December 20, 2009

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We3

Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quietly
Vertigo

Grant Morrison is a man with a lot of ideas. This a person who can do everything from homages to Silver Age comic books to bringing dadaism to a fading superteam to making the X-Men readable again.

So yeah, not really all that surprising that he can come up with an anti-war story using unchecked animal experimentation and a talking cat. That's probably a typical shower concept for him.

Combined with the always amazing pencils of his frequent collaborator, Frank Quietly, We3 is a book that features a science that would appeal to many--animals designed to fight the wars of tomorrow.

It sounds like a great idea, if you are willing to overlook the cruelty involved. They're shown pulling off the perfect mission, but an ambitious Senator doesn't want any part of a talking biorg (as they're known). He likes the idea but not the particulars.

So the We3 (a rabbit, a dog, and a cat) must be put to death. But the project's main collaborator has other plans, and soon We3 are free--but do to what?

The same thing any other animal must do in the wild--survive.

The rest of the story consists of the government trying to kill the three without leaking the secret of the project to the world. Meanwhile the animals try to stay alive but keep seeing conflicting messages. They are to protect, but who falls under that category?

As they try to survive without "bossss st!nk" (as the cat refers to the military handlers), it becomes harder to function. Plus the military keeps upping the ante until it's too big for even the (presumably) apathetic public to ignore. Can they survive? Should we even want them to?

The end of the book is a bit predictable by Morrison standards, but makes my animal-loving heart smile.

I think the best part of We3 is definitely the pacing of the art against Morrison's typical twisted but fairly straightforward script. Quietly gives us a lot of action shots of the animals, particularly the cat. He also manages to draw the most perfect pictures of gore I've ever seen. People bleed all over the place in this book, with missing entrails and body parts, but it's all so very--polite. Each panel has so much detail packed into that you'll want to stop and re-read them or go back and review what you missed. We're talking about a person who takes the time to draw individual eyebrows--you owe it to Quietly to linger over his panels.

The most Morrison-like quality is the dialogue of the three animals. He manages to make it coherent without it feeling natural. Every time the dog or cat talk, the result is creepy. We know they shouldn't be talking, and their stilted speech ("R Gud" is typical) makes that sensation even worse. I wish he'd taken more time to flesh out the humans in the book, though--they're definitely stock characters speaking stock lines from any anti-government conspiracy film.

I thought a few of the touches were neat--the dog still sees his role as to help man, but can't tell how or who to help. The cat wants to just go its own way, as cats are wont to do. The rabbit is a bit stupid. They all end up in a few Frankenstein-like scenes, which appropriate to their nature. But all in all, it's just not very original, other than the basic idea.

Overall, I liked We3 a lot, but mostly because of Quietly's art and getting to see a robotic cat take on an army. The anti-war and unthinking technology parts have been done better elsewhere, however, and don't really add anything to the narrative. If you're looking for Grant Morrison's signature weirdness, it's all in the concept and not in the script. Still, the concept is a lot of fun to read and worth checking for. Just don't be expecting Doom Patrol-level goodness from Morrison here. Despite this being a book about killer animals, Morrison's writing is very human, at least for him.