Saturday, July 05, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #185: Tales of the Fear Agent by various

This book reduced me to googling. I'm not proud of myself, but it's true.

Tales of the Fear Agent -- a collection of stories about the title character -- credits no overall writer, artist, or editor, just the creators of the character, Rick Remender and Tony Moore. It came to me, I think, in the aftermath of my flood, when my comics-industry friends sent a few care packages my way to help rebuild my collection. (Which was a wonderful gesture that I hope I can find a way to pay forward someday.) But, in any case, it looked to stand alone -- there was no volume number on the spine, and the back cover declared the book to be "a diary documenting the drunken exploits of Heath Huston during his first ten years scuttling across the cosmos making his dailies as an alien exterminator." It certainly looked like a book that could just be read, and didn't require research.

But it's not: this is a jam book, collecting backup stories and sidebars and one random standalone issue of the series. And that's why it doesn't explain anything: the only people expected to read this are the fans of the series. (Though I seriously think the packaging needs to do a better job of explaining that.)

So, from the few details this book provides plus a quick google, here's what it's about: deliberately horrible SF in the pulpiest possible vein, with slavering monsters, ludicrous disregard for scale and physical laws, and a hero who would be strong-jawed if he could keep the inevitable bottle away from two inches above that jaw. (He also vomits a lot. Really. A lot. In nearly every story in the book. I began to think it was his trademark.) Each story here tells one story of his adventures, usually in which he half-assedly tries to kill himself, only to decide midway through he actually would prefer to survive.

My working assumption is that these stories take place before the main sequence of the series, or at least that Huston is slightly less of a drunken fumbling incompetent in those stories. From this book, though, I find it hard to see why anyone would want to read more of the series: Huston is a pathetic, miserable, obnoxious jerk, who survives by accident as much as anything else and who has no aims or purposes or redeeming features, and his world is full of all of the cliches of lazy, stupid "sci-fi." (I can see that he's supposed to be tragic, but that tragedy is all offstage, so we just see him being a jerk.) I presume that's because fans already know Huston from other stories and forgive him his flaws because of...something he did, I guess. These stories are generally witty, and the art is varied and quite strong, in mostly modern-superhero styles.

But, all in all, I would not recommend anyone read this unless they already know and like other Fear Agent stories. The world is too big and full of stories for that.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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