Monday, July 28, 2008

Crossed out and exterminated

Vertigo seems to be having trouble keeping titles afloat these days, and two of my favorite Vertigo books recently limped to their conclusions after being largely ignored during brief runs. Both had their problems, primarily in terms of focus and consistency, but each was resolutely unique, and it's unfortunate to see them founder while the company falls back on goth-style reinventions of neglected DC properties (House of Mystery, Madame Xanadu) over truly original creations.

Still, we got 30 issues of Simon Oliver and Tony Moore's The Exterminators, which is not a bad run at all, and Oliver now gets to take over Vertigo warhorse Hellblazer. I wrote a number of times when The Exterminators first launched that I couldn't quite tell what it was about or whether I liked it, and I made it all the way to the end still somewhat uncertain. The big finale turned out to involve the resurrection of some ancient Egyptian insect god and an army of near-indestructible cockroaches, so it turned out that the supernatural won out in the end, but the book worked best when it was just a quirky character study about an ex-con exterminator and his weird family and friends. I think if I went back and read the series over again, it's those character stories that would stand out more than the mythological hoo-ha. It does seem like Oliver got to tell the story he set out to create, though, so that's worth something.

Mike Carey and Jim Fern's Crossing Midnight ended a few weeks ago with its 19th issue on a far less final note, leaving the door open for further stories about its twin Japanese teen protagonists. This is a book that I liked almost right away but that seemed to lose focus as it went along, delving deeply into Japanese mythology at the expense of the human characters at the core. At the same time, some of the horror elements were very effective, and the way that Carey pitted the main brother and sister against each other without their knowledge was often heartbreaking (and came to a devastating climax in the last issue). Fern's art also seemed to falter once they switched to having Jose Villarrubia digitally ink it, making it more sketchy and sloppy-looking. Even with those problems, this book had a lot of potential that it won't get to realize, and my guess is that Carey had plenty more story to tell. I'm disappointed that I won't have the chance to read it.

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