Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Cully Hamner
Publisher: Homage Comics
It turns out that Paul Moses (the main character of Red) is quite the cold-blooded killer. Yes, I know that we saw him killing with abandon in the last issue, but this time out there’s a viciousness to his handiwork that is just plain chilling. I have little problem with Paul dispatching the men sent into his home (I live in Texas and it’s my God-given right to blow the hell out of anyone that comes near my property), but the sadism that it takes to shoot someone in the gut and then light them on fire is almost too much for me to take given that we’re supposed to like and sympathize for Paul.
That’s right, we’re supposed to feel sympathy for this character and I can’t say that his actions tug on my pity-strings. The indiscriminate violence and downright cruel way he goes about the killing makes me feel sorry for the poor shlubs stupid enough to Paul their names. Is my above description of Paul’s actions a little too graphic for you? Add a few scenes involving sharp, pointy instruments and you get the gist of what the opening pages of this book are about; hardly the kind of scene designed to evoke any kind of sympathy.
After his violent rampage (in which he kills non-CIA police officers that know little about him) Paul visits Sally, the CIA operator he’s had contact with during his retirement. He spills his guts about his past, letting her (and, conveniently, the audience) in on the kinds of things he’s done and how it makes him feel. Unfortunately, given that he’s just slaughtered several people his “Woe is me” speech falls on deaf ears. Besides that small fact, the scene is just a clichéd and lazy storytelling moment in which we learn too much about someone in a short time. Give him a cat and a different agenda, and Paul could easily be a James Bond villain. And because he doesn’t kill Sally after threatening her is supposed to be a character defining moment? Um, no.
This book gets three bullets because a) Ellis can write great action scenes regardless of brutality, and b) Cully Hamner provides some truly wonderful visuals. Hamner has a simple style that reminds me a little of Carlos (Arrowsmith) Pacheco (see Sally’s face) while at the same time adding enough realism to make your stomach lurch. While his faces are a tad inconsistent but not enough to distract. Hopefully we’ll see more of Hamner’s art in the future.
I’m really hoping Ellis redeems Paul Moses in the next and final issue, but given his hit-or-miss record with miniseries lately I’m not counting on it. At the very least, this book will fill your “mindless violence” quota for the month.
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