While nothing is less fun to read than a giving of props to one piece of cultural ephemera by way of insulting another piece that is, sadly, more popular, you might want to suck it up.
It doesn't get mentioned around these parts very often, but it should be noted that we believe Lost is a pretty lousy television program. Like a lot of people, it was easy to get sucked into Lost. The show is well-shot, has a relatively attractive and hard working (though not always talented) cast, and is inventive enough to convince most cynics to keep giving it chances. (Compared to Heroes, a hideously photographed show almost universally populated with terrible acting, Lost still might fool you into thinking it's better than it is. It's not, but your mistake is understandable. Unforgivable, yes, but understandable.) The problem with Lost, one that rapidly became more apparent near the end of the 1st season, and then impossible to ignore throughout the 2nd, is one that comic books have struggled with for the last twenty years. It's one that comes up constantly in criticisms of 24, and one that never seems to affect The Sopranos or The Wire. It's the problem of not knowing the answers to the questions that motivate the plot--it's the problem of basing a show on the premise of ratcheting confusion and expectation. On Lost, it's become impossible to forget that very little of what's occurred has been explained, and that when it is, it's terribly unsatisfying. Unlike The Shield or The Wire, shows that do a "13 and out" chapter every 10 months or so, Lost attempts to maintain the length of a Law & Order schedule without attempting to ever deal with the simple fact that they don't have 24 hours worth of sensible material to deal with. So instead of resolving plot holes, they create more and more of them, hoping that the tension will mask the confusion--and the show becomes less and less rewarding, while continuing to demand more of the audiences patience.
The difference between a comic book audience's patience and a television viewers is vast--it's been acknowledged by smarter writers than this one that in the world of television and film, you'll never find anyone comparable to a regular X-Men reader. See, a regular X-Men reader financially supports the product despite the lack of consistency in art or writing, choosing to pay the ever-increasing amount of money, week to week, regardless of what level of quality they can expect. Unlike Lost (and, sadly, 24) where the audience chooses to discontinue watching the show when they begin to find it enjoyable, X-Men fans, and comics fans in general, will stick to their guns and continue to soldier forward. In one aspect, they become even more active as fans during fallow periods--take a gander at any message board regarding issues no one likes--comics fans talk a lot when something irritates them, yet are strangely silent when (one has to assume) they enjoy an issue. You'll never find this level of commitment anywhere in a television audience, excepting the flukes of cheap science fiction programming. This isn't to say that a product of low quality can't flourish--shows like Two and a Half Men do well, as does the masturbatory wasteland of Grey's Anatomy. It's to say that if people actively dislike a television product, they discontinue watching it. While cancellation should never be a barometer of quality, it is an infallible barometer of profitability. Television shows that are well liked stick around, and ones that don't join the ones that are liked (obsessively or not) by a few in the world of cancellation.
Now that so many comics, especially the DC and Marvel variety, are totally dependent upon serialization, they're forced to enter the arena populated by shows like Lost, which finally brings us around to the Exterminators. Like Lost, The Exterminators has been throwing out mysteries and red herrings since it's first issue. Whether it's relationship struggles, zombie drug addicts, mythical insect gods or all-out Braveheart battles consisting of man v roach, Simon Oliver and crew have made telling weird stories their business. (And, because good cliches never die, "business is good.") The last few issues have heightened the freighter tension even more by going the new classic route of revealing that a supporting character isn't just rude and odd, he's also has a demoniacally evil past. Of course, realizing that Saloth (the nasty bastard in question) had years of experience using human beings as test subjects for hideous experiments was only half as disturbing as watching him attempt to date, and then nowhere near as terrifying as watching him succeed at dating and begin to enjoy the sexual fruits. Anybody who could tolerate watching a hideous cloven shaped man satisfy a woman the size of Lee "The Refrigerator" Perry certainly would have found themselves looking forward to reading more about Nazi-style experiments. At least then they could finish their Cinnabon.
But if Lost teaches us anything, it's that upping the stakes and going "weird" can only succeed as long as some doors end up closed, and that's where The Exterminators is starting to pick up stride. Only a scant few issues in, and Oliver has already started lining up his respective ducks--and he's thrown a lot out there in the past 15. Whether or not the comic succeeds as well at shutting doors as it does opening them can't be predicted solely on the strength of the current issue, but it's a definite indication of some intention to. The fallout from the collapsed marriage, Saloth's guilt in a back-alley murder and, of course, some kind of response to the roach onslaught of previous chapters all seem to be winding down. In their place is a whole new brand of creepy, including a former cell-mate turned date-rapist. Oliver could certainly teach Damon Lindelof a few things, not the least of which being punctuality. Going crazy is fine, and so is not showing your hand--but you better have a fucking hand to begin with, cause no audience will forgive a bluff that takes up this much time.
Which I think might have been why Moonlighting sucked so hard.
-Tucker Stone, 2007, who, for this week, dictated.
But did not read.