Friday, November 18, 2011

Black an White and Read All Over: Reviewing the Nightstand #1

So I read, alot, and alot of different things. I thought I'd take a stab at reviewing the things that I read and offer some theological insight to my odd reading habits. A warning, I am reviewing a comic which has some, can I say "literally graphic images? There is some blodd and guts, so caveat lector.

First up...

We3. Pronounced We-Three. This is a comic, about 100 pages all told. It is the story of three animals, a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. This is not the WInd and the Willows however; the dog and the cat in the rabbit are all outfitted and ready for battle; check out this picture.

The story is very simple: the animals are modified for battle, the animals are marked for "decommissioning", the animals escape, the animals overcome conflict, the animals find a home. There are several animal stories like this. One thing that was surprising for me was the comment that the story implicitly makes on just war and the use of drones. I find it very interesting that our president Barack Obama is well read in the so-called realist theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr, who was a longtime pacifist finally changed his position during World War II and began to talk about the gospel and its relationship to a liberal society. This position has become the default position of most Christians in America, especially liberal Christians: our society, our government, our military can be used for good, can be used for the spreading of the gospel and for the upbuilding of all humanity. The use of drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan and just this week in Pakistan is an interesting turn in this way of seeing the use of military might: we need not respect the sovereignty of any other nation when we can kill whomever we want from whatever distance, no matter how far, without putting any soldiers on the ground. We3 tells the story of "drones" that have some kind of consciousness and rebel against their being weaponized.

What We3 dozen superbly well is tell a story in such a way that only the graphic medium, only comics, can.
Here is an example:

Note that the artist, Frank Quitely has turned the panel into the third dimension to give a sense of the time as this cat is attacking whatever it's attacking. Also notice that the story does not pull any punches in terms of violence, I told you this was not the Wind in the Willows. We3 also does a wonderful job of capturing the "voices" of the characters, the dog just wants to be good in the cat, well the cat simply calls all humans "stink boss."

One thing that I'm always on the lookout when it comes to comics is how the writers resolve their stories. Since the vast majority of the comics industry is steered by the moneymaking machines of comic con international, Hollywood, and immature fanboys, it is unsurprising that most comics are simply revenge fantasies (for more on this see this article on a disturbing trend in the best-selling comics). So I'm very pleased when I read a story that is well paced, action packed, and resolves the conflict on some sort of, if not moral high note, then at least a notion of the complexity of morality and relationships. Grant Morrison, the writer of We3, and lots of other comics that I like, tends to be a very moral writer. Morrison really does deliver the moral goods in We3. I've often wondered about that, maybe it is beause Morrison has a spiritual tradtion that he is actively engaged in, maybe it is because he is so successful that he is now able to do whatever he wants, even be moral.


Cristina Cassidy said...

When you said you were interested in comics I didn't realize you meant Graphic comics...very interesting take on the moral issue of warfare. I hope you plan to review more of this type of medium.

Unknown said...

There is alot more to come!