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Red Agent: Island of Dr. Moreau Trade Paperback Review

7 min read

Freedom is yours to take … if you are willing to seize it.

Creative Staff:
Writer: Brian Studler
Artwork: Jason Muhr
Colors: Ceci de la Cruz
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual

What They Say:

Still on the run, Red and Avril are lured out of hiding by RUBICON – a shadowy government agency that has taken the place of the Highborn Initiative. In order to clear their names, they must track down the woman responsible for an attack on a high-tech genetics lab: Dr. Helena Moreau, and her vicious animal/human hybrids.

Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):

After being framed for bombing the Vatican, Britney and Avril find themselves still on the run and hiding at the abandoned Abbey of Picholine in Chinon, France, with frustration beginning to show as several Highborn Initiative safehouses have been exposed and they are losing patience and places to hide. With not may choices left, the witch pleads with her friend for another option, to which Red Agent remembers a contact she has in French Intelligence named Dominic who may be able to help. But when they finally meet in Paris two days later, it is clear the man is nervous about something, and when he is confronted by a self-assured woman calling herself the Director of RUBICON interrupts and offers them a new assignment. With both blondes furious by the audacity of this person, their threats are quickly halted when she signals nearby snipers to take aim for the surrounding civilians, countering they will be blamed for this massacre if they do not follow her instructions. Seeing no other choice, the pair quickly acquiesces for this singular chance to get their lives back to normal.

After quickly reassuring the women they had no intention of slaughtering those people, this Director addresses the problem from which they need the duo’s assistance – the apprehension of a brilliant geneticist named Dr. Helena Moreau. This former scientist of HiboCorp was attempting to create enhanced soldiers by combining human with animal DNA, however, the experiments did not go well and her employers decided to cancel the project, which resulted in an explosion of the facility and the death of all involved. However when the debris was searched, her body was never found and all servers containing research data were found missing, which made current events even more perilous when similar hybrids attacked a government lab trying to copy her techniques. Their only lead is to investigate the doctor’s former assistant Jacob Henderson who is teaching at Colorado University – a man who has also been filing patents for procedures that he has no knowledge of creating, making his motives all the more suspicious.

In Summary:

After hearing about Zenescope’s hopeful adaptation for this series, I initially thought writer Brian Studler would attempt to follow the horrific events unfolded within H.G. Wells’ compelling Island of Doctor Moreau, but as we reach the end of this title, the series sadly falls short of expectations and into a sterilized conclusion with few story components gleaned from the original. Although it is understandable to center the story around Red Agent and Avril as they try to clear their names, it is within this opening act by which the first plot hole reveals itself: why would these experienced heroines even consider accepting a mission from RUBICON without knowing anything about this shadowy organization. Although they may have been coerced by the Director, neither tries to find out more about the assignment or how this woman is connected to Dr. Moreau, they accept everything at face value all with the empty promise their names will be cleared. And while Ditto’s appearance may help to assuage any doubts, it still seems too convenient for their friend to side with the Director, silently closing any chance they might be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. This leads into the other problem: we have no background for Helena Moreau, although it is explained she worked for HiboCorp to create super soldiers, there is no history as to explain why this scientist went rogue aside from the explosion of her laboratory; as far as we know, she may have been betrayed and she is now lashing out due to the wrongs she perceives were done to her, thus Britney and Avril are agents who were sent to eliminate a problem, and we only have the unvetted Director’s story to support the actions they are now taking against a cornered woman. It is from this point where the narrative hinges upon a singular factor: proving who is right and who is wrong. Although Dr. Moreau is fanatical in the teachings to her followers, with all being forced to unquestioningly acquiesce to their creator’s twisted will, once again we have no reference as to why Helena has this obsessive behavior to protect herself, the island and her creations. It is this ruthless persecution that is at the heart of the title, forcing the reader to accept the narrative superficially, and thus resulting in a series which is shallow and formulaic. And while we may welcome a new adventure for this awesome blonde twosome, they and we are swept into a torrent of events which have no meaning, creating a finale which is predictable by which we witness clichéd story elements that we have seen numerous times, which then lead to a lukewarm and blasé ending.

Even within such a predictable narrative, one cannot deny it is the graphic representation which makes the title a worthwhile wait for each issue, with the striking opening a wondrous display as to why this title sparkles with modelesque displays of our unstoppable heroines. Strangely it is artist Jason Muhr’s amazingly curvaceous depictions of Britney and Avril which make this series memorable, with the grandeur of his illustrations beautifully magnified all thanks to the stunning coloring talent of Ceci de la Cruz. While the book may begin with a rather grim scene of mortal combat with all showing their primal side, what becomes a visual delight is the showing of how de la Cruz can create such a breathtaking sunrise background which proves to be the primary focus, secondary to the captivatingly tempestuous catsuits which our protagonists sport, making the tonal complexity all the more amazing considering the limitations of a selective palette. But even as we are dazzled by her shining presentation, it is Muhr’s constant infatuation for showing Red Agent and her partner as nothing more than alluring women who happen to be caught within a struggle for power which is maddening, even more so after being coincidentally led by an equally captivating tyrant. Although his images while may shallowly show their determination, one cannot deny what attracts the male attention most are the seductively painted on catsuits for our heroines, made all the more arousing thanks to the purposeful extenuation of every sexual curve, and enhanced by shiny highlights on their costumes and unnatural movement which also emphasis each lithely stretched limb and rarely a hair out place for our combat models. Every female within this series has been portrayed as an attractive woman, no matter if they be the Director, Britney, Avril, Moreau or the female hybrids, and as such it appears depicting their outward appearance is more important than their inconsequential inner strength and determination, which is only revealed when justified within the story. The reason I admire Zenescope heroines so much is due to the outstanding manner in which their illustrators can communicate visually how these women can be formidable characters, and yet at the same time, dynamically showing they can be beautiful while viciously slaughtering villains. And yet for this title, the latter element seemed more important while all but ignoring the inner workings of what drives them forward, resulting in pages which may be amazing to view but are essentially empty when the reader needs a reason to search for what compels them within the journey.

Red Agent: Island of Dr. Moreau may have begun as an interesting premise based upon a well-known novel, however as it develops, it quickly becomes superficial so as to avoid the deeper meaning of this cautionary tale, only wishing to provide a fundamental foundation for the uninspired story. And while the stunning colors are amazing to witness, the exaggerated illustrations portray our female characters in an overtly sexualized manner, and as such, while it gives loyal fans a series which is visually appealing, it is deficient in what makes Zenescope so immensely satisfying – balancing portrayals of beautiful women who are not afraid to show their dynamic determination within impossible situations. As such this series lacks the sincere fulfillment for a Red Agent title, and hopefully when our heroines return for a new story, the wonder and amazement which we desire for these heroines will return in all its promising splendor.

Grade: B+

Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: July 13, 2022
MSRP: $19.99