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We3 #1 (of 3)
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Published by DC/Vertigo; $2.95 USD

I probably talk too much about the ability of the comics artform to touch on our humanity; yet, locked as we are inside our own heads for a century or so, each of us longs to reach out and touch the life of another. We long for companionship, intercourse, contact. It's at the heart of all marketing, it's why we flirt, date, fuck, marry, reproduce -- all life is one long dance, each step carefully crafted to prolong the sense that we are in touch with our fellow humans, we are in fact one with them. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that man's best friend in We3 is named "1."

1 is one of 3, and the three are We3, a government project that has resulted in three animals -- a dog, a cat and a rabbit -- being integrated with unbelievably sophisticated machines that make them perfect for covert ops up to and including political assassination; they also, now, are able to talk.

Morrison always manages to surprise, and here he does so by not giving us dog/cat/bunny versions of Gorilla Grodd. No anthropomorphizing is done by the creators of this comic, only by the creators of the We3 program within the confines and context of the story. The animals have been given the power of speech, but they're still animals, and Morrison is a canny enough writer to get into their heads and determine with a grand degree of credulity what, exactly, Bandit the dog might have to say. Quitely contributes mightily to this effect by giving us many, many POV shots that show us this world as the animals experience it.

In the most startling sequence in a corporate comic this year, a United States Senator touring the We3 facility is introduced to the three animals, now locked down in confinement mode after a successful assassination. The animals don't know it, but this is to have been their last mission together -- technology and research have moved forward, and these early successes are about to be put out to pasture -- metaphorically speaking, of course.

The senator condescendingly addresses Bandit -- We3's "1," and asks him "How are you today?" Bandit's response -- unexpected by the Senator and in many ways by us as well, is "I. M. GUD. R. U. GUD 2?" The implications of the exchange are stunning, to the reader, to the senator. What we thought was merely a killing machine with a tail is actually capable of conversation. The senator, well aware of the egregious use these animals have been put to, is horrified. He worries about their chances of escape. Does he fear being attacked in a murderous death-spree, or even worse, Bandit fixed in front of a microphone on live TV facing a congressional inquiry? Both, of course -- the personal becomes the political as it always does in the best of Morrison's works.

To say much more about the plot would be to spoil this first of three planned issues -- only one other thing actually happens here in this first chapter of the story, but it's the thing on which the rest of the tale hangs. And despite the narrative economy at work here, the book is packed with information, beginning on the cover and continuing until the very last panel. Morrison and Quitely work together to provide myriad clues to the story in densely packed panels that are well worthy of second and third looks. Especially compelling is a series of 18-panel pages in which Quitely gives us various points of view that reveal all about the climax of the story, building and building in a quiet, propulsive rythym until we arrive at an incredibly liberating double-page spread that is utterly silent in our heads, and utterly breathtaking.

Quitely's greatest achievements have been with Morrison -- from Flex Mentallo to JLA: Earth 2 to New X-Men. Morrison's expansive vision of comics seems to bring out the most precision, emotion and power in Quitely's visual interpretations. Here he reaches levels that are absolutely astounding, showing us things we've never seen before in comics, from the explosive assassination itself (don't click that unless you've read the book, just a spoiler-ish suggestion -- but it's an image too delicious not to share) to the alien but familiar emotions of the three animals of We3.

This is staggeringly beautiful comics, a step ahead for both Morrison and Quitely, but completely in line with the expectations their best work has created. It's not light material, but it does play fair with the reader who spends the time needed to appreciate all the subtlety it offers. We3 is the most exciting new superteam of the year, and ironically one of the most human comics I've ever read. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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