Take a look at the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer that inspired the movie

Paul Moses is a retired CIA hitman, who’s travelled the world and assassinated hundreds of people. When a new CIA director is appointed and shown what Moses has done, which includes some extremely high-profile and controversial assassinations (think targets like JFK), he immediately orders Moses’s own assassination. He believes that Moses’s knowledge, were it to become public, could be disruptive enough to bring down both the CIA and American democracy as a whole.

The trouble is, Paul Moses was the best assassin the CIA ever had, and despite retiring, it doesn’t take any time at all for him to re-enter mass slaughter mode. The current CIA kill teams don’t stand a chance. Then, because his retirement has been destroyed, he decides to take the fight back to the CIA headquarters in Langley, and the management who ordered his assassination.

This makes for a very simple story, broken down into three parts and originally published as a three-part mini-series. As a result it’s short for a book treatment like this – the back section is padded out (in my opinion) with the complete script and art development for the first chapter of the book, which is of relative niche interest. It wouldn’t be so bad except that it almost doubles the volume of the book without really adding that much value. On the other hand, if you want to see how these things travel from script to finished, it’s all set out here. Personally, I’m not that fussed.

The actual story is a sharp, intense read. Dialogue is kept to a pared minimum – this book is all about the action. Warren Ellis’s revenge plan seems plausible: Moses is a killing machine and has been trained to be an unstoppable force. With years of experience, the ability to improvise and an insider’s knowledge of CIA procedure, it seems that nothing can stand in his way. It’s gripping, ultra-violent and the corpse count is mammoth. This is Ellis at his most dramatic, scripting the action but stepping aside to let Cully Hamner define the gory details.

And Hamner does a beautiful job. His Moses is gnarled and grizzled, solid but lithe, and grimly determined. The CIA ninjas look terrifying, his cops look everyday and his pacing and attention to detail is spot-on.

This makes for a classy read but rapid read. I don’t mind the fact that its short, just that it’s been padded out for the purposes of this reprint. Both story and art are thrilling and excellent – it’s the format that’s at fault.

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