Shiny Shelf


We3 .002

By Mark Clapham on 29 October 2004

Grant Morrison has a tendency to talk big about his work, but he can afford to – as a writer he has a tendency to takes comics, both mainstream superhero titles and more personal books, into new areas. Even by his high standards, ‘We3′ is impressive, and really isn’t like anything else out there.

The concept is remarkably simple – ‘The Incredible Journey’ with guns. Three animals, turned into hi-tech war machines by the US military, run wild, talking in weird txt speak and blowing up anything that moves. They’re trying to get ‘home’ – but do such creatures have a home to go to?

Morrison has very publicly stated that he considers ‘We3′ to be about three innocent animals who are terribly treated by humans, and that their mistreatment is the core of the story. As a person, Morrison’s attitude is very simple – animals are lovely, and they deserve better than the cruelty humans cause to them. Thankfully, Morrison can’t help being a complex writer, and so ‘We3′ has greater depths than its author’s outlook would suggest. Morrison has gone to great lengths to avoid anthropomorphism, and the result is that the dog, cat and rabbit who make up the ‘3′ have no human characteristics. Their mindsets are totally alien. Alien, and heavily armed.

Now that’s scary. Three creatures with no complex feelings or moral centre, on the rampage with the most advanced weapons on Earth. These former pets kill without restraint, directed by simple instincts. Frankly, they’re terrifying. Animal lovers may find some sympathy with the three fluffy psychos, but they’re monsters, threats to human safety that need to be stopped at whatever cost.

This is a cautionary tale, but not necessarily about reaping the just results of human cruelty. The humans who created the ‘3′ make a mistake by thinking that using animals to fight wars will be cleaner than using humans, saving lives. But animals aren’t human, no matter how many upgrades they have to their intelligence. To wield a weapon requires a sense of responsibility, the responsibility needed to comprehend decisions involving life and death. Dogs and bunnies don’t have that. The creatures that we consider pets are beyond our understanding, and could be threats as easily as friends, if given the chance.

‘We3′ puts the case for treating animals with care – both in terms of showing kindness, but also ‘care’ as in regarding with caution. Morrison has crafted a worryingly believable horror story, one that uses the tactic of taking the everyday and turning it into something lethal. Like all good scare stories, ‘We3′ works because it seems plausible. And it seems plausible because the quality and intensity of the writing and art sell the story, make it seem ‘real’.

Morrison wields a whole lot of tricks in telling his story with minimal dialogue. His three leads all speak in a sort of SMS language, making simple statements with minimal words. They also have distinctly separate voices: the cat is smarter, and takes a concise and blunt attitude, the dog is domesticated and tries to fulfil simple tasks, while the rabbit is simple minded. Issue #2 introduces other upgraded animals, broadening the possibilities. Oh, and watch out for a nasty seagull, albeit one which is not upgraded in any way.

‘We3′ could easily slip into tweeness, but any such problem is avoided by the deployment of Frank Quitely on art duties. Quitely’s precise artwork renders action scenes almost pornographically explicit, with freezeframe moments of brutal gore and a blizzard of small panels depicting every cut and wound. The three leads are rendered with exquisite detail, right down to the glassy expression of the rabbit, while the human characters are only glimpsed, often from odd angles and usually as something terrible happens to them. A potentially absurd idea is made real by the attention to detail in the art, sold by a thumbnail here and a yellowed tooth there.

This is a real partnership between writer and artist, and its very hard to imagine any other combination of talent coming together to produce such a comic. Apparently, Morrison’s ‘Seaguy’ was greeted with disappointing sales. Hopefully ‘We3′ will do better – while ‘Seaguy’ was abstract fantasy, ‘We3′ has contemporary urgency and accessible ideas. As such it deserves to be read widely, among regular comics readers and beyond.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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