I hadn't read this before so even though it's more than a decade old, it was new to me.
Grant Morrison’s WE3-The Deluxe Edition re-presents the 3-issue Vertigo mini-series from 20 years back about the incredible journey of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. Yes, there’s more to it than that. You see, these are genetically reengineered animals meant to be used as weapons of war. They can talk, but only in giving voice to their own base needs and desires. They’re all in bulky suits of armor equipped with all sorts of weapons, too.
One day, the government decides to decommission (as in kill off) the trio but the scientist behind the program, Dr. Berry, the woman who has taught them and trained them every step of the way and knows them better than anyone, releases them, causing the Army and various agents to go after 1, 2, and 3—as they’re called, respectively. And eventually, 4 is sent to terminate them.
Grant Morrison showed up on the comics scene back in the 1980s, originally as a kind of Alan Moore-lite, with more than a touch of Neil Gaiman thrown in for flavoring. The Scottish author also followed those two to DC Comics in the US. It wasn’t long before Morrison developed a reputation there for turning the comics he wrote, such as Animal Man and Doom Patrol, on their existential ears.
Morrison’s frequent collaborator is fellow Scotsman Frank Quitely, who pulls out all the stops as far as creative layouts for WE3. A whole sequence features 18-panel pages, with relatively tiny panels but no loss of understanding or storytelling.
Morrison and Quitely, having long since mastered their medium and their teamwork, make it look simple as they craft their short, sweet, but actually complex tale of survival, loyalties, instincts, and friendship. In spite of the series’ violent scenes, more genuine emotion wells up from time to time than you’d expect in just a “comic book.” In spite of all that comes before it, they even manage to give the story a happy and most satisfying ending.
Alan Moore may have been the great innovator, and Neil Gaiman may have turned out to be the better writer, but in the long run, one can easily make the argument that it was Grant Morrison who has truly become a Zen master when it comes to comic books, and their somewhat symbiotic collaborations with Quitely on titles like WE3 just add an extra touch of same.
What makes WE3-The Deluxe Edition deluxe is that after the story, the reader gets to go behind the curtain and learn how some of the magic they’ve just witnessed was performed. Take a look for this Vertigo collection at your local comic shop. You won’t regret it.