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When Animals Attack

 

We3

Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely

DC/Vertigo, 2005

Rating: 3.4

 

Posted: June 18, 2005

By Kevin Forest Moreau

Grant Morrison cleverly toys with a couple of very familiar templates with We3, welding together your standard killing-machine-gone-rogue-and-hunted-by-its-creators scenario with, of all things, the story of three cute, lost animals who only want to find their way home.

A government project has wired three domestic animals -- a dog, a cat and a rabbit -- into cumbersome cybernetic contraptions, making them efficiently lethal killers. A military overseer orders the animals' decommission to avoid public outcry at the project's treatment of animals; turns out a slick politician with presidential ambitions wants to use the project to his PR advantage. Rather than kill her beloved subjects, an animal-loving scientist sets them free, setting up three issues of visually impressive scenes involving the threesome employing their arsenals to mindlessly massacre the humans sent to collect them.

Frank Quitely, who draws animals (and large-scale action scenes) far better than he does human beings (who always seem oddly pudgy), draws some inspiration here from Geoff Darrow, circa that artist's Hard Boiled collaboration with Frank Miller. Unfortunately, while this approach sometimes translates into an arresting double-page, single-image spread of a flood of projectiles bearing down on their target, it more often manifests itself in hard-to-follow action scenes where cleverness of layout takes precedence over clarity of visual information.

But as nice as it is to look at, for all the novelty of its premise We3 is a one-joke book. It's gratifying that it doesn't play its situation for obvious laughs, but you can only read so many scenes of flying animals unleashing explosives and deadly claw-type daggers, wreaking mass carnage, before you realize that's all there is.

There's no real emotional involvement here: Morrison relies on our instinctive reactions to cute animals (especially when the dog looks confused and sad, looking to humans for approval) to establish a connection. But (as ridiculous as this sounds), because we don't really grow to know these animals, their plight never hits home as well as it does in your average Benji or Milo & Otis-style critters-on-a-journey flick.

Moreover, if Morrison's attempting to make a statement here about our treatment of animals, it's severely blunted by his own exploitation of them. True, no actual animals are harmed in the making of this comic, but the scenes of animal-on-man, man-on-animal and animal-on-animal violence (the humans eventually dispatch a fourth killer-animal prototype, a giant, visually imposing mastiff) are little more than means to an end -- that being the sheer uniqueness of the spectacle.

As a man-vs.-nature or a Frankenstein-esque man-vs.-technology metaphor, We3 is interesting and fun, if very much on the gruesome side for the younger readers who might be lured by its cover. But it's carried along only by the novelty of its conceit, and that wears off a ways before the story itself comes to a close.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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