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Red: Frank Special

Written by Lee Newman on Saturday, September 18 2010 and posted in Reviews

There's a new comic adaptation headed to theaters.  This means a new slate of prequels.  Lee takes a look at the entire comic world of Red!

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:


Based on the upcoming film from Summit Entertainment! Frank Moses is the C.I.A.'s top agent and his latest mission is to tutor a gifted young agent on a mission to Cairo. First lesson to learn: no personal attachments...a lesson that could cause both men their lives!

Check out the Red movie trailers!

Wildstorm 32pg. Color $3.99 US


In 2003, Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner released a three issue mini-series entitled Red. In the series, Paul Moses was a retired CIA operative who was the best at what he did. What he did was kill people. When a new director is made aware of Moses' particular expertise and his dossier, he is marked for elimination. It is an explosive high octane series that questions how evil the evils we do in the name of freedom are.

Somehow, this was optioned for a movie and from the trailers, instead of a quick action piece; it appears to be some kind of buddy comedy. To be honest, it looks like Spies Like Us crossed with Grumpy Old Men. I'll admit that it looks entertaining, regardless; and plan on seeing it.

To celebrate, Wildstorm released a series of One Shots this week giving us background on the characters that we have seen in the trailers and posters. Four one shots, focusing on each of the retired operatives in the new film. Not having numbers and each cover stating that they are "one of four prequels to the major motion picture;" like any comic reader, my concern quickly became how to read them. If DC had released them one at a time for the next four weeks, I would not have this conundrum, but then they wouldn't be able to collect it all together before the film hits the theaters in a little over a month. Without guidance and not wanting to spend too much time trying to figure it out... I decided on a complete arbitrary way of reading them. Looking at the main poster for the film, I decided to read them in the order that their picture appears on the poster – top to bottom, left to right.

So, now the review of the first one picked through that method, Red, "Frank" by Hoeber & Hoeber, Gregory Noveck and Jason Masters. Normally I go on about the plot and analyze it a bit... gonna be a little different this time. Jason Masters handles the art duties on this issue. His art has a fine line and works well for the end of the cold war era spy tale between the pages. What is especially noteworthy about his art is that he takes both Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman and puts them in the comic. Well, this makes sense for a movie comic, but there is something more here. Noveck's script is very particular in its dialogue and as a result, when Masters catches the mannerisms of the actors, it is easy to hear their familiar voice and even more familiar cadences in your head. It is an example of art being perfect for the story at hand that is more identifiable than most.

Given that this is back story for the film, it is interesting that there is quite a bit of back story hinted at in the comic. There is mention of an operation 13 years ago in Cairo throughout this issue. Ellis's Paul obviously had history, but there was no time spent on it. It was a high concept, low execution kind of book – quick and precise set up created believable characters and the story moved on. This book seems to be more in line with what Mignola has done with Hellboy, there is such a sense of back story that it only seems natural that we will see more comics set in this world. Given the popularity of the spy genre in novels and film, it seems an overly small part of comics – I can name the number of comics about spies I have read on one hand. Maybe, these will fly off the shelves and we can see more.

That's not to say that this is Queen & Country. It's not the acme of the medium or its genre. It is solidly crafted overall and works well as an introduction to Frank Moses (I assume this is one of those we just like the name better changes – given that Willis is the obvious choice in the film's cast to play Ellis's Paul Moses.) He is an assassin for the United States just handed a mission and a newbie partner. Willis' comic doppleganger spends the rest of the issue trying to teach the new kid the ropes. Not to give too much away, but other than vague notions of Frank's paranoia, it is not till the end of this issue that you can see Frank as the kind of killer that would be seen as dangerous years after his activity was a thing of the past.

In the end, this is a book that bridges the gap between the comic and the way the film has been presented to the audience before its release. This is a standard spy book, there is nothing particularly notable about it on its own, but as a transition between a high concept comic and a buddy comedy, it actually makes sense. If you are a fan of the old comic, this may be a glimpse at what the movie may hold for you. If you just want a competent spy story – there is nothing offensive or particularly remarkable about this one.

Red: Frank Special

Red: Frank Special

Review by: Lee Newman

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