(2006) Simon Oliver and Tony Moore, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 128pp, ISBN 1-84576-409-9
This is a collection of issues 1-5 of a new series from Vertigo, DC Comics' "Mature Readers" imprint. Simon Oliver is a 'first-time' writer and, on the strength of this, a damn good one; Tony Moore is an Eisner-nominated artist, but I am unfamiliar with his work and so do not know what for, however the work on display here is excellent (it's also worth mentioning that Brian Buccellato's colours are delightful). The plot is weird, humorous and multi-layered (as befits an ongoing series) - Henry James is the newest exterminator at the Bug-Bee-Gone Company and discovers that his fellow team members are all a little strange (not unlike Emilio Estevez discovering the characters of his colleagues in Repo Man), including the ones who shoot up on bug powder (a tip of the hat to William S Burroughs and Naked Lunch). Of course there's a problem with the chemical, Draxx, the company are using - aside from causing those who use it as a drug to explode, that is - though effective against the majority of bugs, for a percentage of each population it acts as a 'super-steroid', creating resistant and aggressive strains (not unlike the genetic toxin in the recent movie Swarmed (2005) which does the same for wasps). Henry is married to the boss's daughter, but she's sleeping with her (female) boss; he's also putting up a Guatamalan family chased out of their apartment when the roaches ate the Draxx and multiplied. His collegue Stretch is killing slum landlords by putting rats in the glove compartments of their cars and, somewhere in the background of all this, there's an iridescent green scarab running around. We don't know what's going on there yet, save that there's a box covered in symbols including the scarab, the Eye of Ra and the swastika - it takes four keys to open it and Henry's got at least one of them. When one of Henry's collegues explodes after abusing the Draxx, it turns out he has a huge green scarab tattoo'd on his back. The rest is grotesque and macabre humour set in the seediest parts of Los Angeles, among monstrous characters, and full of sex and violence (what more could you ask for?). By the end of the book an all-out war on the roaches at the Guatamalan's apartment sees a qualified victory for the humans, though it appears the roaches are developing a group mind and, in horror movie fashion, at least one survives - and you know what they breed like... This is one of the best new comics to come along in a while and is recommended to those with a twisted turn of mind.
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