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Comic Book / Red (2003)
aka: Red

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It's seriously all he does.

I am haunted by everything I have done. I have shot women in the back. I've blown men's brains out over their wives. I've made children watch their parents bleed out in the street. I did these things because it was explained to me that America would not remain safe otherwise. These are the hard choices. And make no mistake, I will go to my grave regretting the horror I have spread. But I am not a monster because I kill. Killing is easy. I am a monster because I accept the hard choices. I am a monster because I see that my actions in the service of my people will cause nothing but terror and pain. And I do them anyway. I am very good at terror and pain.
Paul Moses

Red was a three-issue comic book miniseries written by Warren Ellis, released from September 2003 to February 2004 for WildStorm. It tells the story of Paul Moses, a retired CIA operative who was at one point the most dangerous man in the world, spending his remaining days trying to live with the things he has done. He is responsible for a nearly impossible number of atrocities and assassinations committed over a forty year career working in the interest of national security.

A new director is appointed to the CIA named Michael Beesley, a naive overconfident politician with little military experience. The Deputy Director, Adrian Kane, briefs him on his first day and informs him of Moses' career, and the extent of it. Beesley freaks out upon discovering not only the sheer number of high profile assassinations, but also that the man who carried them out is still alive, and worries what might happen if his crimes are ever exposed to the public. To bury the past, he orders the death of Paul Moses, over the protests of Kane, who insists that Moses is nowadays just a harmless retiree, who wouldn't dream of betraying the agency.


Returning home one night to find a highly trained squad of professional killers waiting for him in his living room, Moses brutally kills them all. He recognizes their attack patterns, and realizes that he has been betrayed by his former employers. After grabbing all of the weapons he can carry, he places a phone call in, putting himself back on red status, making him an active agent again. He then announces that he will personally kill the men responsible for disrupting his peaceful life, in addition to everybody else working for them who so much as knows his name.

The book was published under Wildstorm's more writer-driven Homage Comics imprint. Although it wasn't widely popular, Red met with critical acclaim when it was first published, and became a cult hit. Bruce Willis also plays the main character in a 2010 film adaptation, which... on the one hand, appears to play the thing for comedy, and on the other hand, has Helen Mirren manning a Ma Deuce. And Warren Ellis has at least thrown his backing behind it, on the grounds that the original graphic novel might have hit "44 minutes, if you included a musical number."


This WildStorm volume contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Beesly. The man is a smug pencil-pusher who doesn't understand that people like Moses are perfectly willing to take their secrets to the grave (and will slaughter anybody stupid enough to try to take them out) or that sending his men to die in droves is just tossing good money after bad.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Deputy Director Kane, who, in contrast to Beesly, never loses his cool despite knowing how bad the situation is, and - when Moses arrives in his office to confront Beesly - immediately goes for his pistol.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Moses. Though in his case, it is more like Been There, Killed Important People, Shaped History.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Moses is a man who has done lots of horrible things, but is willing to pay for them by going to Hell when he dies. Beesly is a pencil-pushing idiot who is willing to let many of his employees die and hands out assassination orders like there's no tomorrow for the sake of improving the CIA's reputation.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: "I'm the monster. Do your best."
  • Crapsack World: There are no real saints in this comic. Just a lot of people willing and able to kill (or order to kill) for the sake of the dumbest of reasons.
  • Determinator: Moses. The man takes on the CIA single-handedly and does so much damage by the time the comic ends that it looks like he is still capable of killing the whole Agency alone, even if he's cornered and has about fifty guns trained on him at point-blank range.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Moses might have killed people by the truckload, but he refuses to kill children.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Both played straight and averted.
  • The Handler: Sally, his retirement handler, is the only person Paul talks to on a consistent basis.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Moses is very, very aware of this. See the quote up top. Follows into I Am a Monster.
  • Improperly Paranoid: The whole mess occurs because Beesly overreacts and decides it's best to kill a man that was incredibly loyal to the Agency when he was active and is now retired and peacefully living what little is left of the rest of his days in seclusion rather than risk the infinitesimally small chance that someone will make him talk about what he's done.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Moses is forced into this when the CIA comes to kill him.
  • Morality Pet: Moses' niece.
  • Motive Rant: A lot of the spiels Moses delivers throughout the comic are a combination of this and Badass Boast.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Three professional assassins making a hit on a sixty-year-old man. They were, of course, wrong.
  • Not So Stoic: Moses might be able to kill as easily as he breathes and shows little to no outward remorse about it, but the fact that at he at several points experiences what can only be described as PTSD-like flashbacks about his bloody past shows that all the killing he has done is actually bothering him on some level.
  • Oh, Crap!: At the end, when Beesley is on the phone with Moses thinking he's won, and confidently telling him that unless he stops, he will place an order to have Paul's niece murdered. Then he hears a knock on the door behind him, and Moses calmly walks in with his cell phone and a gun, having slaughtered the rest of their defenses... during the conversation. The look of sheer terror is priceless.
  • One-Man Army: Moses. The whole comic is the Mook Horror Show that ensues when he's driven to kill to survive.
  • Red Shirt: Pretty much everybody Moses meets.
  • Retired Monster: Moses is aware that he was basically a mass-murdering monster during his time in the CIA, but he was pretty content with his retirement, and he is not happy about being forced out of it.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge
  • Smug Snake: Beesly. The whole story is him getting the smug terrified out of him, and then finally getting killed.
  • Who Shot JFK?: A flashback shows that it was actually Moses who did the deed.

Alternative Title(s): Red