In Review: Red Agent: The Human Order #9

Strong action and a stunning surprise chart a new direction for all characters in the Zenescope Universe.

The covers: The first frontpiece, the A cover, looks like a movie poster. Artist Ediano Silva has Britney running forward with a gun in her right hand and her sword in her left as she makes her way through smoky ruins. Just behind her is Avril, who has a pair of pistols out. Behind them is a gigantic bust of Alpha, who looks grotesque. Colorist Hedwin Zaldivar has done a great job with the background, giving it a fiery orange and red, as though flames are close to the heroes. I really like the violet highlights on Alpha’s exposed skin, making him see like a walking corpse. Excellent job by both. The B cover is by Netho Diaz and Jesse Heagy and features Alpha and Britney battling mano a mano; unfortunately, the heroine is on the losing end at the moment. Alpha has a hand wrapped around her throat, the other a massive sword. Britney is straining at his hand, while trying to push him off of her with her right. He’s bending her backwards, into a pit filled with exposed rebar. Diaz does a really strong with Alpha’s suit, with it really looking tech heavy. The coloring is also good, as Heagy has Britney pop out with her crimson clothes and yellow hair. The cheesecake cover is the C by Meguro. Britney is wearing a short dress with a plunging neckline. She’s got a hand on her hip and a small pistol in the other. She looks as though she’s going to infiltrate a party and do some dirty business. Beautiful cover that has plenty of attitude. Sheldon Goh and Grostieta do the D cover which features all the heroes of this series. In the bottom left, close to the reader, is Silk holding a pair of guns. Behind him is Britney who’s holding her sword forward. Leaping down is Avril, with two machine guns. Behind her is the armored character Ditto. Everyone looks good, though Avril’s legs look twice as big as her body, due to the perspective, and she’s twisted around like a gymnast. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A, and D B

The story: This is the final installment of this series and it goes out changing things in the Zenescope Universe! Vatican City is the location and Britney is sneaking into a building as a nun. Avril, Silk, and Ditto are in radio contact with her. Finding a secret entrance to a subterranean chamber and Silk teleports himself and Avril to her. The trio go down some ancient stairs, Avril lighting the way with her magic. Suddenly her magic flames dim, a sign of nearby magic. The three find themselves before Alpha, Paladin (Silk’s friend who now has powers), and three sword wielding members of the Order. Joe Brusha and Lou Iovino, with “words” by Iovino, have created a strong action issue with every character, good and evil, getting some major moments. I was happy to see some swordplay in this issue, since Britney carries one all the time and doesn’t use it enough. Silk gets to take out a baddie in a way that would make Bruce Campbell proud on Page 7. The biggest struggle for Silk is trying to convince his friend Paladin that he doesn’t have to be a bad guy. Words are exchanged while they fight, with Silk making a great comment on 12 — his character now has motivation for a long time to come. I like that Avril tried to take down Alpha, but doesn’t go as she planned. The big battle is between Alpha and Britney. It’s been building for several issues and more than one series and it reaches its climax in this issue. A reader would think that this would be the perfect place to end this series, but Brusha and Iovino have one HUGE surprise to come and it really floored me. There was no way to see this coming and the fallout from this conclusion is going to run through every book from this publisher. This is how to end a series and leave the fans screaming for more. Overall grade: A

The art: I’m thrilled to see that with this issue proper notation is given to artists for the pages they created. Salvatore Cuffari is responsible for Pages 1-13, Daniel Dahl does 14-18 & 22, and Enn does 19-21, with inks by Emanuel Braga on 14-18 & 22. The book opens with a crisp and clean view of Vatican City. I’m always impressed by artists who do architecture well and Cuffari certainly does so in this panel and on every page as Britney and her friends make their way down into the city’s bowels. Cuffari does exceptionally well with his characters, with Britney and Avril being stunning. He gives them strong emotions, such as fear at the bottom of 3 and anger when Britney takes on Alpha. Silk gets some excellent panels as well; the fight with Paladin is choreographed well and is easy to follow with the point of view moved around often to up the excitement level. Dahl and Braga do a good job on their pages as well. Their characters are a little bulkier than those of Cuffari’s and they look a little older, such as Silk. The pair also get a really violent action to illustrate and they show as much as they can. When the final blow is delivered on 16 I do admit to being let down: the point of view is from an odd angle and there’s no background behind the characters. It’s difficult to see what is physically occurring. The two smaller panels at the bottom of the page are again too far from the reader to give this moment the punch it needs. However, the villain that appears on the following page is sensational. He has a fantastic face and his actions are awesome. Dahl and Braga also do the last page and the same problems appear: the action is too far away from the reader and the final panel is from an odd angle. Enn’s three pages look good and I’d like to see more from this artist. The level of magic in play on 19 is excellent and the backgrounds are fully rendered. Something is shown on 20 that sparks a reaction in Britney and it has her baring her nails. It may seem like a little thing, but having her nails out on 20 and 21 shows her character to be losing control. When more than one artist does a book, it’s difficult to have a story that’s visually consistent, but this does a better than average job. Overall grade: B+

The colors: The coloring by Hedwin Zaldivar and Maxflan Araujo increase the appeal of the visuals substantially. The clouds and sky of the opening panel are gorgeous and the city regal in its colors. The purples used for the backgrounds as the heroic trio makes their way through the underground are also beautiful. Britney’s costume and those in the Order are bright red, instantly catching the reader’s attention when they appear. The blending of colors on characters’ flesh is impressive, with the first panel on Page 7 having Silk look exceptional. The violets that comprise Paladin’s skin are also blended really well. Being mostly mechanical, Alpha’s dialogue is colored red in a pale blue balloon to reinforce for readers that he’s not human. The blues done for a taser are also outstanding. Blues also get the spotlight on 19 when Silk teleports and they look great. The close-ups of Avril and Britney on 21 are top notch. Zaldivar and Araujo have done a really exceptional job on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios also delivers an exceptional job on this final issue. He is responsible for creating scene settings, Ditto’s speech, dialogue, sounds, the story’s title, the book’s credits, yells, and Alpha’s unique dialogue. I like that the two tech heavy characters, Ditto and Alpha, have different fonts for their speech, differentiating them from each other and the human characters. The scene settings are visually exciting, looking like streamlined movie lettering one would find in a Bond film. The sounds are the show pieces of Esposito’s work in this issue. There’s a lot of action and he creates many different styles of sounds that perfectly match the scenes. There are also several different types of yells in this issue, showing the different levels of stress for each character as they bellow. Esposito always delivers the goods. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Strong action and a stunning surprise chart a new direction for all characters in the Zenescope Universe. Having a single artist on the issue would have unified the story more, but what is on the page looks good. The colorists and letterer deserve a raise for delivering exceptional work. I will definitely be repurchasing this when the collection edition comes out. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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