By Christian Brady
Today, Rick Remender is best known for his plethora of original works at Image Comics. It's here that he made some of the best characters he wrote.
Aside from his work at Marvel on the Uncanny X-Men, Spawn, and Captain America, Rick Remender is the creator of several long-running indie projects, including his space cowboy adventure Fear Agent, his eco-thriller Low, and his fantasy epic Seven to Eternity. Remender's worlds are usually dark and dystopic, litotic spaces meant to exaggerate and highlight the iniquities of our present moment. His most well-developed villains are seductively sympathetic in their altruism and his heroes are messy, in need of mending and second chances.
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Oftentimes, Remender's stories reject the "hackneyed moral and narrative customs" still present in comics today, what writer Mikal Gilmore described in his 1988 introduction to Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid as "violent men sav[ing] the world through violent choices or violent bravery." This list of the 10 Best Characters Created by Rick Remender, Ranked, looks at the heroes and the villains that exemplify Remender's interest in optimism, faith, and violence.
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10 Sil & Hanta (Strange Girl)
Sil and Hanta are hellspawn raised from the unlikely union of the Ice Queen, Golgotha, and the mind-perpetually-in-the-gutter demon mutt Bloato. The pair appear shortly after Bloato's heroic death and provide Bethany Black with an opportunity to storm hell and save her friend.
Sil's ambush while shepherding Bethany through the Underworld serves as one of the first truly irrevocable gut punches of the series. Hanta's will-they-won't-they with Second Lieutenant Anderson, Strange Girl's OTC is one of the purer romances of Remender's works.
9 Willie Lewis (Deadly Class)
TheedgyDeadly Class really capitalized on a demographic sweet spot composed of Battle Royale fans who saw some potential in the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The series draws from of pop culture influences and puts a spin on a number of those tropes, none more satisfying in the early issues than Willie Lewis.
Willie seems like the standard issue "loner-turned-friend" archetype before his badasspersonais revealed as a sheep-in-wolf's clothing. He embodies that millennial sense of imposter syndrome, having to fake being a hard gang-banger at the assassins' school to maintain his survival. His arc dramatizes better than most the struggle between grace and violence.
8 Debbie Decay (Tokyo Ghost)
The dystopianTokyo Ghost is a cautionary tale about the dangers of always being connected to mass pop culture. It's a kind of funhouse mirror to the media-soaked world that David Foster Wallace described so dizzyingly back in the '90s.
Debbie Decay is the heart and soul of the story. In the flashbacks to her childhood with Led Dent and their flowering courtship, we get a sense of the ways that she's able to offer an alternate path to his tragic dependence. She plays the straight man to Led Dent's slack-jawed media submission. Her slapdash, scrappy fighting and daring escapes make for one of Remender's most formidable heroes.
7 Mara Esperanza (Fear Agent)
Fear Agent was one of Remender's first projects with Imag, along with a run of comics about vampiric pirates and another about the aftermath of the Second Coming. Fear Agent doesn't shy away from some complex storytelling techniques: there's time travel, clones, double-crossing, triple crossing, and an intergalactic courtroom scene. Heath Huston, the confident, competent space cowboy of the series seems like the natural pick for this slot -- maybe even his ex-wife, Charlotte, President of Earth. But the mysterious Mara Esperanza (Spanish for "hope") holds her own against Heath's witty one-liners and Mark Twain quotes.
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Mara's backstory as an Earth refugee shows she has the scars to prove her toughness, yet it takes some time for readers to fully understand the full implications of the trauma she experienced. As in Strange Girl, we have a opposites-attract story, but with a bittersweet twist. Mara gives as good as she well as she takes and Remender doesn't hold back on the gauntlet he puts her through over the course of her arc.
6 Jevalia (Seven to Eternity)
When readers first meet Javalia, she's a toady of the Big Bad, the tyrannical despot known as the Mud King. In the series' mind-bending first two issues, Javalia's childhood connection with Adam Osidis is revealed. Adam's father brings him on a trip to town, where Adam shares a sweet moment with a child... only to have her revealed as a "vessel" possessed by the Mud King.
Artist Jerome Opeña has worked on a number of Marvel projects and frequent collaborator with Remender. His distinctive attention to fantasy creature creation is the stuff of nightmares in Strange Girl and Fear Agent. In Seven to Eternity, Opeña's portrayal of the young Javalia sets the tone for the subtle ways that evil pervades the world under the Mud King's watchful eyes and omnipresent whispers. But no one's first impression is as it seems in Remender's stories: Issue 6 investigates Jevalia's own trauma and forces readers to reinspect her motives forbecoming a castoff and traitor.
5 Marik Caine (Low)
Marik Caine's rise and fall qualifies as one of the most compelling side quests in Remender's most recent work. Though Low focuses primarily on his mother Stel's journey, Marik's last stand in the coliseum with his merry band of misfits tugs at the heartstrings and his words echo in the mouths of his friends, long past his exit.
Marik's a Robin Hood-type; his proximity to his seemingly pitiless sister Tajo Caine complicates her character and deepens her regret at inaction later. Marik is one of the darkest arcs of Remender's unapologetically inspirational comics.
4 Kadir (Black Science)
The sci-fi epicBlack Science is one of Remender's most sprawling backdrops for a story: the ever-changing multiverse of realities. The premise essentially borrows from a famous paper in economics disproving the existence of time travel on supply-demand grounds.
Kadir is the protagonist, Grant McKay's supervisor in the Anarchists League of Astronauts, and sometime rival for the affection of Grant's wife Sara. With each passing permutation of Kadir in the multiverse, we see his capacity for love and skulduggery. In one arc from Issue 32, Kadir invents a "interdimensional windsail" in order to live in a reality with Sara forever, even at the cost of severing a reality where her children are alive.
3 Stel Caine (Low)
Low is, at its core, a meditation on the limits of faith and optimism in challenging circumstances. Remender talks about the way that his own optimism was tested by the 2016 election while writing the series.
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Stel (a play on the word for "star") Caine journeys to reunite her family and her persistent search for habitable space on the surface of an Earth, all as humanity recklessly drains its last precious resources in the deep ocean. Stel is a relentless problem-solver and a formidable spirit of vengeance. In a series replete with strong female heroes, Stel outshines the rest.
2 Glory Owen (Death or Glory)
The high-octaneDeath or Glory clears a high bar as Remender's most exciting new venture right now. It has its feet in classic Americana and truck stop culture but more importantly, it tells a story about growing up with less that doesn't fall prey to tired tropes about poverty and self-determination.
Glory Owen's idyllic off-the-grid childhood among a free-thinking community of truckers comes to a halting (truck)stop when her father needs an organ transplant he can't afford. Glory turns into a Midwest Robin Hood when her plans are changed by the discovery aconspiracy to traffic immigrants to organ smugglers. Glory's unique upbringing, her superb skills behind the wheel, and her distaste for firearms make for Remender's most charismatic heroes.
1 The Mud King (Seven to Eternity)
Seven to Eternity's big bad features Remender's most complex and sympathetic villains yet. Though it's hard to believe, the "God of Whispers," a totalitarian demagogue with hive-mind powers, was invented before the 2016 election.
Also known as Garlis, this guy is a bit of a cross between Odysseus and Harry Houdini, with a silver tongue and a penchant for getting underneath people's skin and into their brains. The Mud King's endurance of discrimination for his biracial heritage and the slow reveal of his plan make for one of the greatest double takes of a villain in recent comic history.
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