The world of comics is a big one, and there is whole lot of things out there that do not involve capes and spandex. That’s where Off the Cape comes in, as we look at comics that are out of the realm of superheroes. For those that only or mostly read superhero books, this is a good resource for you to use to diversify.
This week, I’m going to take a look at a book I can’t believe I haven’t read yet: Fear Agent. This book comes from writer Rick Remender and a slew of artists that include Tony Moore, Jerome Opena, Kieron Dwyer and Mike Hawthorne, and it is blast of sci-fi awesomeness with one of the best leads in recent comic history. It’s a damn good time and honestly one of my favorite comics ever after my first read, and you can find out why after the jump.
I’m not entirely sure how it’s taken me this long to get onboard with Fear Agent. The series has been around since 2005, initially with Image Comics but then finishing up its run with Dark Horse as the 32nd and final issue came out at the beginning of this month (see our review of that final issue here). Plus, many of the creators are amongst my favorites, so it really is all on me for not trying this out sooner, and same to you who haven’t tried it yet.
I suppose I caught up at the right time though, as comic retailer Things from Another World was/is having a deep discount sale in November that brought the cost of the five existing Fear Agent trades to right around $26 combined, and the long delayed series had just wrapped. So with five trades in hand, I started my read of the series Monday night at around 11 pm Alaska Standard Time and finished the 32nd issue (which I went to my local comic book store to get along with issues 28 through 31 after finishing the fifth trade) at some time around 5 pm.
This series is so good that I was compelled to read the entirety of it in 18 hours (with 8 of those hours dedicated to sleep). Not too bad.
Truth be told, when I look at what Rick Remender, Tony Moore, Jerome Opena, Kieron Dwyer, Mike Hawthorne and the rest accomplished in these 32 issues, I realize that this is one of the most enjoyable comics I’ve ever read. It’s a wonderfully crafted tale that is fun as all hell and fiercely imaginative. It’s science fiction meets Western, moving in parts, frequently philosophical, and always completely gorgeous thanks to one of the best collections of artists you can find anywhere. Perhaps the most incredible thing about the art is that no matter who is working on it, you can almost never sense any drop in quality between them or even really notice major differences – they all pair together so cohesively it makes the visual narrative all the better and more seamless.
That said, the tie that binds all of Fear Agent’s 32 issues together is one of the best protagonists in recent comic history. Hell, scratch that – all of comic history. Heath Huston, the original Fear Agent, the last Fear Agent, is taken through one of most physically and emotionally scarring journeys in the history of fiction, but throughout he never stops being heroic, relatable, hilarious, badass and the perfect window into this imperfectly “perfect” universe that is crafted here (quotes from the fools who make it their deal to cross Heath).
He’s a hero of today: selfish; flawed; violent; alcoholic. You name it, Heath has it for bad qualities. But they are there because he’s human, and that humanity is what Remender never lets him let go of no matter how bad things get for good ol’ Heath.
“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”Continued below
I never thought I’d say this about a piece of fiction that I truly love, but I am glad Fear Agent ended when it did. Many pieces of fiction go on far too long, many are cut way too short, but Team Fear Agent got out when the gettin’ was good. This story was from day one trimmed of all fat, as each passing issue propelled into the very next, continuing on through in a breakneck pace that makes you forget how far through time, space and everything in-between Heath really has come.
It’s impeccably crafted, and from my perspective the finale was about as great of a wrap-up to the legacy of Heath Huston as you can possibly get. By the very end you think back to the beginning and you realize just how well designed everything was. Everything was very deliberately and carefully placed, and I’m sure going back through this series once again would only make the experience all the more rich. You’ll notice the way things neatly fold into each other, and perhaps even little hints from the get go as to what Heath’s potential fate could be.
That right there is genius in storytelling, my friends, and I look forward to finding out if I’m right in that theory.
I was originally planning on writing this up for yesterday, but then I heard something very befitting of this book. Today is Heath Huston’s favorite author/philosopher’s birthday. Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, plays an important part in Fear Agent in a lot of ways (and this review), as Huston regularly quotes his writings and sayings in a way to help himself better cope or better assess what is happening in his life. Hell, the series closes with a particularly moving thought from Clemens, and it’s a pitch perfect ending if I’ve ever seen one.
“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Fear Agent isn’t just a good book. It’s a great book.
I remember I saw on Twitter Remender saying something about how those who like his work on Uncanny X-Force should check out Fear Agent because its narrative structure is similar to the one you can find on UXF, and I could definitely see that. Uncanny X-Force is actually my favorite comic of 2011 (you can see Multiversity’s overall rankings soon), but after finishing Fear Agent I’m comfortable in saying that this is my favorite work of Remender’s yet. It’s a flat out incredible comic that I feel anyone could, and should, enjoy if you’re a fan of comics. Or even if you’re not.
It’s just straight up great fiction, no matter the medium.