- Posted by Johanna on March 31, 2009 at 11:18 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Grant Morrison; art by Frank Quitely
- PUBLISHER: DC / Vertigo; $12.99 US
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.