Animal Terror

WE3 #1-3, DC Comics/Vertigo, August to October 2004
I don't know if you've ever seen The Plague Dogs, an animated film by the folks who brought us Watership Down, about a couple of dogs who escape from a lab where research was conducted on them. Now the whole world's after them before they infect someone, all completely told from the animals' point of view. It's a real heartbreaker. WE3 is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's take on the idea.

Except with cybernetic weapons.

It is a tour de force.

Visually, it is certainly stunning. Right from the "missing pet" posters that were used as the covers (sorry, that's the trade paperback on the right) and the perfectly cinematic opening, the art remains not only detailed, but innovative in a Chris Ware kind of way. For example, here's what it looks like to be behind a guy that gets ripped to shreds by bullets:
There isn't a lot of dialogue, seeing as we're following animals with a very limited vocabulary for most of the story. Limited, but no less insightful. When the cat asks the dog "Home is?", the answer is "Home is run no more." Humans usually get more words to say, but that's no reason to cut into the visual style. Here's one very effective panel from the opening:
I know exactly what that woman is talking about, so why do I need to hear/read it? WE3 is full of stuff like this: Pages told through security cameras alone, shocking reveals using panel frames to hide crucial information, and battles where details are more important than the big picture:
Yes, it's a very gory comic. At various times, shocking, funny, exciting and touching. Haven't really talked about the plot, but it's a simple one: Animal weapons code-named WE3 are about to be decommissioned (i.e. put down), so their creator sets them free. They are then pitted against soldiers, cyber-rats and "Weapon 4" as they try to reach "home". Simple, but heading at once towards tragedy and an unpredictable ending.

As a cat person, I am always interested in seeing cats portrayed well in comics. I would probably have been put off by the cat being "bad", except that its "missing" poster tells us it's a female. Only a cat owner would know the difference. And Grant Morrison shows he's also a cat person thanks to this exchange: "We got one! Pray God it's the cat." Damn straight!

Bottom line: WE3 is many things, but it is principally affecting. Like The Plague Dogs, it cannot help but move me even as it disturbed me greatly.
Thank you Mr. Morrison. Next week, other masters of horror!


FoldedSoup said...

We3 should be included in any comics compilation given to non-comic people to get them hooked. Especially if they're an animal lover. It's absolutely incredible on many levels - and in a way that only can be done within a comic medium. In fact, I'm not looking forward to the inevitable movie - more than Watchmen, I think a film will fall disastrously short of the original.

"Bad Dog" makes me cry every time.

Siskoid said...

Stop it, you're making me all misty-eyed.


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