Monday, March 31, 2008

Funny Animal Comics 3: We3

I don't know how or why I've found myself reading so many comics that star talking animals recently, but collectively they've reinforced my feelings that there are no set boundaries when it comes how a writer wants to tell a story. Then again, when the writer is Grant Morrison, you might as well forget there were any boundaries in the first place; after all, he met Animal Man once.
With We3, Morrison is working once again with Frank Quitely (are they best friends or something?), who brings his usual unsettling, expressive, and slightly over-detailed style to this story of animal exploitation. Morrison, a vegetarian since the late 80's and strong believer in animal rights, successfully brings the callousness of military-industrial thinking to the foreground. By which I mean he made me cry. And want to see my dog.

We3's basic premise is this: the military has decided to use modified animals to replace conventional human soldiers and assassins, and the We3 team are the prototypes for this system. Weapon 1 (Bandit) is a dog, built to carry the heavy weapons and chosen to lead the team because of his intelligence and loyalty to both their masters and his teammates. Weapon 2 (Tinker) is a cat, stealthy and antisocial, but aware of who her allies are. Weapon 3 (Pirate) is a rabbit made into a demolition specialist with blinding speed.
The short version is, the senator who was backing the product gets creeped out after seeing what's been done to these animals, and orders them killed. The one good person working in the lab (the woman who cared for them and handled their education) lets them out. Then massively depressing moments, high-speed gory action, and a moderately happy ending follow.

Morrison is a master of the game, and We3 stands out even among his work. The stilted, unpronounceable speech patterns the team speak in convey more emotion than meaning, and yet the WE3 team is as characterized as any character that only got three issues. Things like 2's attempts to hide her feelings and 1's sense of responsibility (as he berates himself for everything that goes wrong) give an additional layer of tragedy to the work.
I'm not usually a fan of Quitely's style, since he tends to make the people the reader is supposed to like look creepy. However, this carries over to the animals only so far as to properly convey their suffering, while all humans should look nasty in this book.
I don't know how to close this. I could write a term paper on this comic, and it's only three issues. Read it. Buy some tissues while you're out.

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