Q: What is the Second Printing $2.99 Challenge?
A: It's a test of a comic's accessibility. Criteria were simple for taking up the challenge: the book had to be an ongoing title the challenger was unfamiliar with; it had to be in publication for more than two years and it's issue number had to be greater than 18.
Today: Graig Challenges Fear Agent #24 (cover price $2.99)
[Preamble:] I've never had much luck with Rick Remender titles, finding titles like The End League and Sea of Red appealing in concept, but failing to wow me in their execution. The guy's had a pretty solid career, forged primarily on creator-owned titles, which I've got to respect, but after a few lacklustre reads, I kind of wrote the guy off. Fear Agent is his longest running book, of which I know absolutely nothing about. The most I can say is I'd seen ads that make it look like pulpy sci-fi with a beer-swilling twist. Here's hoping:
a) In your assessment, could a non-comics reader pick this up cold and enjoy it? Why or why not?
Well, Fear Agent #24 proves extra challenging for this challenge as it's not just another issue, but the 3rd chapter (of six) in the current storyline. There's a "previously" box on the interior front cover which catches you up (kinda, but it certainly helps more than it hinders, more books should have these... I'm looking at you DC Comics) on who's who and what the haps is. The first page is a flashback sequence which seemed obvious to me, so that's good, and the main thrust of the story - the hero thrust into a planet that's like the Old West but with aliens, where everything isn't what it seems - is easy enough to grab hold of. Oh, and the story is only half the book, where a stand-alone story by not-Rick Remender finds the hero in a gunfight, which is pretty disposable.
b) What age group(s) would it be appropriate for?
Hrm... early teens and up. There's violence, sexual innuendo, mild expletives, nothing too harsh in any respect. Target audience is probably college-age/20-somethings.
c) Are there any aspects that don't make sense to the new reader (or, conversely, are there any that do?)
The recap is the only place that mentions how things aren't what they seem (the fact that the hero has encountered his ex-wife and an old girlfriend on an alien planet does seem weird), and they seem a relevant and ominous part of the story, however it doesn't exactly factor into this issue. I'm also not sure if the book is usually divided into two stories or not. This is a story about the hero, an alcoholic adventurer who seems to be going through a bit of a crisis, and that comes across fairly straightforward.
d) What is your overall perceived quality of the book, and could you see the quality being perceived differently if read long-term?
The art by Tony Moore (Exterminators, Walking Dead) is awesome and I didn't really have any problems with Remender's side of things either. I think following the book from earlier on, following the hero around on his various adventures would give the character aspects of this issue more impact and relevance. There's certainly questions left hanging by the end of its 12 pages, so following longer-term is kind of essential for getting the full impact of this story. It's pretty solid stuff overall, but at 12 pages of main story with a somewhat uneventful back-up/filler, and I think a full issue would serve new readers better (for all Remender gets across in 12 pages, imagine what it'd be like in 24?)
e) What was your overall enjoyment of the single issue?
Not bad at all. I don't think I'll stick the rest of this story out (especially if each issue is only presenting 12 pages of it), but I may pick up a trade of a complete story in the future just to get a better sense of the series and characters. Intrigued, if only slightly.