while the cat maintains a feral unpleasantness, happy to kill. The dog is the leader and the most sympathetic, especially when he asks for validation of his actions: “Gud Dog?” His self-recrimination after following his lethal programming by instinct, resulting in a man’s death, is heart-wrenching, and his ultimate realization of self stunning.

Quitely’s battlesuits, drawn with curves, maintain a soft cuteness, making the animals’ ability to become killer weapons all the more shocking. He doesn’t shy away from portraying the violence and blood inherent in their attacks, using a technique of many little panels laid over a larger moment of action to show both event and its results. Many silent sequences are both representative of the animals’ limited communication patterns and a testament to Quitely’s skills. In contrast to the relatively simple plot, the art here carries the complexity of the tale.

Grant Morrison is sometimes criticized for favoring crazy ideas over storytelling, or for being confusing. This book, with neither of those flaws, is thus his best introduction for a new reader.

A preview is available at the publisher’s website. There are plans for a movie version.

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8 Responses to “WE3”

  1. caleb Says:

    Nice review; I was just thinking about this the other day. Do you, or do any of your readers know, if We3 preceded lolcats or that weird cat-speak that birthed lolcats? (I know I read We3 years before I heard of a lolcat, but then, I’m not into any cat-focused Internet subcultures).

    Just wondering if Morrison predicted the future there or if he was an early adapter or if it was a weird coincidence that those pets talk kinda sorta not unlike lolcats.

  2. Ryan Says:

    I think We3 preceeded LOL Cats by a year or so.

    We3 is one of my favorite comics, hands down. It is one of the comics I also recommend to friends looking for comics who don’t usually venture into the medium. It’s use of the page, concise plotting and ability to generate genuine reader reaction in such a brief, smart, straightforward story is tough to beat.

    I don’t know if, like another recent comic that made it to the big screen, it will ever properly translate should the movie be made.

  3. kjchen Says:

    WE3 is my favorite Morrison/Quitely collaboration to date. I hesitate to even describe my emotional state after reading the book for fear of spoiling a great storyline, so I’ll just say that the ending has tremendous impact.

  4. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » April 1, 2009: An aberration Says:

    [...] [Review] We3 Link: Johanna Draper Carlson [...]

  5. Kat Kan Says:

    This is one of my favorite books. Period. Prose, comics, whatever.

  6. Ask Collected Editions #1 « The Insider Daily Blog Links Says:

    [...] the end. I haven’t read We3, but I hear lots of good things about it — see Wild Tyme, Comics Worth Reading, Line of Fire Reviews, Always Bet on Bahlactus, and Read About Comics, among [...]

  7. tAYLOR Says:

    Easily the 2nd best comic about animals ever written. I would also recommend Sandman (1989 series) number 18 to everyone who posted here. It’s subtitled “Dream of 1,000 Cats,”

  8. February 2011 Previews Recommendations » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] and [artist Frank] Quitely” in order to tempt those of us who own it to re-buy. It’s an excellent story, true, but I don’t have a spare $25, or the shelf space, I’m [...]

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