Writer: Simon Oliver
Artists: Chris Samnee, Brian Buccellato (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
This one goes out to the ladies... okay, maybe not specifically to the ladies, but this is an Exterminators stand-alone with some feminine appeal. Yes, it does feature some mature fanboy features such as totally hot lesbians in a hot tub and prostitutes specializing in literary fantasies (leave it to a comic writer...), so men shouldn’t worry that Simon Oliver’s story is converting to chick lit. However, women (and men) will appreciate the two strong female characters that take center stage in issue #8, as Oliver takes a page out of Fables’ dossier to interrupt the current storyline with an interlude. With guest artist Chris Samnee at his side, Oliver connects the two women in Henry’s life with an easy, conversational style, making this a very accessible issue for fans of the series and neophytes alike. But will fans of the first seven issues like this clear departure from the norm (if you could ever call Exterminators "normal")? I think the sophisticated readers who normally frequent Vertigo’s shop of goodies will find much to like about issue #8. So have no fear, Exterminators faithful!
The fun in this issue exists without the bugs and critters from the earlier issues, focusing instead on human problems that can’t be solved by calling in a specialist. Laura (Henry’s ex) and Page (Henry’s current beau) are caught up in weirdly similar life circumstances, which constitute the entire issue (barring the bookend pages of Henry and his battle for a cup of joe). Both drive out of town to visit their respective mothers, looking for advice or consoling. Each has a formalized sit-down conversation with her mother, and then some booze-induced denouement. But, the differences between the two women’s lives are quite pronounced. While Laura has come from a humble background, Page grew up with the memoir microscope her mother created. This difference causes Laura to be more practical (agonizing about her modern bathtub) and Page to be more free-spirited (her job as a literary prostitute, plus her "soulful" car). Also, Laura’s relationship with her mother is down-to-earth and real, while Page’s relationship is filled with resentment for the selling of her childhood to the general public (like she now sells her body...). But, in the end, both women get what they want from their mothers, and both follow the same path afterward: to call Henry. Oliver tells a simple story that is both surprisingly heartfelt and realistic in human qualities. But, the requisite fun is also apparent! I was laughing out loud at the scene with two of Page’s fellow prostitutes discussing Gone With the Wind: “He just waltzes in here thinking it’s a simple love triangle, two bodice-ripping broads competing for Ashley Wilkes’ affections, thereby validating their place in a patriarchal society. When it’s obviously a story of women’s empowerment through their redefining of the sexual conventions of post-Civil War America.” Great stuff!
As for Samnee’s artwork, it doesn’t quite measure up to Tony Moore’s excellent work, but the panels work for the dramatic scenes in the issue. The facial expressions are appropriate, and there is a certain griminess to the lines, making for art steeped in realism, as it should be. Issue #8 is Oliver showing just how strong his female characters are, setting both of them up for juicier roles in future issues. Similar to the discussion of Gone With the Wind, Laura and Page are not caught in some kind of love triangle with Henry. This short story is a tale of women’s empowerment utilizing the opportunities available to them in post-9/11 America. Henry is cast as the catalyst for these examinations, but is relegated to the sidelines until issue #9 (even though he has a discussion with his mother as well). Women are the name of the game in issue #8 and, whether it’s Laura smashing her own car’s headlight for character or Page telling her mother’s dinner guests off, there is a great amount of thrill in watching these two women ride roughshod through their lives. Even if you haven’t read any Exterminators yet, pick up this issue to see a straight tale told with humane spunk and sequential strength.
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