Red follows the story of Paul Moses, a retired CIA agent after 40 years who is enjoying the quiet life after years of dedication to serving the U.S. government. He decides to live a relatively low-key life after retirement, and he only communicates with two people on a regular basis after retiring: his "handler" Sally and his niece in England. His world is rocked back into action, however, as new CIA director Michael Beesley has decided that Paul needs to be put down after the atrocities of orders he was told to go through with. A strike team is sent to Paul's home with orders to terminate him, but Paul winds up taking out all three of the agents and recognizes their tactics. A phone call later, Paul confirms to the CIA that he is taking himself off "Green" status and going "Red", vowing to kill both Director Beesley as well as Deputy Director Adrian Kane for disturbing his peace.
The book was released over the course of three issues under Wildstorm's Homage imprint in 2003 and 2004. A collected double-sized trade paperback with another Ellis three-part series, Tokyo Storm Warning, was released in 2004. A solo trade paperback of Red was released in June 2009, which featured the script for the first issue as well as a new trade cover by Cully Hamner and additional never-before-seen bonus materials.
Red received mixed reviews, with many claiming that Ellis' sophisticated style found in books like Transmetropolitan and Planetary was severely lacking throughout the three-part series. The character of Paul Moses was also criticized for being a "true monster" that is difficult to find likable at all. The few positive reviews commended Ellis for going outside of his comfort zone and writing a down-to-the-point book, but for little else.
The rights to adapt Red into a motion picture were optioned off to Summit Entertainment in 2008. The movie is set for a wide release on October 15th, 2010, starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Julian MacMahon, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Cox, and Richard Dreyfuss. The director is Robert Schwentke ( Time Traveler's Wife, Flightplan) with a script written by The Hoeber Brothers ( Whiteout).
The film version of Red differs greatly from the comic series. The main character's name has been changed from Paul Moses to Frank Moses, and the general tone is more comedic than dramatic while still focusing on action sequences. The general story focuses around a CIA operative (Bruce Willis) who is trying to contend against younger operatives, which leads to a strike team being deployed to take out Moses and his team of fellow operatives. The film also features a larger cast of characters, including characters created from scratch to fill out enough story for a two-hour film.
Red: Eyes Only
In 2011, Cully Hamner released Red: Eyes Only through Wildstorm. The comic, lacking any involvement from Warren Ellis, was released as a one-shot companion to the original Red series to explain how the lead character Paul Moses came about his retirement from the CIA.