The Alpha Review
By Andrew Uys
I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.
E is for The Exterminators: Bug Brothers
Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Tony Moore
Vertigo Comics, 2006
Vertigo is a subdivision of DC Comics, publishing the racier, stranger, and more violent material that does not fit into DC’s “hero” continuity or marketing scheme. Popularized by such titles as Sandman and Swam Thing, people either love or hate the Vertigo line of comics; reveling in the storylines that the mature line allows, or despising what I heard once as “Great covers, but the art inside always sucks.” Much of the success attributed to Vertigo has come from trade paperback sales, where the complex and ever shifting plots can be absorbed more easily. I know of many comic fans who never read the monthly issues but can’t wait for the next TPB to be released.
Where does The Exterminators fit into this? Apparently not very well, as the title has been slated to wrap up in a few issues. Is this because the comic isn’t well written or doesn’t have excellent art? No, it has both. Why is it ending then? My theory is that it’s ending for the same reason that those who read it love it. This is one of the most disgusting comics you will ever pick up. I don’t mean that it contains horrific sexual acts or mind-numbing violence, but rather that the writer continues to come up with some of the most vile, revolting scenes that one could possibly imagine — most of which involve lots of cockroaches and other bugs.
Before I break down the first trade let me share with you how I encountered The Exterminators. I had heard some really good buzz about the book, so one day while I was sitting down to lunch I decided to see what all the hype was about. Very quickly I realized I couldn’t eat and read this trade at the same time — so I put aside my food and finished the trade. The Exterminators is definitely not for the squeamish or those who suffer from entomophobia (fear of insects). For the rest, it is a lot of fun.
The Exterminators: Bug Brothers is the first of three trades published, with a fourth slated for April 2008. The main character is Henry James, who has taken a job as an exterminator with the Bug-Bee-Gone company. Henry’s girlfriend works for Ocran Industries, the corporation that produce the wonder chemical, Draxx, that is used to kill cockroach infestations. Henry is partnered with AJ at the beginning of the story, a crass hick type who is supposed to be showing Henry the basics of exterminating, but instead spends his time shooting up Draxx with unfortunate consequences. After AJ’s death, while Henry is going through the deceased’s locker, he discovers an ancient Egyptian box with strange markings on the outside — I still don’t entirely understand the significance of this item, but I place my trust in the writer to reveal all, especially now that the series is wrapping up. Later, Henry is partnered with Stretch, a Buddhist/spiritual type who has strange ideas on how to bring about karmatic balance in the world. Together they try to aid a down-on-her-luck mother, whose apartment is overrun with bugs. As these supporting characters might indicate, the world of the Exterminator’s is a bizarre and twisted place, and that’s not even factoring in the various clients/victims that Henry is sent to help, or the massing super-cockroach army that will play a major role in the subsequent trades.
The Exterminators: Bug Brothers is a fun, if disturbing, read. I found the characters in the story to appear one-dimensional at first glance, but on further reading contain deeper layers and darker mysteries as the plot moves along. All my other reviews have been about major superhero icons and the very well-know writers/artists working on them, and this trade is the complete opposite. It is about ordinary everyday people, who have crappy jobs and unhappy lives, and how they survive. While I’m sure someone will object to this, I don’t know the writer’s other work particularly well (if he has done anything else), but that doesn’t make this book any less worth reading — the dialogue and plot are absolutely first rate. Tony Moore’s illustrations are fantastic and renders Simon Oliver’s absolutely disturbing scenes all too well. It’s a pity that the series will be wrapping up, but I am looking forward to how they plan on finishing their run. If you are looking for a great read, that doesn’t involve men in costumes, and that will, guaranteed, gross you out, pick up The Exterminators: The Bug Brothers.