The Exterminators

Reviewed by Bernice Watson

Sex, Drugs and Cockroaches: The life of an LA exterminator is more interesting than you can imagine!

First time comic book writer Simon Oliver doesn’t mess around and he certainly doesn’t pull any narrative punches. Good thing too because the heart of The Exterminators lies in his uncanny ability to take the lives of what should be ordinary guys doing a less-than-glamorous job and turn them into a fast paced, insect-ridden mystery that’ll keep you feverishly turning ‘just one more page’ long after bed time.

The Exterminators was originally intended for television production as Oliver was working in film at the time of writing but he soon realised that the story didn’t fit the medium and instead decided to pursue the project in comic book form. The Exterminators was picked up by Vertigo and the first issue hit shelves in January 2006.

Main character Henry James just wants to get on with being an ordinary citizen. Fresh out of jail he accepts a trial position with his step-father’s pest control company, Bug-Bee-Gone, in the hopes of working a nine to five and living life on the right side of the law. However, his fellow exterminators take professional eccentricities to dizzying new heights of weirdness and Henry soon finds himself embroiled in their metaphysical (and physical for that matter) fight to the death with LA’s pest population.

Oliver brings together an eclectic mix of real life pressures (the demands of a career driven girlfriend, the expectations of parents, the suspicion of the local authorities and the legacy of growing up poor in one of America’s biggest metropolises) and the disconcertingly surreal (mutant bugs, exploding co-workers, and literary porn) to bear on his characters. Add a healthy dose of evil corporate shenanigans and ancient bug magic and you have an intriguing cocktail with Henry James standing in the eye of the proverbial storm.

Tony Moore’s artwork captures the tone of The Exterminators perfectly. Flipping through you can almost feel the sticky LA heat radiating off the pages. Similarly, his characters reveal an individuality and attention to detail which is often missing in the comic book medium. Given the subject matter, that can range from racy to the grotesque; Moore shows a versatility which transforms The Exterminators from a damn interesting story into an attention grabbing whole.

If you’re interested, check out a 2007 interview with Simon Oliver here: He talks about his research, influences and generally reflects on the series as a whole – watch out for spoilers though!