Over the course of five years and twenty-seven issues, the comic book series Fear Agent has shown the story of trucker-turned-space cowboy Heath Huston crawling from the wreckage of a murdered Earth to take revenge on those responsible. Along the way he traveled through time, died, came back, reunited with his wife, met a daughter he never knew, killed an entire alien species and kicked more than a few people between the legs. But as the final arc of Fear Agent comes around, Heath has his biggest challenge yet: pulling himself together to do it one more time.
In the last issue of Fear Agent, Heath was dumbfounded when after a blink of his eye, the last human survivors of Earth were consumed and amalgamated into hybrids with the alien Tetaldian gene. In one fell swoop, the Tetaldians turned the people he’d been trying to protect into the alien menace he’d been dead-set on destroying. This new, final five-issue story-arc finds Heath on a barstool trying to drink his way out of it when he realizes what he lost and what he’s got to do to make it worth it.
Although Fear Agent is primarily a solo title following Heath, creating the book is a team effort. The series was created back in 2005 by writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore, and over time they’ve filled out their crew with artist Jerome Opena for a few arcs, and most recently Mike Hawthorne who worked hand-in-hand with Tony on the final issues. With the final five-issue story-arc set to begin on July 28th with Fear Agent #28, Newsarama talked with Remender about the final story and the road that brought him here.
Newsarama: The title of this final Fear Agent arc is “Out of Step”. People could read a lot into this – but what does it mean to you?
Rick Remender: Well, all the titles of the Fear Agent arcs have been torn from punk rock albums I grew up with. “Out of Step” is taken from a track by Minor Threat – one of my favorite bands – and it works fairly perfectly with the story. When we find Heath at the beginning of this last arc, we’ll see he’s in fact “Out of Step”. There is a lot of time displacement going on in this arc; the story-arc is non-linear, and we jump around a bit to tell our story. We realize that Heath himself is a man out of step with the universe, and that what he thinks have been a series of random, unfortunate circumstances are in fact interconnected and have been in front of his face all along. When he realizes he’s been manipulated, and to such a degree, it gets to him.
All those things play into it – but I’m not one to drag this out until the final issue of this final story-arc. I’m in the middle of writing the third issue, where I’m spending a good half of the issue revealing all of the secrets so far. I’m going to give resolution to things in Fear Agent #30 and then we have two more issues to deal with the repercussions.
Nrama: After the last arc “I Against I” wrapped up in July 2009, there was a big question mark in the Fear Agent universe; Heath had a hole in his gut thanks to his daughter, the Tetaldians schemes come to light, and oh yeah – humans are now Tetaldian hybrids. Let’s talk about that last bit – what’s up with these hybrids?
Remender: As we saw at the end of the “I Against I” storyarc, in a blink of an eye, Heath sees everyone is suddenly a Human/Tetaldian hyrbrid. I’m going to save the reveal of how and why for the first issue of this new arc, but what I can say is that it’s what the Tetaldians have been up to the whole time. Heath’s been pulled every which way, the Tetaldians have been pulling the strings and keeping him busy. The Tetaldians have not been Heath’s focus since the Anubis conflict – the first invasion of Earth where the majority of his friends and family died and the Fear Agents were born. But now Heath finally comes ‘round to discovering how the Tetaldians manipulated him, the humans and the Dressites. As Heath wises up, he makes peace with the Dressites and they focus their collective energy on the Tetaldians.
Nrama: The whole Fear Agent saga has been about Heath and his family – at first trying to get revenge for them, and then reuniting with them – and now seeing his own daughter shoot him in the gut. Can you tell us about Heath’s family and how it has changed over the series, and Heath’s own feelings about his family?
Remender: We’ve delved into this in the past a little bit with Heath’s father, and dealing with the complexities of that relationship – and we’ll be doing more of that in the final arc. We’ll meet Heath’s mother for the first time. I think his relationship with his mom holds the most significance which is why I’ve kept if for the end. Heath’s family ended up on the wrong end of the unlucky stick. Heath watched his father and his son murdered gruesomely in the initial invasion of Earth. And that really has set the tone for his left since. Doing anything in his power to not lose another loved one. And he fails.
Nrama: He was a truck driver, wasn’t he?
Remender: Right. The man he’s become is rooted in the path that pushed him from being a truck driver to become a hardened soldier. Once he is in that place, he moves forward in order to keep his wife Charlotte and their friends alive. But that motivation takes him to some remote places – bit by bit he’s pushed further, pushed to make awful choices and at one point kills a planet full of sentient beings. He commits Xenocide, as it were, and because of that the same people who he’d been trying to protect push him out , after what he did, they don’t want anything to do with him anymore. Throughout the series he’s pushed past some awful things, but there’s an open wound there that he could never heal from. He fell into drinking to get over it all, or turn it off.
He was originally motivated to change time in order to save his son. Later when he discovered that he has a daughter, for the first time he sees hope in the future. In his mind there’s something left for him to fight for, and that reignited him in the last story arc to rise up and keep fighting. So, yeah, family has played a big role in all of this. Because of it, at the core of it all, Heath carries a need for redemption and to find someway to be with his family once again – it’s the only reason he’s not dead.
Nrama: The crew who’s worked on Fear Agent has been pretty tight, both at cons and now at Marvel where you do most of your work these days. There you’ve continued to work with Jerome from time to time, Tony quite a bit on , and also some work with Mike. Is this just coincidental, editorial mojo or are you actively lobbying to do WFH work together?
Remender: We’re always lobbying to work with one another. When Matt Fraction was leaving Punisher War Journal, and I was set to take it over, Jerome had just finished the “Hatchet Job” story arc of Fear Agent, he was free so the timing was perfect. My editor Axel Alonso loved Jerome’s work so the project came together. Now I’m working with Tony and Mike on Fear Agent and Punisher and Jerome on New X-Force, working with your friends on world class comic book projects, it’s a great place to be, I’m really happy these days.
I think that a good editors knows that there are a lot of writers and artists who enjoy working together. A lot of it comes down to the fluidity of collaboration and the purity of intention that it holds. And when you’re working with a buddy – working with someone you’ve already worked on four to six trade paperbacks worth of comics – that there’s a lot of shorthand going on; we’ve worked out the kinks and we’re speaking the same language, so to speak. At that point, the writer knows when to suggest a shot and when not to. There’s a million nuanced process things that go into this kind of relationship. I feel like I have that with Tony, Jerome, Mike [Hawthorne], Eric Canete, Kieron [Dwyer] , Greg Tocchini and a few other guys. I’ve been lucky to do a slew of work with some amazing guys. And the more I work with them, the more I want to work with them. It can be hard to start with a new artist and work out those kinks.
It’s also nice working with the guys you came up in the industry with. It’s something that is very Band of Brothers-ish, if you were in the nerd trenches making comics instead of fighting for the future of the free world. Coming from the indie stables with your boys and making good is a terrific feeling.
Nrama: What’s it like for you, closing out the last chapter in a series that has in many ways been synonymous with your early writing career?
Remender: It’s equal parts satisfaction and depression. I think we made the right decision to end things where it was originally intended to end. This is the last bit of story I had written in the original treatment. I could do more. When you break it down we could always do more – Sci-Fi pulp can go in any direction you want, the possibilities are limitless so I know I could write more. But the more I write this arc and get into it, the more I realize that this is probably is the last arc. There’s a purity to staying true to that initial outline and story, and this is the final chapter and the end of the third art of Heath’s story. And now that Fear Agent is coming to a natural end, I don’t have an idea that makes me know for sure that we’re coming back to it.
I admire the way Ricky Gervais ended The Office, in a way that it didn’t get drawn out. I don’t want any of my series to have extended bullshit padded into the middle of it. When it’s all said and done, when you read it in the trade – or the omnibus in a year or year and a half – it’ll be one nice, big book with a complete story. When you read it all in one big chunk, I hope people will see that it’s all been one big story, all the piece we well conceived in advance and the biggest hope is that it be fulfilling. It’s taken five years but it’s always been just a couple of guys giving it every bit of love they can. When it’s all printed and done, I like to think it’ll stand the test of time.
Nrama: Taking that further, does the finality of it all make writing this story-arc any different?
Remender: Definitely. I’m no longer positioning things for the next story-arc. That gives you a lot of freedom. I’ll compare it to the HBO model; you can’t watch the third season of The Wire and really appreciate it alone; from the first season of The Wireto the last, the story is always positioning the players to pay off in increments while seeding the series for future payoffs. In that final season, they got to grow each and every one of those seeds with no time spent planting more. With this final arc of Fear Agent, there’s no more seeing – it’s all resolution. It’s one last drink with Heath.