Grant Morrison's WE3 was the first non-franchise superhero graphic novel I ever read. There's an emotional attachment to this graphic novel that I don't share with others, because this is the graphic novel that introduced me to a whole new medium. I love this book, but why? As far as storytelling goes, Morrison isn't doing anything that's breaking the innovation meter. WE3 could be described as Homeward Bound meets a Zack Snyder stylized action flick. The story follows three prototype animal weapons as they flee from captivity, the groups consists of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. Through skull implants, they have limited communication skills, and their suits make them military weapons. After escaping from captivity, they must defeat the military that held them captive in order to gain their freedom. Morrison lays out a story befitting of a film. The style of the page layout, the kinetics of the panels, the colorized art style, and the stylized linguistics brings these characters to life. This book seems to be written for the screen, which makes one wonder why Morrison is having so much difficulty getting the green light on his WE3 film adaptation.
Morrison's writing and stylized imagery allows this book to flow like a typical movie would. Morrison gives the reader the false start that is often seen in film. As the reader reads through the first few pages, they are introduced to these expendable characters that are just a means to introduce our protagonist. There's no dialogue, and Morrison presents us with a beautiful montage of images that show our heroic animals mutilating these villains. It seems on page 13 our heroes are unmasked, and I imagine the title screen appearing.
The next page, we are taken away from our heroes and presented the first piece of dialogue in the book, setting forth the plot. The six pages Morrison uses the surveillance footage to show the events transpiring is a visual treat.
The reader can visualize the camera cuts. It's as if they're drawing from other movies, and the reader is playing the role of the security guard doing the spit-take with the coffee after he sees the animals escaping. Morrison draws off these film tropes to reach larger audiences that may not have much graphic novel experience. In the second issue of WE3, Morrison presents the reader with this action-packed sequence with violence, blood, and a body count that Krueger himself would be jealous of. It puts any fast-paced action flick to shame, but there has to be more to this book than this amazing visual, heart-wrenching story, but is there?
Morrison deserves the praise of being the go-to graphic novel for non-readers to get them interested because of this story telling technique, but does Morrison really accomplish anything new or cutting edge in WE3? As much as I enjoy this book, there isn't much beyond the story. I'm sure that many will disagree with me, and if you look hard enough I'm sure one could argue that Morrison is making a statement about animal cruelty, the concept of home, the emotional attachment latched on to animals and the complete disregard for human life, or even the dichotomy of emotional depth to simple characters. In my opinion, Morrison doesn't dive deep enough into any of these issues to say, "this is what this book is about." Readers can grasp for straws to give meaning behind this book, but it's fine to admit that Morrison captures his readers with a story that reaches most people because of how relatable it is. If there's anything to explore I believe it's the mere fact that Morrison controls the reader by reaching, and playing with the most common factor in people - the idea that people invest emotions in their pets.
When people read Batman, readers impose themselves onto the character. Morrison uses the same tactic in WE3. Instead of imposing ourselves into the story, we put our personal pets in the story. In Seth Hahne's review of WE3, he states,
"we care for these creatures not because of what they are or what has been done to them. Instead, we care for them because they talk."
I have to absolutely disagree with this. WE3 wouldn't work if humans replaced the three animals in the story. The reader doesn't sympathize with these characters because they're humanized; readers sympathize with them because they're not humans. Humans talk throughout the book, they're slaughtered, and the reader could care less. There's something special about this book. It could possibly be this exploration of emotional attachments to animals over humans. It could possibly be something entirely different that I'm missing. Maybe I was wrong before; there could be more to this book than meets the eye. Maybe I'm grasping for straws. Whether there is more than meets the eye to Morrison’s WE3, it’s definitely worthy of a film adaptation, and I will be first in line to see it on the silver screen.