Just read Morrison & Quitely’s We3 #2, and, while it’s hard to comment on a work in progress, I can’t very well keep quiet about it either!
Let me tell ya, this is definitely not a “feelgood” series… One of the defining moments of my childhood was going into an emotional coma after seeing Watership Down on television long before I was “prepared” to see the “battle of life” dramatized in so unsentimental a fashion. Something very similar happened, around the same time, when I was forced to sit there and watch the animals being frozen by the witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (I know, they are eventually saved, but I was long gone by then!) I suppose it didn’t help that I grew up in an anarchic household characterized by an almost fatalistic succession of feline appearances and disappearances… I was pretty well situated to see that, for good or for ill, animals’ lives are in our hands…
I happen to think this is a good thing! I’m not one of these wildlife fetishists that has a problem with pet ownership, or “domestication”. My reasoning on this subject is of a piece with my other political commitments. I’m dedicated to the concept of the “improbably human”. I don’t believe, with Rousseau, that humans are “born free”, or noble, or good. At the root, we’re just here to spill blood, milk and semen, like the rest of the creatures we share the globe with. And yet, somehow, we got the idea that there’s more to life than biological imperatives (although many would disagree with me–including this asshole—hunting is “natural” and therefore just like a loving sexual relationship? how’d you like to be involved with that guy, hunh?). It started with the first word. The first concept. The first time someone noticed the difference between “is” and “ought”.
Grant Morrison has called this series a story of “meat and motion”, and some critics have lauded the creators for refraining from “anthropomorphizing” the protagonists of We3. To the first comment, I say: Grant, stick to prognosticating about the endtimes–you’ve never said anything helpful about your own work; and to the second, I say, if having animals speak (and think about whether they are “good” or “bad”) isn’t anthropomorphizing them, I don’t know what is! And that brings us to another issue–“domestication” is anthropomorphization. I may not have turned my cats into humans, but I’ve done my best to raise them as people. No, they don’t speak. But they do understand words, and they also know that there are things that they should and should not do. Now, Dashiell and Simpson are a long way from mastering the Kantian Critiques, but one thing they do understand is “friendship”. I know they understand it, because I see the looks on their faces when they fail to live up to the ideal by giving in to biology and losing their tempers with each other or me!
Anyway, that’s where I think this series is going. Yes, “home” is the goal. And the soldiers of all species are the superficial obstacles. But, as always with Grant Morrison, this is a story about relationships and “counsels of perfection” (not just Bandit’s concern for “the good”, but Pirate’s notion of “friendship”–and, before you say it, please note that Tinker understands these concepts…understanding is not the same thing as paying heed!). Of course, as humans, we have good and bad lessons to teach animals–and We3 unleashes the full chiaroscuro effect of “anthropomorphization”.
It goes without saying that my interest in narrative trumps all other aesthetic considerations (which is why I find this kind of list so alienating–forget about the fact that I don’t believe in “Top 100’s” in the first place… all I’m saying is that, if I did believe in them, I wouldn’t ghettoize the media into novels/films/comics, I’d make it a “top 100 narratives”, and Tom—Animal Man and The Filth would be on it!!!). And yet, I do appreciate the specific opportunities that diverse media offer to creators (I just don’t believe in “grading” works of art on technique. that’s microcriticism, as far as I’m concerned!) Case in point–We3 #2 pages five, six, and seven. As Jim Henley and I discussed in a comment thread several months ago, one of the greatest things about comics is their unparalleled capacity to convey (rather than merely suggest) simultaneity. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved the ol’ Cockrum “time becomes visible to the naked eye” splash in Giant-Size Avengers #2 (would someone do the world a favour and scan that thing onto the web? please?) In these pages, Morrison and Quitely have built a tragic “Wall of Violence” that could not have been assembled out of any other materials, and I tip my hat to them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some weeping to do!
Good Evening Friends!