we3: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant (2004, collected 2005): Bandit the dog, Tinker the cat, Pirate the rabbit: 1, 2, and 3 of we3. They were pets. They were stolen. A secret American military project turned them into super-soldiers — heavily armed, heavily armoured, trained to work as a team, and with a boost in intelligence from the machines grafted to them.
But after a final test run, they’re to be ‘put down.’ The next phase of the program will involve larger animals specially bred and trained to replace soldiers on the battlefield. Weapon 4 already waits in its pen, too dreadful to be deployed anywhere near non-hostile civilians. there are kinks to work out.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely riff in unusual ways on things like the Jason Bourne books, ‘lost-animal’ novels that include The Incredible Journey, Japanese manga, and funny-animal comics with their talking animals. We cut between the humans and the animals for much of the narrative. The animals have developed a rudimentary language derived from English. They’ve also maintained their survival instincts: once they hear they’re about to be killed, they escape in search of a nebulous and mostly forgotten ‘Home.’ They don’t remember their names, but one sympathetic scientist does.
Funny, affecting, and not completely improbable, we3 also pointedly comments on both our mistreatment of animals and our dehumanization of soldiers in a quest for the perfect killing machine. The animals, already gifted by nature with reflexes and senses superior to human beings, make human super-soldiers like Captain America or Jason Bourne look like amateurs. With a dog as a tank, a cat as a fast-striking assassin, and a rabbit as a mine- and poison-gas-laying version of the Cadbury Easter Rabbit, we3 stages a battle that escalates until the powers that be deploy the terrible fourth weapon.
It’s a thrilling ride, beautifully illustrated by Quitely and movingly written by Morrison. Moments of humour erupt throughout the carnage, as do moments of sadness. The dog still wants to be a good dog in relation to people. The cat just wants to get the Hell out of there. And the rabbit, the rabbit keeps saying, ‘Uh oh’ and blowing stuff up. Highly recommended.