Book of the Month
What did the
Penciller: Tony Moore, Jerome Opeña, Francesco Francavilla, & Kieron Dwyer
Inker: Sean Parsons, Mike Manley, Hilary Barta, & Ande Parks
Colorist: Lee Loughridge, John Rauch, & Michelle Madsen
Size: 480 pages
“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”
- Samuel Clemens
There are certain things I’m very proud of when it comes to my iFanboy career, and Fear Agent is one of them. No, I didn’t have a thing to do with its creation, but I do feel like myself and my partners did our fair share in bringing it to the attention of a bunch of people who wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. Even then, we weren’t that early, since a couple of trades were out before Ron and I read it; Conor read it after the first trade came out. Still, Rick Remender has told us about how many people have come to his table at conventions and mentioned that they heard about it from us. That means a lot to me, because I know how much this book means to its creators. And all these years later, we’ve seen that it wasn’t a fluke, because Rick Remender, Tony Moore, and Jerome Opeña are all big deals these days. While Fear Agent didn’t get them started necessarily, I think it was the book where they all showed their best early efforts, where they put their all, and it’s the thing they’re going to look back on with an immense amount of pride, which is well deserved indeed.
The thing that always struck me about Fear Agent was that there aren’t any other books like it, at least not currently. This is completely absurd. It’s the story of Heath Huston, a lone, drunken Texan, wandering the universe in a rocketship, dressed in a fishbowl helmet, toting an actual ray gun. He kills aliens. The concept is based on the idea of old EC Comics, and the designs sing of Wally Wood’s work. If you don’t know who Wally Wood is, you need to look him up. Thankfully, Fear Agent got me to look him up years ago. Earth was hit by aliens some years back, and Heath lost everything. He’s not taking it well, but like all great protagonists, he can’t seem to help but go on as the creative team heaps loads of torment and violence upon him. There are several distinct arcs, and an overall story, and this volume contains the first three. Heath is a hapless screw up, who just can’t seem to get things right, or get out of his own way, but he always survives, just scraping by, and he has a bit of folksy charm that you just can’t help but root for. It’s the kind of story that comic books are made for, and yet, in today’s market, it’s completely distinct. This continues to make zero sense to me, but thankfully, Remender and Moore company recognized the oversight, and took pains to correct it.
Except, it never really took. The people who loved this book, myself included, fawned over it. But it never quite gained a large enough audience to sustain itself. In the middle of its run, it moved from Image Comics to Dark Horse Comics. The book didn’t sell enough to afford the creators the ability to concentrate on Fear Agent, and they ended up having to take other work to pay the bills. There were delays and at times, it seemed like it would never finish, and that we would certainly never see a volume like this. But like Heath Huston himself, against all odds, here is Fear Agent in all its glory, and this is one hell of a package, partner.
The book is as impressive as any Absolute edition or omnibus out there. It’s massive. You could beat a Tetaldian to death with this thing, and feel confident that their disgusting brain goop would wipe cleanly from the huge, glossy pages. A second volume will follow, but in the meantime, you’ll get plenty to read. At $50 retail, it’s a screaming deal too, if you were lucky enough to grab one. That’s right. I’m sorry to say, it’s sold out. Maybe your shop was a good shop and ordered one, or maybe you’ll have to go to eBay, or even wait for a reprint, but if you get a chance to buy one, do not hesitate, because it’s 100% worth it. In addition to the first three trades of stories, “Re-Ignition”, “My War”, and “The Last Goodbye”, the tome contains a whole mess of Tales of the Fear Agent short stories by various creators like Francesco Francavilla, Steve Niles, Hilary Barta, Rafael Albuquerque, Kieron Dwyer, Shane White, and more. There are annotated development drawings, sketches, and layouts from Tony Moore, and a pinup gallery of Heaths to beat the band. Like the series itself, this book is a labor of love, and if you loved Fear Agent, it was literally made for you.
I can’t close this without talking about the work itself. This is pure Rick Remender. He’s stated many times that he used Huston as a cypher for some of his own feelings and struggles, and Heath is down on himself quite a bit. He oozes humanity, even surrounded by so much extraordinary settings. While he can come off as cartoonish in a lot of the story, Heath is underpinned by exceptional heart, and that’s what we grasp as we hurtle through the story, no matter how strange it all gets. I’d like to say that you get to see Remender develop throughout this story, but he had this character down from go. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t get better as it progresses. It does, and Remender becomes a better writer over the years it took to make these comics, but it never feels like the work of a neophyte. It feels sincere, and true, and mostly it’s a lot of fun. That’s the most you can ask of any comic book, and Fear Agent never once fails to deliver.
One can hardly ask for more in terms of art. Tony Moore has always been a favorite of mine, and most people think of his co-creation of Walking Dead, but I always think of Fear Agent as his signature piece. The basics are there at the start of this story, but you can definitely see Tony Moore get better as you go through the pages. His layouts get stronger, and his character acting gets stronger. More important than that though, he builds a world you completely accept. And it is a strange world full of many things that do not, and will not exist. Sure, he’s working in the style of Wally Wood to a certain extent, but the final product is completely unique, and very identifiable as Moore’s.
Moore isn’t the only wonderful artist to work on Fear Agent though. As prefaced, the need grew for an alternate artist to fill in for Moore, and to trade off arcs. Enter Jerome Opeña on his first significant comic book work. Most readers know him now for his work on Avengers and Uncanny X-Force, but this is where I got to know his work, which is distinguishable from Moore’s, but fits in perfectly. I would say Opeña is a little smoother, perhaps a bit more elegant than Moore. They both agreed that they pushed each other to keep upping the bar, and produce better looking comics, and the results speak for themselves. I can’t get enough of looking at either of their pages, and I’ve been trying to pick a favorite for years, and just can’t do it.
The only reason that this giant collection exists is because of the gumption of Remender, Moore, and Opeña to just keep doing it. It took a long time, and didn’t necessarily reap the kinds of rewards they’d hoped for, but once something like that gets going, you’ve only got two choices: you finish or you quit. I’m incredibly thankful that they didn’t stop, and so every time someone tells us that we helped them find Fear Agent, and that they loved it, I feel a lot of pride. It’s a beautiful book, and the fact that it exists is testament to the kind of attitude I wish there was more of in comics. This was an easy choice for the first Book of the Month for 2013, and if you can find a copy, you’ll cherish it too.
Plus, there’s a second one coming in April!