Grant Morrison excels at giving us the unexpected when it comes to comics, he’s brought us such ideas as a Jack Kirby inspired tale focusing on Indian religion, the death of gods in Final Crisis and even the Death of Batman himself, but We3 falls far short of the mark and even seems eerily familiarly. Sure the concept may seem new to comic readers who have only read american comics, however I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve read something like this before from Japan, in anime form.
Essentially the story is Homeward Bound meets Robocop and follows three animals: a dog, a cat and a rabbit, who have been turned into walking weapons through the use of advanced cyborg machinery, the animals are on the run from the government after the program they’re a part of looses its funding. The story then follows the animals on their quest to find a home, all the while the government are trying to track them back down and kill them before the public finds out what they’ve been doing.
Despite it’s familiarity the execution from Morrisson, and long time collaborator Frank Quietly, in We3 is some of the best I’ve ever seen. In fact We3 may be the most cinematic graphic novel I’ve ever read. The whole series reads like storyboards for a movie, Quietly even manages to create a 3D feel to the images on the page. A perfect example of this is within the first few pages where we see the We3 animals performing an assassination whilst still under government control, it’s a beautiful double page spread with their target in the background and bullets littering the foreground. Quietly uses possibly the only acceptable form of blurring in comics, something that is vastly overused in the industry, to put the bullets out of focus and force our perspective of the scene.
Naturally with the main characters all being animals Morrison tries to use this to his advantage and pull our heart strings, however he doesn’t just rely on cute imagery. The animals all received a rudimentary speech box and special training in order to communicate with their government handlers. Naturally the Dogs speech patterns most closely match our own, followed by the Cats, then the Rabbits, their communication is still far from the land of Disney’s talking animals however. Morrison has crafted a language of only a few words for each animal, something they’re not used to putting together into sentences, that is just within the realms of possibility, and its from these fragments that we’re left to figure out what the animals are thinking. The technique works surprisingly well dragging the reader down to think like the dog, cat and rabbit in the story and see the world on their terms instead of the humans.
Other than a few words from our protagonists, and the often shoutings of their pursuers, We3 is a book with few actual words, but it still manages to be a noisy comic. Quietly presents us with visceral, violent artwork that practically screams itself off the page and into the real world so much that when reading the book I started to hear the sounds, and growls, of the We3 world. When coupled with the cinematic nature of the series its surprising no companies have tried to make the story into a motion comic, though I don’t know how well the violent aspect of the story would be accepted. Thats right We3 isn’t just all about cute animals escaping their government captors its also about a battle royale of our three main characters verses the army, as well as a few other animal experiments, along the way.
The fight scenes in We3 are truly amazing, they’re peppered with just enough science to make us think they could exist in the real world and each animal has their own style which shines through the artwork. Everything is fast moving, which it has to be for a series that only lasts three issues, and keeps us guessing what tricks the animals will pull out of their hats next. The big set piece of the story is when ‘We4′, a giant dog, is set onto We3 and our heroes are forced to work together to beat this new adversary. During the fight the woman who taught We3 to speak sacrifices her life in order to save our hero dog, and I can’t help thinking shes a surrogate character for Morrison himself who is a vegetarian and no doubt has wondered what it would be like to talk to animals at some point.
During the story there are obvious themes of Man vs Animal, however the ending makes me think Morrison was instead trying to get us to think about Nature vs Technology. The surviving members of We3 manage to escape the government and find a happy home with a homeless man by taking off their cyborg suits, or ‘Coats’ as the dog calls them. The moment when the dog realises that all the technology and machinery he’s been wearing for the story up to this point is really profound, and just to hammer the point home it’s one of the few, almost, complete sentences the dog manages to make. In a time when we’re constantly finding ourselves attached to more and more technology, be it phones, tablets, even TVs, it might be worth noting that it is not a part of us, we do not rely on it as much as we would be led to believe.
We3 is a fairly predictable story of three cyborg animals trying to escape the government, however its execution is what makes the story really worth reading being one of the most cinematic and visceral graphic novels on the market.
The Deluxe Edition of We3 adds 10 whole new pages to the series which enhance the story rather than bring anything new to it, as well as over 25 pages of making of material. The most in depth and revealing extra is the breakdown of a CCTV sequence near the beginning of the series which details just how much care and attention went into the layout of each panel on the double page spread, as well as giving us a little bit of input from Morrison who I wish was present more in these extras. If you like seeing the evolution of character design, and even the We3 logo the deluxe edition is definitely the version of the book you want to buy and it’s good enough to add an extra half a point to my score above.