Saturday, December 24, 2011

RED (comics)

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Cully Hamner
Collects: RED #1-3, bonus material

This book kicked my expectations around in the wrong ways. I like the work of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner is a damn great artist. On a creator owned book, you'd think it would be dynamite. Unfortunately, the book is fairly disappointing.

We don't have any real curveballs in the concept; it's fairly simple. An extremely dangerous CIA agent is in retirement, wanting nothing more than to be left in peace. Unfortunately, when the new administration catches wind of him and the things he'd done in their service, they drop a deuce in their drawers. Fearing the consequences if such knowledge got out, they rashly order him dead. One problem; he's a killing machine and he doesn't take kindly to assassination attempts. Cue the killing.

The book tries to say something about how the younger generation has lost the intestinal fortitude to make the hard choices and to live with them - and that's fine - but throughout the book, it felt like something was missing. It was competent, told it's story in a neat three issue package and made sure to exit without wearing out its welcome. It wasn't until I finished it that I realized what was off.

There's no conflict or real danger.

Paul Moses is never really in a compromising position at any point in this book. Once he turns back the initial assassination attempt without much trouble, everything between him and his destination dies. There is nothing at stake and you don't realize quite how much that effects a story until you have one like this, where the main character literally makes it through the entire book without suffering so much as a hangnail.

Aside from that, it's not bad. Cully Hamner is his usual awesome self. His clean, simple work is always a joy to behold. He doesn't bother using too many lines; this book proves he knows when less is more. His work stands out more for it as well; there are quite a few artists in comics that overdraw their work with lines upon lines to the point of utter ridiculousness.

One last thing; did no one realize prior to the books production that the back cover quote doesn't even describe the book itself? It just describes what goes into one of Warren Ellis' best stories. Odd oversight? Couldn't they find a better quote?

The Score: 7 out of 10

Worth a look for Hamners art alone. Might also be good for a big Ellis fan or to see what inspired the movie*, which I've yet to see. It feels like a bit of a weird read due to what was mentioned earlier in the review, but it's enjoyable enough.

* This is a bit of an odd choice for a movie, too. It has more than enough action to work as a film, sure, but there's not enough here to go on. Of course, Hollywood has made full films out of short stories numerous times over the years, so no huge shock.

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