Once in a while, in any form of entertainment, there comes a truly unforgettable moment that has a lasting impact on the medium—something that lets the audience know that they’re in for something brand new, and they better hold on to their seats. It could be the introduction of ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange, or Tony Soprano tip-toeing around an encounter in his first visit to his psychiatrist. It’s new ideas that take things to a level not yet explored, and it’s these new ideas that are always welcome. With We3, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitley—neither of whom are strangers to new ideas—attempt something new and knock it right out of the park.
In high-concept terms, the story is Homeward Bound meets The Six Million Dollar Man. The Air Force has devised a way to fight a war without risking the lives of American men—adapting a dog, a cat and a rabbit in state-of-the-art exo-suits equipped with massive firepower. When the military leaders are introduced to the animals for the first time, they decide to decommission the operation and put the prototype animals out of their misery—except they escape before that’s possible.
The way these animals are portrayed is almost heartbreaking. They’ve been equipped with the ability to speak, and are still learning what they are capable of when the military comes looking for them. The animals are unstoppable killing machines, and the powers that be learn very quickly what they’ve let loose. The animals display such perfect responses to the pain they receive—and inflict—it’s hard not to feel for them.
Morrison and Quitely have worked together before, but they seem to be hitting their stride here. It’s hard to tell where the genius behind the book lies, but Morrison has always been one to try anything, and Quitely brings out the best in him. In one panel, a general warns his men that these animals see time and motion differently from humans. Quitely revels in this detail, and uses some of the best line work and technique of his career. He breaks the mold of the flat panel grid and toys with a third dimension of depth; he uses scattered inserts spread over a large panel to show more detail and get to the essence of seeing things differently.
We3 has just cemented its reputation as the best book of the past year, and one of many high points in the careers of Morrison and Quitely. Creative talents like these abolish the notion of comics being only for kids, and anything they unleash upon the world will be met with great expectations.
So let those expectations rise: They take on Superman this summer.
WE3 By Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (Vertigo Comics)
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