Saturday, November 8, 2014

Red: Better R.E.D. Than Dead Trade Paperback Review

Red: Better R.E.D. Than Dead
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$14.99 (2011)
ISBN 9781401231972

Contributors: Cully Hamner, Val Staples, Wes Abbott, Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber, Gregory Noveck, Jason Masters, Carrie Strachan, Wes Abbott, Doug Wagner, Bruno Redondo, Pol Gas, Tony Avina, Saida Temofonte, Diego Olmos, Martha Martinez, David Hahn, and Jonny Rench

Reprints: Red: Eyes Only; Red: Frank; Red: Joe; Red: Marvin; Red: Victoria

Synopsis: The plot of the comic book: Paul Moses was once the deadliest black-ops CIA agent in the history of the organization.  He perpetrated unspeakable acts all under the orders of his government and for the 'greater good'.  He also got to do what 99% of black-ops agents don't get to - he retired.  The official term was 'retired, extremely dangerous' (R.E.D.).  Paul was content to live out the rest of his days in peace while suffering horrific nightmares of his evil deeds as a form of atonement.  Things changed when a new CIA director was appointed and orders Paul Moses sanctioned.  Bad mistake.  Paul came out of retirement and killed his way to the top.

You do not want to cross paths with Paul Moses
The plot of the movie: Frank Moses was once the deadliest black-ops CIA agent in the history of the organization.  He perpetrated unspeakable acts all under the orders of his government and for the 'greater good'.  He got to do what 99% of black-ops agents don't get to - he retired.  One day his retirement is cut short as a kill-squad raids his home and attempts to assassinate him.  This old dog has plenty of tricks left in him and he escapes.  Frank launches a mission to uncover the plot of his attempted assassination and pulls in some of his old colleagues including Joe (former intelligence mover and shaker), Marvin (paranoid former assassin), and Victoria (debonair British assassin).  They kill their way to the top.

  • Eyes Only - Paul Moses was the most effective and deadly agent in the CIA's ranks.  Then he decided to retire and got shunted off to a simple security detail for a political candidate.  It's the 1970s and Paul Moses is head of security for Carver Hampton Jr., the first African American presidential candidate with a chance to win.  On the eve of election night, Paul warns Carver that an assassination attempt will happen.  Can Paul's expert training stop the assassin?  
  • Frank - Frank Moses has survived in the business for 20 years through a combination of skill, luck, and paranoia.  His latest mission in Cairo has him paired him with a green rookie named Jordan.  The rookie has mad skillz, but doesn't know enough to stay free of any personal attachments.  He's got a new girlfriend and Frank tells him to lose her quick.  Will Jordan take his advice or is his girlfriend a 'spy like us'?  They're about to find out the hard way.
  • Joe - During the harshest winter of the Cold War, Joe is on a mission to Russia to make contact with his most deep cover agents.  He's a cool customer, but when things go pear-shaped he has to rely on his agents to stay one step ahead of the KGB.  It's a game of cat-and-mouse with the lives of his agents hanging in the balance. 
  • Marvin - Marvin Boggs is an expert assassin and agent for the CIA.  He's starting to suspect something funny is going on when his bosses have him steal a pen.  A plain and ordinary pen. The excessive amount of surveillance equipment in his apartment tips his mental balance and he starts to ask questions.  When Frank shows up unannounced - is it a social call between two friends in the deadliest profession or is he there to eliminate Marvin?  
  • Victoria - Victoria is MI6's best agent.  When she goes on holiday and meets a handsome stranger - is it serendipity?  The two lovers lose themselves in each other and then return to the real world.  Things are much different when Victoria meets Ivan again, but will love conquer adversity?
Pros: Prequel stories for both the comic book and movie which add a little history to the characters, movie prequels are written by the movie screenwriters, fair art in a couple books

Cons: No Warren Ellis (he wrote the original mini-series), different artist on each issue and their styles vary greatly, the comic and movie are fairly different
You do not want to cross paths with Frank Moses

Mike Tells It Straight: Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner put out a short, violent mini-series called Red in 2003 which became a major action movie in 2010.  I found the mini-series to be slightly entertaining, but mostly unremarkable.  The movie was a hit thanks to an all-star cast including Bruce Willis (Frank), Morgan Freeman (Joe), John Malkovich (Marvin), Helen Mirren (Victoria), and Mary Louise-Parker (Sarah).  The success of the movie prompted this series of one-shots which served as prequels for each of the major characters of the movie and one for the mini-series.

Cully Hamner did the story and art for the mini-series prequel which gave an idea of why Paul Moses retired.  No Warren Ellis to speak of and the book was okay.  The four character prequels were written by the movie screenwriters.  That's pretty cool and the stories were decent spy fiction.  Frank goes on a mission and is a consummate bad ass, Marvin's history is shown and his extreme paranoia is explained, Joe's story is surprisingly decent and shows him to be a tough customer, and Victoria's story was too simple although drawn quite well.

I'd say the book is an overall pass because the movie can stand on its own.  It's mildly interesting, but only adds a small insight into the characters.  I'm glad they showed some love to the original work by including a prequel to the comic, but the comic just wasn't that good.  I guess it depends which version of the story you're a fan of - comic book or movie.  This collection is definitely geared to pull in fans of the movie.  Either way you may be disappointed.

TO BUY and Recommendations: