Review: Fear Agent Vol. 1: Re-Ignition

Sometimes an artist comes out with a work that’s a complete artistic statement of intent. It grabs you and shakes you and says, “This is what we’re gonna talk about. We’re gonna focus on this stuff, right now.” Fraction did it with Casanova, Gaiman did it with Sandman, the Beach Boys did it with Pet Sounds, the Ramones did it with Ramones. You get the idea. Rick Remender’s artistic statement came early, and it came with Fear Agent. Fear Agent, Vol. 1 – Re-igntion foreshadows a lot of what we’re seeing out of Remender right now. It’s got a scientist/space adventurer who dares reach too far, it’s got aliens and extra-dimensional travel, it’s got people with legitimate problems trying to exist in an increasing illegitimate world. In short, it’s got it all.

The unfortunately convoluted publishing history of Fear Agent makes this reprint especially nice. For a long time, it’s been tough to find a copy of Re-Ignition in your local shops, and I think part of it was the fact that about 15 issues into Remender’s run, he switched from Image to Dark Horse. I’m sure it was a valid decision for him as an artist, but it’s been a bitch-and-a-half to find the older volumes. Now that Dark Horse is reprinting them, they’re not only upping the convenience factor, but they’re also changing some of the design aesthetic to make it more of a unified whole with the later issues they published. It makes sense; no piece of Fear Agent exists without the others.

25632The upside of this volume of the series is that it is a perfect in media res drop-in, and we figure out exactly who Heath Huston is as a person in the first few pages. It’s as good a first issue as I’ve ever read, followed with a few just-as-fun issues. The downside is that this is the most coherent Fear Agent ever gets. In the later issues, Remender does a lot of work trying to answer all the questions he raises in this volume, and explaining a lot of what they call “timey-wimey nonsense” nowadays. He does a good job structuring the series, and this is a great volume with a tight plot and well-struck character beats. Some of the character beats in later volumes are more poignant and they hit harder (especially when they finally start to tackle Huston’s carefree alcoholism head-on), but they also don’t fit as well into the plot. They’re more like a soliloquy about a character, where they step out of the action and have an issue about one particular character, instead of integrating it into the story. It’s old fashioned, but it kind of works.

Tony Moore also does some career-making work in this volume. There are some contributions from Jerome Opeña, but Moore carries the weight of introducing this character and this universe, and he does it with aplomb. His zombies are famously awesome in The Walking Dead, but the horrifying space monsters and crazy brain-in-a-jar robots in Fear Agent are the business. Plus, it’s really nice to see the guy working in color in a creator-owned setting. I would also really love to see Moore tackle a Jonah Hex book, but that’s neither here nor there.

If you don’t know if you’re a Remender fan, this is the place to start. You’ll see foreshadowing of Captain America, Uncanny X-Force, Black Science, and Deadly Class, and you’ll enjoy the space swashbuckling. You’ll enjoy that it’s a book that can legitimately be described as “swashbuckling.” If you’re already a Remender fan, no library is complete without it, you know. So crack a bottle of your favorite whiskey and get yourself a copy.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Tony Moore Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $9.99 Release Date: 4/2/14 Format: TPB - Print