Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chronic Review: Fear Agent # 28!

Fear Agent # 28
Dark Horse Comics
Script: Rick Remender
Pencils: Mike Hawthorne with Tony Moore
23 pages + 8 pages of "Tales of the Fear Agent" for $3.50

What you are about to read will not actually constitute a review, so just bear with me. I mention it for truth in advertising purposes.

I have a very brief history with Heath Huston. Friend of the show (and just plain old friend of me) Nick was way into this book when it first came out. He was into it with the glazed eyeballs of a man who had clearly discovered something sublime. So I checked it out.

I cannot find the issue of Fear Agent that I read, nor was I able to jog my memory by looking at a gallery of covers. This is how profoundly "meh" I found the book on initial examination.

What I remember was that the hook was kinda cute. An alcoholic space cowboy who hunts down aliens and monsters? Yeah, that works.

Except when I read the issue that I did, whatever that issue was, it really didn't work for me. I don't remember hating it. I don't remember engaging with it strongly at all, which was the big problem.

I attributed the problem to Remender at the time, because I had similar issues with Sea of Red, and I consider his horror mini Sorrow to be a crime against literature. Since then I've rather enjoyed his work on the Punisher, and I decided to take another whack at Fear Agent.

There is a synopsis of past events in the storyline on the inside cover. This is a wonderful tool really every comic book steeped in continuity should use as an aid to help the reader catch up. Every book is some body's first, and all that rot.

As I read through that recap, though, I was convinced that I had made a horrible mistake. As I finished issue # 28, I was able to confirm that I had indeed made a horrible, horrible mistake.

My mistake was not that I read Fear Agent # 28, but that I had failed to read all 27 of the previous issues first. After absorbing what I could of this book, I can tell you that this series kicks about seven shades of demon ass, and really needs to be on your reading list.

So basically what I did was take 84.6% of the fun, suspense, and enjoyment out of the total storyline by reading that recap and watching the very painful plot twists that occurred during this issue. There are major, surprising, delightfully savage plot points spoiled for you if you go that route. The good news is that I still 15.4% of the enjoyment left. And I very much look forward to experiencing that.

But I will not do to you what reading that recap page did to me. And just for the record, I'm not bitching about the recap. The recap isn't the problem, the problem is that I bailed on the book too early. That's on me.

So what can I tell you about Fear Agent? This is more of a character book than a plot book, but the plot has rewarding twists that you will NOT see coming. Provided you avoid reading recap pages deep into the series.

It is a character book, and Rick Remender takes the worst kind of perverse pleasure in subjecting Heath Huston to the greatest abuse in the history of comics. It's positively EVIL, and also strangely satisfying. This is the book Dave Rancor was born to read, just to absorb the psychic pain coming off the page.

Do not make the mistake of filing Heath Huston in the ridiculous anti-hero box. The problem with most "flawed hero" types is that there's usually no compelling reason in the story to buy into that sort of behavior, and it turns into a degenerate testosterone fantasy. No such problem here, folks.

The dialogue is sharp, sharp like Frank Miller back in the day. Sharp like Azarello on 100 bullets or Aaron on Scalped. And that's pretty darned good.

I can tell you that there are only a few issues of the series left. Rick Remender had a planned ending for the series, and issue # 28 begins the final arc of that. He really cares about this book, too. I know that for sure.

The world of Fear Agent expands in scope and sophistication. There are lots of things you know and take for granted at the beginning that are completely subverted by the time you get to # 28. So I'm telling you that I liked Fear Agent # 28 so much that I'm telling you NOT to go get it. Do yourself a favor and read it from the goddamn beginning, so you can actually enjoy the whole process.

And there endeth the lesson. No pictures, no plot synopsis, no review. I know that sounds like a cheat, but you're just going to have to trust me on this. Or not. Up to you. I say the real cheat is to know too much about it before you start. Or maybe missing it entirely. That would suck, too.

- Ryan

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