Former Animal Man writer Grant Morrison revisits the issue of human inhumanity towards animals in this story published by Vertigo Comics. Beautifully illustrated by Frank Quitely, WE3 is a frightening, hyper-violent science fiction story “suggested for mature readers.” It opens in a secret military research laboratory where scientists are working to replace humans on the battlefield with cybernetically enhanced, remotely controlled animals. Their first success is creating a horde of “rat biorgs” able to repair complicated machinery—aided by the drills and other tools that have been surgically grafted to their bodies. But when a senator comes to inspect the scientists’ progress, they show him their proudest achievement, an armored dog, cat, and rabbit outfitted with an array of deadly weaponry and electronic voice boxes that allow them to communicate in a crude form of human speech. At the conclusion of his visit the senator orders the animals destroyed—or as he puts it, “decommissioned”—not because he disapproves of the project, but because they were not specifically bred to be used as test subjects and he is afraid the mental strain of their condition may eventually make them uncontrollable. As the lost posters that appear before each chapter in this book make clear (the story was originally published as a three issue miniseries), Bandit the dog, Tinker the cat, and Pirate the rabbit are all stolen pets. Instead of euthanizing the animals as ordered, the doctor in charge of their care removes their restraints and allows them to escape into the night. As described in the ads for the series, what follows is a cross between Terminator and The Incredible Journey, as the three animals try to find “home”-wherever, and whatever, that is-with the U.S. military in hot pursuit. As the chase continues, this rollercoaster ride of a story touches readers on an emotional level that makes it clear whose side Morrison is on. With the invaluable assistance of Frank Quitely’s breathtaking art, Morrison makes the fugitive animals the most “human” characters in the story, without ever forsaking or diminishing their animal nature. This is simply one of the greatest works of graphic literature to come along in years. Cautionary note: While I can not recommend this story highly enough, those who are disturbed by comic book images of graphic violence-whether it’s human against animal, animal against human, or even animal against animal-should be prepared for some extremely gory scenes. Also, Quitely’s innovative panel arrangements, though visually stunning, may be a little challenging for the untrained comic book reading eye to follow.
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