WE3 will break your heart.
Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jamie Grant, and Todd Klein tell the story of Bandit, Tinker, and Pirate; three stolen pets that a government contractor has set through an augmentation program, turning them into cybernetic weapons of war. When the program is decommissioned, one of the principals releases the animals, and wacky hijinks ensue. Wacky hijinks being indiscriminate death as the animals try to protect themselves from the military trying to eliminate them.
WE3 was part of a group of short, three-issue series from Grant Morrison (alongside other like Vimanarama with Philip Bond and Seaguy with Cameron Stewart) that felt like a response to what Warren Ellis called “pop comics” (From the Desk of Warren Ellis – 29 June 1999). The idea was essentially high concept short series that would offer an alternative to the seemingly neverending ongoing series and a format that would still benefit a batch of monthly sales for comics shops (as opposed to releasing it as an original graphic novel). With WE3, you’ve got the high concept of future war and a resurgence of some of Morrison’s animal rights themes from Animal Man.
All of it told in some all out, explosive action of a sci-fi military thriller, with some of the best art that Frank Quitely has done in his career. That’s a pretty high bar. The designs for the animals are incredible. The cuteness of the pets remains in their heads, made frightening murder machines through the cybernetic enhancements and metallic armour. That cute nature, a bit of offbeat humour, and terror also comes through in Todd Klein’s choice of computerized word balloons. Particularly with Weapon 1 asking if he’s a good dog.
What pushes the art further is how Quitely tells the story here. Many of the action sequences have the widescreen tiered layouts, but he also incorporates numerous grids, inset panels, and segmented cross-sections. With some interesting close-ups of only parts of people, giving them a kind of sinister feel. It accelerates the pacing and spotlights a deep dive into some of the gruesome kills.
Digital colouring was still a relatively new process when the series was originally released. There were a number of comics that were exploring a “shot from pencils” process (like X-Treme X-Men). Where the colourist was working directly off of an artist’s pencil art. It led often to a soft focus to the art, while sometimes not even giving colour holds for the outlines, just leaving the rough greys of the pencils. Thankfully, that is not what Jamie Grant does here with his digital inks and colours. There is still a bit of softness, but there’s a solid distinctness to the outlines and shadows. They hold an interesting interplay of colour palette choices, casting the military and scientists in more muted hues of brown and grey, while a broad, brighter palette fills out the animals and the world once they break out.
Yet, as I said in the outset, WE3 from Morrison, Quitely, Grant, and Klein will break your heart. All that Weapon 1 wants is to still be a good dog. Weapon 3 is looking for the boss to fix his tail, and maybe some lettuce. And Weapon 2…well, Weapon 2 is a cat, so…yeah. You feel for them as they’re forced into this situation and you just want to pet the furry death machines. Don’t kidnap someone’s pets, experiment on them, and then try to eliminate them, folks.
Classic Comic Compendium: WE3
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Inker & Colourist: Jamie Grant
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics – Vertigo
Release Date: August 23, 2011 (deluxe edition)
Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!
I was on the Eisner Judge panel in 2005 that nominated this amazing, heartbreaking comic for the Eisner Awards that year. It was one of my top choices, and it still makes me cry now.
Truly sad this book remains out of print, as it would be an evergreen title in any comic shop.
Comments are closed.