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Red: Marvin Special

Written by Lee Newman on Wednesday, September 22 2010 and posted in Reviews

What happens when you make the narrator of a comic completely crazy?  You get a crazy ass book!

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:


Based on the upcoming film from Summit Entertainment! Marvin Boggs is one of the C.I.A.'s top infiltration men and his latest mission sends him down a dark, strange path where he learns that the mission this time around is himself! If he can't trust himself, how can he trust anyone else?

Check out the Red movie trailers!

Wildstorm   32pg.  Color  $3.99 


To effectively use the unreliable narrator, you have to make the narrator... well, unreliable. The Joe special that I covered last was an example of how not to use the story device. There was no way that Joe believed the lie he was telling you at the beginning of that story and it kept you from trusting the rest of the book by making him too reliable after the lie.

Of course, you can overshoot this fragile line and make the narrator nuts. Welcome to the final of the movie prequel comics. In Red: Marvin we are introduced to the character played by John Malkovich in the upcoming film. He's nuts. That's also the problem with the book. The narrator is crazy and so unreliable it is difficult to tell what is real and what isn't, mostly because Marvin doesn't really know. No seriously, there is a scene towards the end with a word balloon filled with "Blah blah blah blah blah..." Is it life savers or a syringe, who knows? The questions, like that one, that fill this book are almost endless.

Marvin is Richard Donner's Jeremy Fletcher taken to a ludicrous extreme. This guy is a tin hat short of being the guy with a tin hat. There are a few scenes that happen outside Marvin's narrative - if an omniscient narrator were present, it could provide insight to the character. Instead, you have to wonder if they are constructs of Marvin's debilitating paranoia. Is this the result of some super soldier serum being tested on him or is this the result of some really bad acid? Who knows?

Thus far, I have made it sound like a maddening comic. However, it's not all that bad. As a result of the character's fatal flaw, it is as unpredictable a comic you are likely to read. It is near impossible to figure out what Marvin will do next. I guess this is a credit to the Hoeber responsible for this comic's script as he has clearly gotten in the head of a mad man (or maybe it's autobiographical?) It's a fun read and putting the Frank character in it only makes it more so; and there may be a bit of foreshadowing given the nature of Malkovich's appearance in the trailer to the movie.

Olmos handles the art duties well. While this is not a photo-realistic portrayal of the characters, it is obvious that the actors have been referenced. What is impressive are the eyes of Marvin and the demeanor of the few guys who seem to be following the main character around in the book. There is a sense of the madness in the art and a little bit of doom as well. The action sequences are actually quite spectacular. If it looked as good as the Frank or Victoria special in its line work, this would be the book to beat.

As it stands it is probably the most complex of the four one shots and complexity is not always a good thing.

Red: Marvin Special

Red: Marvin Special

Review by: Lee Newman

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