In October 2005, writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore (Walking Dead) launched the Sci-Fi comic series Fear Agent, and it gained a cult following for its unabashed love of 1950s Sci-Fi/Horror storytelling. Conceived because, as Remender claimed, “science fiction has lost its stones,” Fear Agent reads like the anti-Star Trek. Series protagonist Heath Huston is a booze-swilling, jet-pack wearing bounty hunter, more worried about staying alive than observing Intergalatic Trade regulations. Huston has died no less than two times, been cloned, traveled forward and backward in time, saved Earth, doomed Earth, bedded aliens, and shown no fear in the face of expired food rations.
What makes Fear Agent so special, though, is its storytelling. If read in order of publication date, Remender’s initial monster-of-the-month chapters slowly unveil a much larger picture, where past and future events intertwine and Huston’s guilt becomes more realized and justified. If this sounds a bit heavy, never fear; Remender makes sure to inject gallows humor and effects noises like “BLAZZAMMP!” when the narrative threatens to take itself too seriously.
In a recent letters column, Remender revealed, now that Fear Agent has reached a certain point in its story arc, that the series could be read in a sequence different from its publication, telling the same story but giving it an alternate perspective. Remender's suggested reading order/timeline:
- Fear Agent Vol. 3: The Last Goodbye (collecting issues #12-15)
- Tales of the Fear Agent (issues #11 & 16, plus various backup stories)
- Fear Agent Vol. 1: Reignition (issues #1-4)
- Fear Agent Vol. 2: My War (issues #5-10)
- Fear Agent Vol. 4: Hatchet Job (issues #17-21)
I'd read the series twice in publication order, but I am always up for more starship swashbuckling. In my third, now semi-new, read, the (zero) gravity of Heath’s situation developed in a much more traditional manner. Heath is tortured for a reason, and I finally grasped the magnitude of what he’d done and to whom. There are at least three main alien races that are after Heath’s hide, and I could not keep them straight the first two times. But in Remender’s new timeline, I finally understood their individual motives instead of lumping them into one enemy threat.
Could a conventional fiction book series achieve a similar feat? I’m sure it’s been done, but to re-read a series of five novels would be an undertaking. Yet, the pacing and nature of the graphic novel allows for it to be done over a weekend. And re-reading Fear Agent according to the writer’s secret plan made me appreciate it all the more.
Dark Horse Comics will release Fear Agent Volume 5: I Against I in March 2009, and it already looks full of more twists. In the meantime, Rick Remender’s very own superhero deconstruction begins in January with Dark Horse’s The End League Vol. 1, and he hits the big time as co-writer for Marvel Comics’ Punisher War Journal, also collected in January. Until then, BLAZZAMMP!