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Red: Joe Special

Written by Lee Newman on Monday, September 20 2010 and posted in Reviews

Continuing the comic celebration leading to the movie, this one shot lets us know a little too much about the character played by Morgan Freeman.

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:


Based on the upcoming film from Summit Entertainment! Joe is an old hand at missions for the C.I.A., but even he raises an eyebrow at his latest assignment: face-to-face personnel reviews with deep cover operatives IN the field. And to make things even more difficult, the "field" is Moscow and it's during the height of the Cold War in 1981. It's going to be one long day!

Check out the Red movie trailers!

Wildstorm  32pg.   Color   $3.99 US


There is a poignant moment at the end of this one shot that makes up for a lot of what came before it. It gives the characters of the whole series a humanity that is not present otherwise.

This issue is more troublesome than the rest. Joe, played by Morgan Freeman in the movie, is a senior operative for the CIA. He's not the sniper that Mirren is. He's not the ruthless killer that Willis's character is. He is an administrator, but no less dangerous.

The comic opens with Joe traveling to Russia. He is there under the guise of interviewing agents for a station director position, presumably in Russia. As he explains the situation it starts to not make sense, you know there is something wrong and before the end of the issue you realize that he is an unreliable narrator.

It's a useful devise to build tension. However, in this book it's a problem because it builds false tension. Joe always knows that the plan he is telling you is not going to happen, he knows that things are going to go more or less like they do. There is a different mission altogether and unfortunately, because of too accurate foreshadowing; you figure it out about two pages before you are supposed to. It would work so much better if it was the mission that he told you and it just goes as bad as you think it does. It would even make the moment at the end more powerful as he stares at a monument for his fallen comrades. Instead you realize how false it all is and maybe that's the point since he is a spy's spy – he's all about intrigue and information, people are expendable in the name of that almighty need for security.

Beyond that, the Russians are a stereotype. Sucked straight out of any number of eighties spy movies, they speak Russian but it is translated as stiff and awkward English. Their bravado is bigger than their ability. It would have been nice to see something new and different.

The art is kind of just there. Nothing at all is wrong with it, really. It's that DC/Boom sort of house look with coloring that matches the Frank One Shot. The only really bothersome thing is the silence in the script when there should be gunfire and other noise – making one wonder if this was rushed to press. But beyond that, you have to wonder why the artist went to such lengths to make Joe look like Freeman and not look at him at the same time? There are the trademark freckles and a goatee and the skin tone, but beyond that, this character could be Denzel Washington for how much he looks like the guy he is supposed to be.

It's not even a bad comic, just a disappointing and predictable one. Ironic, because while it's hard to create tension - the writer takes the easy road of lying to the reader to get that tension. The author loses your trust for no reason.

Red: Joe Special

Red: Joe Special

Review by: Lee Newman

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