After a week of checking out graphic novels I had been wanting to read, I started taking recommendations yesterday beginning with very enjoyable Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction. Continuing with the recommendations today, I tackled a graphic novel that has been overwhelmingly suggested to me over the last couple of years: WE3.
Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s collaborations—especially All-Star Superman—because, at their cores, the stories always have a ton of heart. And WE3 is no different.
Storytellers: Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
Year of Publication: 2014
Page Count: 144
With nervous systems amplified to match their terrifying mechanical exoskeletons, the members of Animal Weapon 3 (WE3) have the firepower of a battalion between them. But they are just the program's prototypes, and now that their testing is complete, they're slated to be permanently "decommissioned," causing them to seize their one chance to make a desperate run for freedom. Relentlessly pursued by their makers, the WE3 team must navigate a frightening and confusing world where their instincts and heightened abilities make them as much a threat as those hunting them - but a world, nonetheless, in which somewhere there is something called "home."
SPOILERS FOR WE3 BELOW
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing
In the first issue of the story, there are two extended scenes that have no dialogue. Together, these pages account for half or more of the issue, and it’s an interesting approach to telling this story. A couple of things sprint immediately to mind. First, Morrison and Quietly must have an excellent working relationship. There’s a trust between a writer and an artist that is necessary to pull something like this offer. Second, in terms of this story, the quiet enhances the stealth aspect of the first scene and makes the later scene when you find out the animals can talk have more impact.
In terms of writing scenes like this, the panels have to do all of the work, which means the burden is on the artist. Writing a scene like this calls for absolute clarity in the panel descriptions as well as that trust I mentioned earlier.
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art
The second quiet scene is one of the most interesting sequences I’ve ever read in a comic, much to Quietly’s credit. Each page has 18—yes, 18—panels that (seemingly) randomly cut between a handful of other scenes. At first glance, it’s overwhelming and hard to follow. But as is the case with Morrison’s books, you have to work a little for a big reward. Quietly, in how he cuts from one scene to the next, lingers in certain images, and varies his shots and angles creates immense tension. And if you pay attention, the scene(s) makes make total sense. It’s masterful.
Recommendation: A (Must Read)
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