Grant Morrison's last creator-owned project, Seaguy with Cameron Stewart, was a charming graphic novella with unfortunately low sales (though apparently not low enough to forestall a trade paperback and, one hopes, a much-needed sequel). I should think the prospects for his next project, We3, are somewhat better; this time Morrison is working with Frank Quitely, who always seems to bring out the best in him. And indeed, their latest collaboration has already proven to be ambitious. If Seaguy experimented primarily with genre and mood, then We3 takes aim squarely at the visual and narrative language of comics.
Morrison and Quitely pull off a number of impressive moves, borrowing liberally from Chris Ware, Frank Miller, Geoff Darrow, from their own silent issue of New X-Men and from Chris Weston’s work in The Filth. The result is a brash and stunning display of what talented artists can do with pictures in sequence. Morrison and Quitely are challenging themselves on almost every page, displaying absolute mastery of the comics form.
The first issue’s most ecstatic moment is a brilliantly placed double-page spread which, coming after six uninterrupted pages of claustrophobic security-camera images, perfectly conveys the characters’ newfound sense of freedom. Quitely also seems to be winking at the celebrated panel-breaking/window breaking sequence in The Dark Knight Returns, an effect that’s reinforced when the next page transforms his broken panel grid into the broken chain link fence, then back into the wall of screens and their reflections in Dr. Trendle’s eyeglasses, reestablishing the narrative in a site of rigid - but fatally ruptured - control.
Like much of Morrison’s recent work, We3 is more culturally engaged than usual, offering pointed commentaries on animal rights and American foreign policy – and yet it’s also a Wolverine comic about rogue government killers, right down to the other weapon prototypes that will no doubt produce lots of blood-soaked action. (The government project has already deployed the rats and I think we all expect to see Weapon 4 an issue or two down the road.) The comic works because it isn’t just a chilly formal experiment or a strident political screed; both aspects are situated within the context of a surprisingly conventional action story. Like any action movie, We3 begins with a pre-credits sequence showing its protagonists' standard mission procedure before a nervous general disrupts the routine and the narrative proper begins. As I’ve said before, Morrison’s best work delivers visceral entertainment as well as intellectual food for thought, and this is no exception.
I can’t say it any more enthusiastically, folks. This is the stuff comics are made of. Grant Morrison’s customary self-promotional hyperbole is, for once, not hyperbolic at all. This could be the finest work he and Quitely have ever done.
Buy this comic.