Fear Agent – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Rick Remender (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
In 2006, Rick Remender launched Fear Agent, a pulp Sci-Fi comic that looked to give the genre the boot in the butt that it desperately needed. The series initially launched with Image comics before moving over to Dark Horse starting with the 12th issue. Remender worked with a rotating series of artists on the series, working with the likes of Tony Moore, Jerome Opena, Francesco Francavilla, and Kevin Dwyer. After working on the title for nearly three years, Remender placed the title on hiatus in 2009 after signing an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. Remender brought back the series for one final arc in 2010, wrapping it up with the final five issues.
Fear Agent Volume 1 – Re-Ignition
Heath Huston is the last remaining Fear Agent, a small group of alien exterminators from Texas. Travelling all across the universe, Heath spends more time staring at the bottom of a bottle than he does actually exterminating aliens. It’s part of his personally philosophy that he’s better at his job drunk than he is sober. On his way to a fueling and trade pavilion following a mission, Heath is contacted about strange incidences occurring at said pavilion. When he arrives he is stunned to find a deadly type of alien called “Feeders”, whose soul purpose is to consume any and all types of flesh, have completely overrun the joint. Heath discovers that an alien race known as the Dressites, responsible for nearly destroying Earth years before, are planning on assaulting the Earth yet again by dropping Feeders all over the planet. Teaming with the mysterious warp scientist Mara, Heath goes at the Dressites with a wicked hangover and his trigger finger at the ready. Things get complicated when in an attempt to travel back to Earth to warn of the impending Dressite invasion, Heath’s ship crash lands in a totally foreign time and space.
Rick Remender begins to create an incredible, character focused story around Heath Huston in this first volume of Fear Agent. Heath Huston is the runaway lead character in this story, without any else to contest him for the role. While Remender largely uses the first issue to introduce the pulp Sci-Fi nature of the series, in the second issue he full on launches into letting the reader know all the key components of Heath’s character. He’s an alcoholic from Texas who has some nagging ghosts hanging over his head and doesn’t really value much at all in life. Even the A.I. of his ship is something that, although he shows signs of compassion towards her and she the closest thing he has ranging in the realm of a “friend”, he can easily disassociate himself from in the event that he needs to severe any sort of emotional connection. In the simplest of terms, Heath Huston is just a man who wants to get drunk and exterminate some aliens, with anything else that comes along simply being a bonus. There are a few other characters in the story, but none that impact it or share the level of significance towards it that Heath Huston has.
The entire point behind this series, as per Rick Remender, is that it is supposed to be reminiscent of the classic EC stories that captured three key elements, Science Fiction, Horror, and War. Remender sought to use Fear Agent as proof that the Sci-Fi genre wasn’t dead in comics and he most certainly proved himself right with this comic. Each issue appears to encompass some elements known to frequent the science fiction genre, whether it be a variety of alien races and settings, scientific concepts like time travel, or advanced technology that appears to be centuries away from our current time. The concepts that Remender plays with through the character of Heath Huston are definitely fun ones for the reader to explore, as there is always some form of bizarre conflict plaguing him. Remender finds the right balance between believable and outrageous, never veering too far into one realm or the other in favour of alienating a specific type of reader. Instead, the two sides of the Sci-Fi genre strike up a compelling partnership that will keep you guessing and interested as you go along. One of the key aspects to this is the number of different settings Remender manages to pack into this collection, with each issue essentially being set in a different place. With around twenty pages to build characters and worlds, Remender does more than an admirable job of creating locales that will stick with you, either because of how it looks or because of the unique characters within it.
The one thing that truly works against this first collected edition of Fear Agent is its brevity. Just when you really start to get into the overall plot and immerse yourself in the settings is when the stories seem to typically end. It ultimately becomes a great and terrible part of the story as you can take everything you need from the story in just a single issue but you often are still left with more lingering questions than answers. With only four issues to complete this first arc, there isn’t nearly enough time to fully explore everything that you might feel needs attention. It’s a difficult balancing act, providing enough information to the reader to make them feel rewarded while also keeping your cards tight enough to your chest that the reader will want to come back for more, which is a balance Fear Agent does manage to finally achieve by the end of it’s fourth issue. In short, there are plenty of great stories that could serve as one-and-done tales but they still weave in together to create a narrative. The short four issue arc just feels like it robs you a little bit of potential payoff for certain story beats but still leaves you wanting to come back for more.
Collects: Fear Agent #1-4
Best Character: Heath Huston
Best Line Of Dialogue: “Every hour is happy hour.” – Heath Huston
Best Scene/Moment: Heath and Mara’s fight for survival – Issue 3
Best Issue: Issue 4. This issue concludes the first volume in dramatic fashion, leaving readers with one heckava cliffhanger. It’s an issue that fleshes out the back story on some of the current threats in Heath’s life, and does so by showing an example of exposition done well. It’s a story with a solid build up, decent twists, strong character moments, and there’s that cliffhanger I mentioned at the start of this paragraph. By the end of this issue, you’ll be easily convinced of whether or not you want to continue on with the journeys of Heath Huston and his Fear Agent ways.
Why You Should Read It: This series, not just the first volume, is worth any Sci-Fi fans time. The way the story handles itself is compelling enough to convince even the most judgemental of readers to keep trudging along. The somewhat one-and-done nature of the issues is like a modern spin on classic comics, in the sense that you’d get everything you’d need from a story within 20+ pages but it would also feed into a larger narrative, sharply contrasting with today’s comic market that seems consistently geared towards 6+ issue arcs designed to conveniently fit into a collected edition somewhere down the road. You’ve got a loveable badass, high Sci-Fi concepts, plenty of fascinating story beats, settings, and alien races plus so many other entertaining facets to this comic.