Wednesday, January 26, 2005

50 in 05: We3

#2: We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. A serialized graphic novel not yet available in a collection, We3 is all the same the best comic book I’ve read in a long time, and the most technically proficient. We3 is part of a movement that doesn’t have a name yet, but I bet it will before the year ends. It takes an animal adventure story (think Homeward Bound) and mixes it up with a cyborg adventure story (think Universal Soldier) and plays it straight. It’s some sort of popular post-modern fiction blend, and Grant’s doing it well before the trend even hits.

I’ve loved Frank Quitely’s work since he teamed with Grant on Flex Mentallo, another brilliant comic that will probably never be available in a collection. There’s a page in the third issue of We3 that literally made my mouth drop open—two of the animals that have escaped from the government’s military program that created them are fighting another that has been sent after them. The resulting combat breaks through a brick wall—and through a panel at the bottom of the page—and the result is an almost 3D effect that leaves the characters about to rocket off of the bottom of the page. Another page is made up of at least 20 panels, some big and some small and some overlapping and yet it reads like a dream. I’ve been reading comics for more than 20 years now, so it’s hard for me to think of how this book might look to someone that didn’t grow learning the language of sequential art (and if you don’t know that there is a language of sequential art, pick up Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics—and really, you know you should have done that a long time ago), but to me it’s a welcome evolution in how the interiors of comics should look.

As a writer I’d love to know more about Grant and Frank’s working relationship—the same day I picked up the last issue of We3 I picked up JLA CLASSIFIED #3, also written by Grant Morrison, but illustrated by Ed McGuinness. It’s a straight superhero story, but it’s sub-par for Morrison. It’s vague and unclear (and not in a good way) and moves too fast—the flow of the art doesn’t help the story, and in fact makes it more confusion. In the 90’s Grant Morrison was one of the innovators of “decompressed storytelling,” which pushed characters aside in favor of big plots and big action. Grant was really good at it and this JLA story was a return to that kind of storytelling—but next to We3 (and in the face of the upcoming Seven Soldiers of Victory project), it proves that Grant is better off when he’s trying his hand at something new instead of returning to something old.

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