We3

3717_400x600At the surface level, We3 documents the escape of three animals who have been abducted and repurposed as war machines.  In Hollywood pitch terms, it is The Incredible Journey meets Short Circuit, with a little Robocop thrown in for good measure. More importantly, We3 is a comic that pushes boundaries. It pushes the reader’s boundaries in how they view animals. It pushes boundaries on how comics are constructed. In doing this it pushes the boundaries of what comics can be.

In We3, writer Grant Morrison takes what could be a tired mish-mash of a story and makes the pieces fit together as a cohesive heart wrenching whole. Morrison has a history of making animals an important piece of his fiction (see The Filth, Animal Man, and Seaguy) but in We3 the animals take center stage, and it’s worth it. These animals have personality. Artist Frank Quitely (a frequent collaborator of Morrison) intersperses close ups of human sneers with the lovingly quizzical expressions of the animals. The effect is to make the Dog, Cat, and Rabbit of We3 shine. Dog looks noble while encased in a metal exoskeleton. Cat comes across as a petulant virtuoso killing machine. Rabbit is simultaneously frightening and hilarious as a heavy weapons specialist that defecates bombs.

While humanizing the animals, Quitely also manages to innovate the actual mechanics of comics construction. Perhaps the most striking innovation is one of the novel ways that he draws panels in this story. In one scene, we see Cat simply killing a group of armed soldiers. Quitely, in turning the panels nearly perpendicular to the viewer, creates a different way of experiencing time and space in comics. It is apparent in this way that we can see that Cat is moving at a heightened speed and dexterity relative to the soldiers. Quitely reveals the elegance of Cat while she flows through the in between space. In this way she seems liquid while the humans seem stiff. This innovation in the layout of the page opens up a different cadence and rhythm to the story. One that is eminently appropriate for this speculative fiction comic about animal cyborg soldiers.

Overall the comic is an exceptional example of what a science fiction story can be: speculative, humanizing, and interesting.  It is also a prime example of what a comic can be: a marriage of words and pictures. A recommended title for both public and academic libraries and one that, while geared toward adults, would have appeal for a large subset of teens.

We3
by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
ISBN: 1401204953
Vertigo, 2005

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