Rick Remender, Tony Moore, Jerome Opeña and others, Fear Agent, Final Edition Volume 1 (Image Comics 2018)
––––––––––– Volume 2 (Image Comics 2018)
Heath Hudson is an old-fashioned, hard-drinking, hard-fighting, constantly beaten-up hero. His adventures as told in the Fear Agent comics amount to one spectacular action scene after another, as at least three, no four, alien species battle each other with Earth’s inhabitants as appalling collateral damage. Heath’s ultra-masculinity – some would say ultra-toxic masculinity – comes up against the acerbic insights of the women he loves, and who almost plausibly love him. It’s a rip-roaring roller-coasting, swashbuckling space story (and yes, there are actual pirates). There’s romance, betrayal, monstrous revenge, guilt, heroism, sacrifice … and a lot of splatter.
The artwork, if you’re into this sort of thing, is brilliant. I often couldn’t tell what was happening, but usually on closer inspection it all made sense, though I wish I hadn’t looked so closely at some of the dismemberments.
Regular quotes from Samuel Clemens (never named as Mark Twain) hint at depths to Heath’s character that we otherwise don’t see because he is too busy saving everyone and being beat up. They also hint that Rick Rememder, Heath’s creator, may be more widely read than you first suspect.
The adventures in these two volumes first appeared in a series of monthly comics. Volume 1 comprises the contents of issues 1 to 10, which were published in 2005 and 2006. Volume 2 comprises issues 12 to 15, and 17 to 21 (Issues 11 and 16 evidently weren’t part of the longer story arcs.) Final Edition volumes 3 and 4 are out there somewhere waiting to play their part in our father–son gift-exchange system.
As with most comic collections, these pages are unnumbered, but here’s a scan of page 75 by my count. Sadly, it doesn’t include any of the grotesque alien life forms, but if you look closely you’ll see that no sooner has Heath pulled off an impossible rescue (of Mara, who is no slouch herself when it come to a fight) and allows himself a moment to gloat, than a terrible thing happens. (Spoiler: the harpoon thing that pierces him actually kills him, but luckily someone makes a clone from his dead body and he can continue almost as good as new. Equally extreme things may be happening to him at the end of the second volume. – only the third volume will tell.)
A film or TV show may be on the way. I’ll give it a miss, but I’m enjoying the comics, especially as I’ve got a particularly nasty non-Covid cold, and my immune system is being just as heroic and taking just as many hits as poor old Heath.