Four years ago, in the pages of Dark Horse’s “Fear Agent,” writer Rick Remender introduced readers to Heath Huston, whose desperate actions in the face of an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth drove the rebel fighter to drink. When a hostile alien race called the Dressites mounted a full-scale invasion of Earth, Heath Huston and a thousand or so other Texans formed a battalion called the Fear Agents to fight back. But the only way Huston could find to turn back the invaders was to participate in an act of xenocide, which nearly wiped the Dressites out completely. Even Huston’s brethren condemned the Fear Agent for his heinous war crime, leading to Huston’s self-imposed 10-year exile from Earth and a descent into alcoholism.
That’s the first twenty or so issues of “Fear Agent” in broad strokes, but Remender insisted that there is still plenty for readers to discover in the collected editions. “Best thing to do is go buy all five trades. Seriously, right now. Today. I’ll wait here till you get back,” laughed the writer, who’s also earned praise for his work on “Punisher War Journal” with Matt Fraction.
But the Dressites are back, and with the critically acclaimed series approaching its landmark 25-issue mark, CBR News caught up with Remender to talk all things “Fear Agent.”
Heath spent ten years roaming the galaxy, drinking away his pain while making a living as an alien exterminator. “Killing aliens is the one thing he can still do well,” Remender told CBR News.
When a hungover Huston is called in to clean up an alien-infested space station, he learns the “Feeder” creatures in question are biological weapons genetically engineered by the Dressites as part of a revenge plot against Earth. “Heath returns to Earth to find that the Feeders have devastated his home world undoing all his efforts during the war,” Remender said. “He is reunited with his estranged ex-wife and immediately swept up in a galactic conspiracy to change all history to benefit the desires of Jentu, lord of the robot race of Tetaldians.”
The latest story arc, “I Against I,” finds Huston ripped through a black hole into a shadow universe and marooned on the Planet Westx, a world populated by gun-slinging robots, venomous mutants and buxom cowgirls. “Series co-creator Tony Moore and I reunite to bring the ugly, days of Heath Huston outlaw, in this six part Sci-Fi Western shot through the heart,” Remender said. “It’s high noon in dead space.”
The Western motif of “I Against I” is part of the creator’s attempt to infuse different genres into “Fear Agent.” “The landscape is always changing, and if we’re doing our jobs right, the reader should never have any idea what’s coming next or have a moment to relax,” Remender explained. “War, Westerns, crime and horror all merge with Sci-Fi quite nicely.”
Illustrators Tony Moore and Jerome OpeÃ±a alternate story arcs on “Fear Agent,” and Remender believes they’re two of the best artists working in comics today. “I’m really happy to have Tony back on the book,” Remender said. “After the stellar performance Jerome delivered in the last arc Tony had a lot to live up to and has succeeded.”
As far as Remender is concerned, the 1950s was the high-water mark for science fiction, hence the era’s influence on “Fear Agent,” both cosmetically and contextually. “Back then, all of pop culture was obsessed with the genre,” Remender said. “The communists had reignited our xenophobia and science fiction exploited and mirrored that fear. Monsters from Mars, mutants, killer robots and giants were locked in a constant struggle with lantern-jawed American spacemen in rickety rocket ships. They were the rough and tumble men who fought World WarÂ II, and these aliens were the next threat to be dealt with. They explored unknown worlds kept alive by two vacuum hoses feedingÂ life-giving oxygen into their dome-shaped glass helmets.
“‘Fear Agent’ is our attempt to return sci-fi to this era aesthetically while focusing on a more modern approach to storytelling; big stories packed full of over-the-top monsters and high adventures where the stakes are as simple and primal as basic survival -- of the universe.”
Remender feels he’s grown a lot as a writer over the course of the series, but that he still feels very positively about the work he and his collaborators have produced from issue #1. “I’ve learned a lot since then, I can see rookie stumbles and a few awkward transitions for sure, but I can hand off any of the trades in total confidence that this is good work that I have a lot deal of pride for,” Remender said. “I do feel like I can see a progression in my writing as I mature and learn new tricks. Hopefully the writing gets better in each trade as does the art.”
Rick Remender has plotted out “Fear Agent” as far as issue #32, a story arc that might just bring the title to a close. “Where it ends could be an actual end,” Remender said. “What I have to now is sit down and see if I want to continue past the events in issue #32. At this point, I’m not sure if more Heath Huston after issue #32 makes sense.”
Remender and OpeÃ±a have another project in the works, so fans may be looking at a “Fear Agent” hiatus until OpeÃ±a or Moore’s schedules permit a return to the book.
And though the end may be in sight, Remender says that after almost 25 issues, writing “Fear Agent” as just as fresh for him as it was when the series began. “Writing Heath is like coming home for me,” Remender said. “No matter where my head is at I can always write this character and this book free of stress. I know the characters back and forward; there is never a situation where I wonder how Heath should deal with it. It’s just clear to me what he’ll do and say. As we progress in the story we’ve worked hard to keep the series moving along at a good clip through the unfolding plot and many locations so that no one has the opportunity to get tired of it. Hopefully we’ve succeeded keeping the readers captivated, we all love making the comic I think it comes through.”
“Fear Agent” #24 hits stands October 14.