Tag Archives: Wildstorm

Review: “Red” by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner

Title: Red
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Cully Hamner
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: WildStorm, 2009

This is one of those cases where your expectations will affect your experience. I first encountered Red, as did many, through the film starring Bruce Willis.

Honestly, I loved that movie. So when the library got a copy of the comic it was based on, I snapped it up. While the movie was more or less based on this comic, it was a very different animal. They added a LOT of material, for one thing. They’d have to, given how short this was. But they also completely changed the tone. The comic was entirely straightfaced about its over-the-top violence, and there was not a joke to be had. It was all rather grim. The film was an action comedy. Both were good, but they were very different. You need to be aware of what you’re in for, and temper your expectations accordingly.

The plot? The plot is simple. I can sum it up in two sentences. The new politically-appointed head of the CIA learns the scary truth about the agency he is now in charge of and orders the death of its greatest operative, the now-retired Paul Moses. The kill squad fails, leaving Moses bloodied and on a rampage to find the men who ended his solitude. That’s really all there is to this, but it’s very well executed. Small details like Moses standing in his kitchen during a storm, reliving the lives he’s ended with every crack of thunder, or the flashbacks he experiences when he takes up a sniper rifle once again, really lend some emotional weight to a character that is not entirely sympathetic even as they remind us that he is, in fact, a self-described monster. There’s some definite political commentary here, but its more generally aimed at American foreign policy (in the guise of the CIA) than it is any particular individual. I would recommend it, assuming you can stomach the violence.

CONTENT: Strong, gory violence throughout. PG-13-grade profanity. No sexual content.

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Review: Wildstorm’s “Fringe Vol. I”

Fringe has been one of my absolute favorite shows for years now, and it recently ended. While the ending was everything I would have hoped for, I wanted more. Which is why I picked up this comic when I found it at the library last week. This particular paperback is a collection of Wildstorm’s six-issue miniseries from 2008, simply entitled Fringe Vol. I (***).

Unfortunately, if you aren’t into the show, you won’t find much to appeal to you here. The characters here really rely on your knowledge of the show for their life. The flip side of this is that longtime fans of the TV show will find much that is familiar here.

The first half of the book details the early relationship between Walter Bishop, portrayed brilliantly in the show by John Noble, and William Bell, played on the screen by Leonard Nimoy. In the seventies they share a lab at Harvard and together are able to bend the very laws of the universe out of shape before Bishop is committed and Bell goes on to found the megacorporation Massive Dynamic. Their adventures here are very fun, and occasionally the writers hit their stride and you can hear John Noble deliver the lines on the page. Other times, it falls flat. Unfortunately, I think this was published before we had actually met Bell in the show (He was missing for a long time) and thus knew he was Leonard Nimoy–the Bell in the book doesn’t really look a thing like him.

The second half of the book details several “Fringe events” occuring within the world of Fringe. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see how things turn out either here or on the show–a number of them are just kind of left unresolved, as if they were setting up for an episode of the show that just never happened. The exception is the story Strangers On A Train–that one was really good. There’s a segment involving mind-swapping, a man trying to reclaim his stolen briefcase with unexpected results, a child who kills whatever he touches, an astronaut on an experimental drug, and a reporter who gets more than she bargained for when she begins investigating Massive Dynamic….

Tom Mandrake’s art throughout the book is consistant, if lackluster. Its not bad, its just not particularly outstanding. The writing, on the other hand, is spotty–either its good or its bad. This inconsistancy is understandable, given the fact that its written by a committee. The Bell And Bishop segment is apparently broken up into chapters with different production teams (these breaks are only apparent on the credits page–the chapter breaks aren’t indicated in the book itself). Writers include Zack Whedon on one segment, Julia Cho, Mike Johnson, Alex Katsnelson, Danielle DiSpaltro, Justin Doble, Matthew Pitts, and Kim Cavyan.

Content-wise, I’m going to say PG-13. Some mild language, a couple characters strip to their underwear to enter a sensory-deprivation tank (fans of the show will understand), and there’s a little violence–not much, but a bit bloody when it does occur. There’s a shot of Hitler’s severed head as he is eaten by a tyrannosaur…..

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