Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fear Agent #2

A new Fear Agent, and it ups the volume to 11. The first issue was a blast, full of a rejuvenated (but un-ironic) pulp sensibility that reeked of Big Ideas. I can understand that it's not everyone's tumbler of whiskey, but it's mine. Though I'm not a child of the era, the brawny one-twist-n-we-are-done sci-fi of the 50's is as much a part of my childhood as Superman and Batman. I'll admit there's nostalgia at work here, a comfort in the genre and style that makes me predisposed to like the book. Nostalgia's not all that's at work, though: Rick Remender and Tony Moore are also at work, and workin' hard. This issue puts the coda on the series' opening adventure, gives us a healthy dose of characterization, and then rockets us through the opening steps of a new story, ending on a classic cliffhanger. It's detailed and compressed, and a satisfying read.

Heath Huston gets a little downtime in this issue, and with some breathing room, we get to see a few more facets of the character. We've already seen he's resourceful and not completely honest, but this issue makes clear he's not Han Solo, a lovable rogue with a heart of gold. He's never acting in anything other than self-interest, though the situation set up for next issue might change that. He's a damaged individual who is hounded by dread and loneliness. The Fear Agent is afraid, and that's what drives his actions. It's an unexpected bit of characterization that grounds the series, giving it weight past pure homage .... without deconstructing or recontextualizing the pulp genre at the core of the book.

The other thing that I'm enjoying in this series is that fact that it is unabashed science fiction. I'm a purist in that I believe true science fiction (as opposed to space opera) is a story that can only be told as science fiction. As much as I love Firefly or Star Wars, they aren't true sci-fi in my mind. One's a Western, one's a fable, and neither needs to be set in the future or in space. In Fear Agent, the loneliness of space and the science of the threat are the prime motivators moving the story. You would have to do a lot of stretching to put this story any where else or any when else.

It's been announced in various online forums that this issue is being recalled due to printer error. The wrong cover stock was used, and a lot of issues were damaged as a result. You'll be able to turn it in for a replacement copy at your retailer in two weeks. I guess I'm a nostalgia-bound fool who's dragging comics backward, but I liked the cover stock. Crinkly and fragile and pulpy: consumable, not collectible. I'll hold onto mine, and hope that an extra shelf copy at 2005 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Winning Night Flight Comics will convert at least one new reader to this series.


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