The secret origin of the Fear Agents! Volume 3 of Fear Agent is a neat change of course for the series, almost an act break between volumes one & two and three & four. It’s also easily the most readable and linear of the volumes. For that, I am grateful. At the end of the last volume, Heath Huston, our intrepid Fear Agent/alcoholic/hero(?) discovered his wife was the president of a society of humans on the moon, and the new leader of the Fear Agents is her new beau. Heath is none too happy about it, so he retreats to the mass graveyard of the Fear Agents in a crater on the moon to be sad and drink whiskey through a straw. This trip down memory lane facilitates a storytelling trip down memory lane, back to the first day the Tetaldians and Dressites attacked and on for about the next year after the invasion.
I’m going to move past talking about the writing and art at this point, because it’s safe to assume that Tony Moore’s art, already great to start with has only gotten better and more on-point, and Remender has at this point settled into a groove, so I’d like to talk more about the story and themes. Bear with me.
This volume begins a few hours before the Tetaldian attack, with Heath and his father arguing about George W. Bush’s war on terror. Heath is apparently the one person from Texas in the early-to-mid 2000’s who was cognizant of what a horrible idea that war was in practice, while his father maintains a blind “Now I don’t wanna hear one more slight against the president from you” (paraphrasing) stance. The thread of jingoism in the face of catastrophe feels like it should pull through. It’s got its analogues; we dove into the war on terror as a knee-jerk response to being terrified as a country after 9/11. We needed something to focus us, and that was it for a minute.
In Fear Agent, they form the Fear Agent squad after the invasion and Heath remains so haunted by the death of his son and father that he goes by any means necessary to kill aliens. Others in his squad die or lose people, and some of them move on, but Heath remains single-minded until a final mistake puts him over the edge. There’s some talk of making enemies of Dressites who were not representative of an entire culture, but it still boils down to a black and white, stark scenario where one coward admits to being behind the whole thing.
Another thing that really jumped out at me this time is Remender’s liberal use of “>SOB<” in dialogue, e.g. “Oh, Heath >SOB< I’m so scared!” It’s not something you see much anymore, because it seems kind of dated. It makes me think of those so-terrible-you-have-to-love-them old romance comics, where like, “>SOB< Brad will never love me when he has THELMA to steal his attention away!” I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be because this is Heath’s flashback and he wants his wife to seem more ineffectual because he’s bitter about the station she’s risen to and the depths he’s fallen, but he gets pretty shitty on himself in these flashbacks too. It’s a strange tic, and I’m glad it’s not prevalent throughout, really.
This collection would be a great litmus test for whether or not you’d like Fear Agent as a whole. It’s got plenty of aliens and action, and a little bit of teleportation and space fighting, but it’s also heavy on the character work. Most of the time, Remender leaves the character notes to find themselves in the action, but this time, he flips the script and makes action find its own way in an interpersonal drama. If it’s not working for you here, it won’t get any better, but if you like it here, you should definitely check out the rest of the series.
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Tony Moore Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $16.99 Release Date: 6/4/14 Format: Trade Paper Back