by Emma Lawson
A rabbit is a funny choice for a weaponized animal. A dog and a cat make sense; they’re both carnivorous animals with sharp teeth, good at hunting and killing. They’re predators. While 1 and 2, like 3, were domesticated pets before the project, they still have those instincts. Rabbits, on the other hand, are prey animals. They don’t hunt, but they are hunted… by humans and animals alike.
However, rabbits are also frequently used as test subjects in experiments for cosmetics, cleaning products, and pharmaceuticals. They’re chosen because as a species they’re docile, non-aggressive, easy to breed, and easy to find. If you need a third animal for your animal-robot murder trio, a rabbit’s as reasonable a choice as any and scientists probably already have them around. And there aren’t many more predators beyond cats and dogs that are also domesticated pets.
But if they’re not aggressive, how can the USAF in We3 make a rabbit into a killer? If you’ve ever had to bond two rabbits, then you’ve seen that they can get quite aggressive in the right circumstances. When we decided to adopt Charlotte, a second rabbit to give our first rabbit Lou a friend to play with, it took about six months before they could spend time alone together. Introducing rabbits to each other is a complicated process that, if not handled properly, can end up in death.
Rabbits are fairly non-aggressive – but they are territorial. They will chase, bite, and claw to establish or defend their territory. They’re also hierarchical in social groups and will chase, bite, and claw to establish their dominance. And sometimes they just plain don’t like each other, so they chase, bite, and claw each other out of spite.
The first night we left Lou and Charlotte alone together, unsupervised, I woke up the next morning and literally screamed when I entered their room. There were chunks of fur everywhere. It looks like a murder scene. But then I noticed they were cuddling in the corner. They might have had a knock-down drag-out fight, but after that they were all good. They got out whatever they needed to in that fight, and thankfully they both survived. Now they freak out if they’re separated. Charlotte, who is super skittish generally, calms down and lets us pet her more when Lou is close by. Their relationship, hard fought, makes them stronger.
We see this with We3, the titular three-member team of weaponized animal-machine hybrids. As much as they argue about what to do — 1, the dog, wanting to find home, 2, the cat, insisting they have no home — they’re stronger together. They were trained to fight as a team; they need each other. 3, the rabbit, is grossly injured at one point when he’s separated from 1 and 2, and it’s during this time that he gets shot. He doesn’t die, but he’s damaged so much he can’t properly speak anymore. His left ear stays drooped down after this, just like my Lou’s ear did one time when he was sick. It’s a visual cue that something isn’t right. But 3 survives this. He survives because 1 and 2 find him.
3’s real name is Pirate. Before he became 3, he lived with Johnny and Claire Mortimer, a couple of sweet kids who dearly miss their pet bunny. According to their lost pet sign, he likes lettuce and carrots, and he’s white with a brown patch over his eye. He looks like he might be a Dutch rabbit, one of the oldest breeds of domestic rabbits. Dutch rabbits are personable and social, but what they love most is to be out of their cage and exploring the world.
As part of We3, Pirate does get to explore the outside world — but only as a biorg, a rabbit-robot hybrid designed by the US Air Force and commanded to kill. We first meet him after a mission with 1 and 2, his dog and cat colleagues in killing, in which they successfully assassinate a tinpot dictator somewhere in South America. Everyone involved in their project is amazed at how well they’ve performed, but they’re being decommissioned anyway. There are bigger and better animal weapons being developed. We3 has become obsolete.
Dr. Berry, the scientist who has worked most closely with We3, hates the idea that these animals will just be killed. They’re living beings that deserve respect, and after all these modifications they’re much closer in intelligence and cognitive processing than other animals. She’s gotten to know them. They trust her. So she leaves their restraints unlocked, giving them the opportunity to attack the techs who come in to kill them and escape the facility.
The military can’t have these dangerous biorgs running around. They’ve been trained to kill; they’re dangerous. The air force sends people after them, but We3 are remarkably resilient. There’s collateral damage, though. At the beginning of issue 2, we see a family of wild rabbits munching on some grass in a field. Then we see 3 zooming through, warning them to run. He’s quickly followed by 1 and 2, all telling these poor rabbits to run, but it’s far too late. In a brutal double page spread, We3 run through this field, relatively safe in their mechsuits while the air force decapitates and destroys these wild rabbits with the force of their bullets.
It’s horrifying to look at, but none of the humans seem to care about any of these animals. Dr. Trendle, the scientist who ran the whole project, continues to warn the military folks about how dangerous We3 are, and only shows any kind of emotion or remorse when humans get hurt by them. “Human beings shouldn’t be dying. That was the point. The whole point of my work.” We’ve heard that rhetoric before with animal testing but the monstrous nature of what Dr. Trendle has turned these animals into, the physical changes to their bodies as well as the monstrous tasks they’re forced to do, is in some ways more horrifying. Nothing can justify this.
Since humans don’t seem to be able to stop them, the air force sends out We4 to hunt them down. We4 is the next iteration of the project: a another animal weapon in dog form, but a much bigger, badder dog than 1. 3 goes out to fight him, even though he’s already injured, because he has to defend his family and his territory. 3 stands up to the bigger foe, but it’s no use. 3 is smaller, and he’s not a predator. We4 chomps down on his body, fragile still even in the mechanised suit. But before he dies, he does what all rabbits do, all the time — he poops.
3 was given different weapons than 1 and 2, because of his nature as prey, not predator. 1 and 2’s suits mostly enhance their natural predatory abilities, but 3 instead is mostly a weapon delivery system. He’s be trained to drop mines and spray poison gas. When he drops mines, it looks just like he’s pooping, so this is what he does to destroy We4. He drops one more mine and blows them both up. 3 sacrifices himself to save the rest of his group.
There are so many things about 3 that I recognize in my own rabbits. The black spot around his right eye matches the ones my pet Lou has around his. The first thing we see 3 saying, “No. Grass. Eat. Now. Eat,” is exactly what I imagine my buns would say if I try to get them to do anything without a food bribe. 3 is devoted to his friends, much like my Lou and Charlotte, who are inseparable.
When I first got a rabbit, I was surprised to hear that rabbits can actually break their own backs if you hold them improperly or scare them. Their back legs are so strong and their spines relatively brittle, their prey instincts to struggle and escape can doom them. Knowing all this, there was never another ending for 3 in this story. Of course he would cause his own end. What I didn’t expect was what a hero he’d be. But knowing my buns, and how fiercely they love, this makes sense too.
Emma Lawson is a critic and librarian who has written for a number of websites including ComicsAlliance, CBR, SyFy and BookRiot. You can find her on Twitter here and catch her website by clicking through here. Her rabbits Lou and Charlotte are the nicest of all fluffs.
We3 issue #3: Pirate
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencilled by Frank Quitely
Inked and Coloured by Jamie Grant
Lettered by Todd Klein
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