|Cast of Characters|
Heath Huston, last of the Fear Agents, currently working as a zeno-exterminator, specializing in the removal of alien pests (below Class D Intellect, of course – in compliance with the Quintala Convention).
Mara Esperanza, a warp scientist who was aboard the Glentbin Station when the Feeders attacked. She was the only survivor, hiding in the station’s water source until Heath found her.
Annie, probably Heath’s only friend in the universe, is actually the ship he flies in. She has a human-like computer intelligence, and relates to him like any person would another. She is very big on seeing Huston quit drinking these days.
Feeders caused the Armageddon of Charmanta. They are a streamlined life form that consumes any flesh, excreting only eggs, perfect breeding machines. Think tribbles with tentacles.
The Fear Agents defended Earth from the Dressites during the Annubius Conflict, and seem to have carried their desire to exterminate life on Earth ever since. They are responsible for the sudden reappearance of Feeders. Is Earth in danger once again?
Who? What? Still on the Shelf? What’s that?
Yeah – it has been a long hiatus, but I decided that it was time to start writing these again. Plan on at least a few more in the upcoming weeks, so there is that to look forward to!
But enough about the future, how about we talk about the title du jour, Fear Agent?
Naturally, the obvious appeal is that this is a sci-fi book. Sci-fi is still a rare genre in comics today, despite the fact that you would think that the “Sci-fi geeks” and “Comic Geeks” are, in fact, the same crowd. Alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case, and a good sci-fi serial comic is hard to come by. There are Star Wars comics, of course, but that is a creature all its own. Beyond that, we have seen some sci-fi books come and go, Negation and the recent Space Ghost mini come to mind. But nothing ongoing that is still around today, nothing that you could say “Sci-fi? Well, you have to check out , that is just outstanding.” Sad state of things, if you ask me. Sci-fi comics these days are really hit and miss, so much so that buying them is a perilous task at best.
Personally, I am a sci-fi geek. I like it in all flavors. I like the down to earth, make you think sci-fi like Eternal Sunrise of the Spotless Mind, the utopian galactic political sci-fi like the kind you find in Star Trek, heck, I even like the picturesque, epic tapestry sci-fi like you find in 2001: A Space Odessey. I like all sorts of Sci-Fi, but there is a shocking lack of it in the comic medium. So every time I hear about a new sci-fi book, I am compelled to give it a shot in hopes that it will fill that void. Fear Agent was no different. I snatched the first issue off the shelf as soon as it came out, and have been hooked ever since.
Rick Remender is certainly no stranger to the genre. He did animation work on Titan A.E., which was a solid sci-fi action film (I swear they ripped that idea off from me, and I have the novella to prove it, but I digress). Comic readers should be familiar with his art more so than his writing, he has worked on books like TMNT, the Avengers, and Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the Fear Agent “universe” did feel somewhat like the universe we saw in Titan A.E. Fear Agent has the same gritty feel, the same diversity of species that seems lacking in common sci-fi. The lack of available human food is a good example of this. In a galaxy filled with different species, it is only natural that everyone would not eat peanut butter. In such a galaxy, you wouldn’t find human food in every nook and cranny. This was the kind of universe we had in Titan A.E., and it is the same kind of feel that we have in Fear Agents. Humans are not special, they are not looked up to, and galaxy most certainly doesn’t revolve around Earth. Remender does a great job with the book’s setting, which is of crucial importance in sci-fi stories of this nature.
Now not to put down Remender’s art, but the fact that he isn’t responsible for the art on Fear Agent was a draw for me. Tony Moore handles the penciling chores (alternating every five issues with Cory Walker, who will start his first turn on issue 6). Of course, this is the same Tony Moore that drew the first outstanding arc of The Walking Dead (If you didn’t read that, go out and get that trade right now). He lives up to some pretty high expectations artistically in the first two issues, which is a real plus for this title.
Fear Agent is a more old fashioned sci-fi story, the action-packed, “aliens are monsters” brand of sci-fi serial like the kind you would see a half a century ago. Lots of different aliens of varying degrees of intelligence, lots of sludge, tentacles, bulky ray guns and dome-helmeted space suits. Things are dirty, gritty, not pristine and sterile like most of the sci-fi you see these days. Heath’s ship is even a blast from the past, a honest to goodness rocket with a trio of landing struts that lands and takes off vertically. That was a really nice touch. The artistic look of this book is one of its strongest points. So often these days, if something is set in space, everything must be sleek, clean, small, and compact. I liked the tubes, the bulkiness, the classic feel of the ships, weapons and space suits. But it also had modern touches – the monitors on Heath’s ship for example. The two meshed together gave the tech aspect of Fear Agent a real authentic feel.
The protagonist Heath Huston is the last surviving Fear Agent. Who or what the Fear Agents were is still something of a mystery, but Heath, working as a xeno-exterminator, is skilled at killing aliens of all kinds. The series starts with Heath, pretty much at the bottom of the barrel, hoping that his latest job pans out, or else he won’t have enough money to run his ship. Heath is an alcoholic, and views working sober as a handicap that he would avoid if given the choice. He is also more human than your average hero these days. He isn’t indestructible, he succeeds in life with a strange mix of skill, luck, and what could either be called bravery or stupidity. He is running more often than he charges in, and somehow manages to stay alive no matter how bad things are going. The mark of a classic serial hero, the joy isn’t from watching him methodically beat down his opposition, fulfilling a foregone conclusion, it is reading to find out just how he is going to manage to stay alive in ever worsening predicaments. Unlike a lot of heroes in comics today, Heath isn’t untouchable. He isn’t larger than life, he could be your drunk uncle. He’s not quite as pathetic as an Al Bundy, but he is no Han Solo.
I have written a lot about the lack of serial storytelling in comics these days. Thus far Fear Agent is a great example of this lost skill. Each issue has a point, and can be read individually. Granted, it is still only two issues young, but if future issues follow this pattern, Fear Agent has the potential to be one of the best serials on the market. Of course it is always better to read the entire run, but since more often than not people don’t give a good series a shot until more than a dozen issues into it, having a book formatted properly is extremely important to a young property. Solid single issues are nearly impossible to find these days, with the stories overly padded and geared towards the eventual trade release. So far, Remender has demonstrated a sound mastery of the single issue story, the smaller stories that contribute to the larger, ongoing arc. If you ask me, a lot of writers today acclaimed for their mastery of “pacing” could take lessons from this series. Basically, what I am trying to say is, things happen in each issue. Things have happened in the first two issues of this book that more conventional books these days would take ten issues just to set up. It is sad how refreshing that is.
The first two issues of Fear Agent are already available. Issue #3 is due out on December 29th. If you are a fan of sci-fi, I strongly recommend this series. It is a real tribute to the sci-fi of a bygone era, and worthy to stand with the best examples of the genre today. I know I am looking forward to issue #3!
Credit Where Credit is Due
Fear Agent is
Written by Rick Remender, with
Art by Tony Moore (Cory Walker starting issue #6)
Ink by Sean Parsons
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Rus Wooton, and
Published by Image Comics