Clemens said, “In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time.” In Heath Huston’s world, this is even truer. Heath is the last of the Fear Agents, a hard-drinking human from Texas who roves space scraping together exterminator work where he can. He has a dark past that haunts him, he’s crude, he’s misogynistic, he’s reckless, and he quotes Samuel Clemens at every opportunity. He’s the kind of guy you’d hate to know (unless you needed him to watch your back), but that is fun to read about. He’s a coarse Han Solo who looks a little like Bruce Campbell, sometimes, and who I imagine sounds rather like him, too.
In Fear Agent, writer Rick Remender and artists Tony Moore and Jerome Opena created a series that returned to some of the aesthetic and grit of Golden Age space adventure comics, circa Wally Wood. Heath’s space suit has a big, round glass helmet, his ship (Annie, whose AI is probably Heath’s only real friend) is a big rocket, and his laser pistol fires a series of glowing rings of energy. His adversaries are generally slimy, but, despite the look, this is a book with teeth. There’s lots of blood and gore and questionable content from the get-go, and later on the series gets almost depressingly dark. All the way, Heath is a likeable narrator who you learn to root for, mostly, and the action is consistently rendered with the sort of chaotic but completely comprehensible motion that makes the panels seem to move. Plot twists are many, and even though much of the book is a running plot, each issue has a distinct plot of its own.
Fear Agent is amongst the best sci-fi comics I’ve read. This volume – which collects the first three story arcs and a selection of “Tales of the Fear Agent,” stand-alone stories that ran as single issues or back-ups and sometimes feature guest creators – offers up nearly 500 pages of story content, fully half of the series. I wish I had read this in monthlies, because by the time I reached the end of the first half of Heath’s story, I was emotionally a bit spent, but in the right way. Having a month between chapters would’ve given me a much-needed reprieve from the tragic onslaught.
This book is at once fun, exciting, and tough, and I can heartily recommend it to fans of character-driven sci-fi action. Dark Horse’s first volume of this collection is a whole lot of bang, a whole lot of story, and a whole lot of slimy alien goo.