‘Fear Agent Volume 4: Hatchet Job 2nd Edition’ – Advance TPB Review

Fear Agent is back, with a desperate grab at a sustainable future for the remaining people of Earth.  After an inordinate amount of alien invasions have left their home planet an almost completely inhabitable rock of death and depressing memories, the survivors are running out of options for survival.  This is the impetus that kicks off this book, thrusting Heath, Mara, Charlotte, and the majority of the Fear Agents into a series of splintered adventures, failures, and unexpected tragedies.  It starts in an almost episodic, uniquely standalone kind of way, though still connected to the larger, ongoing story, and this lulls you into a false sense of safety until, on the turn of a dime, everything goes wrong and calamity stacks upon calamity, disaster breeds death. By the end, you’re begging for something, anything, good to happen.  But, that just ain’t how things play out, not in Fear Agent, and especially not in a volume titled Hatchet Job.  In this, the fourth volume, collecting issues seventeen through twenty-one, Heath once again watches his world crumble all around him, though this time he’s not solely to blame, or at least not solely blamed by others.  It is arguable though that Heath not being the cause of the trouble makes it harder for him to cope with it, though the preeminent cause still hits close to home and takes its emotional toll on the emotionally ravaged hero.  

There are a plethora of remarkable reveals that writer Rick Remender lets loose in this volume, and characters make decisions that have far-reaching and unforeseeable consequences. This story only gets more desperate as the improbabilities of any modicum of success begin to pile up.  This is a heavy, heart-rending story arc, and while we have become somewhat accustomed to the struggles and tribulations that Heath endures, incredibly, Remender is still always able to raise the stakes, or to introduce totally new stakes.  The science fiction mythology of Fear Agent continues to expand in exciting, creative ways, bringing us to the edge and then pushing us over into the unknown, at times alongside Heath, at other times ahead of him.  Jerome Opeña is back on art, and he kills it just like he’s wont to do. Kieron Dwyer provides the pencils for the last two issues, and the transition is seamless, the only variations in the art initiated through the story.

Michelle Madsen is back on colors and grey, blue, and bright white have never before held such intergalactic terror and felt so frighteningly suffocating.  Rus Wooton, letterer extraordinaire, conveys the characters’ intensity and emotional raggedness, and, as always, the sound effects give the art a highly visceral immediacy.  Hatchet Job is about Heath, but more than that it is about the fate of the human race, and the way secrets and secret agendas can sabotage and even destroy the most important last-ditch efforts ever.  When things go bad in Fear Agent, they go nuclear, and this volume leaves you with radiation poisoning, on the edge of your seat, with no idea of what lay ahead.  This is phenomenal, raw, pulp sci-fi storytelling, where outer space is the limit, and imagination knows no bounds.  This is Fear Agent, and it just keeps getting better and better.   

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