Grant Morrison packs a lot of heartache and innocence into his tale of science run violently amok in WE3. The story centers around three house pets that have been experimented on by the military and turned into cybernetic assassins outfitted in cutting-edge, weapon-packed exoskeletons. Trained to operate as a team, the dog, cat, and rabbit escape from the military after learning they are to be decommissioned. The dog, Bandit, is given one last order by his compassionate creator—go home. Fleeing into the woods, the animals are aggressively hunted by the military in a seek-and-destroy mission.
WE3 is easily the most accessible work Morrison has released. It's a straightforward plot and the science is presented in a realistic manner, but is neither closely examined nor as integral to the story as in other book's he's penned. Typically Morrison finds himself unraveling complex, labyrinthine plots filled with fringe science and esoteric research, but he wisely avoids that here, choosing instead to create a breathtaking, emotionally driven epic centered on cute little critters. While it is a thrilling comic, it is not for the squeamish. The amount of detailed, scrutinized gore and the ever-present threat of violence and danger toward animals makes this book an unlikely candidate for a kid's read. Adults and mature teens, however, should be able to take a lot away from the story and find themselves invested in the animal's perils.
Frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely takes up illustrative duties and does so admirably, creating some truly unique panel layouts and artistic displays. The books opens with an assassination, which is crafted as an almost 3D-like presentation, expertly playing with depth and focus in order to perfectly capture the resonance of sudden violence. He revels in the book's violence, spattering pages with the gore of torn entrails and punctured eyes. He is also given numerous opportunities by Morrison's script to play with panel layouts and challenge the tradition of the artistic medium within comic books. When the animals escape, their breakout is presented to readers via CCTV footage in a six-page spread made up of more than 100 panels. Told from multiple angles, it's a tight, tense sequence. Several action scenes are built from tiny thumbnails built into a larger panel that tells the overall scene. The effect is meant to depict the animal's heightened awareness, its reflexes and lethality, as well as the sudden ferocity of violence that can propel it. His character designs give the animals a sense of both otherness and familiarity, as their exosuits closely match the natural contours of their bodies and postures.
WE3 is brilliantly crafted, a story that only Grant Morrison could effectively tell, and with Quitely on art duty, there really is no more perfect pairing. Each of the animals are well-drawn and instantly identifiable. Their cuteness, however, stands in direct conflict to an intense level of violence and serves to ratchet up the emotional involvement of the reader. There is a visceral element to the proceedings of WE3 that serves to create a bleak, painful tale of mankind's hubris and science gone wrong, a testament to both man's ingenuity and cruelty. It's a heartbreaking affair, one that is oftentimes painful in its execution, but it does offer significant closure and a promise for healing.
Reviewed by Michael Hicks on August 23, 2011
We3 Deluxe Edition