“RAT CATCHER” (Graphic Novel Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on January 22, 2010

RAT CATCHER (Vertigo Crime) delivers the goods on exploitative violence, hard-bitten characters and tough-talking dialogue. As dead bodies start piling up, the FBI is on a manhunt for a serial killer who assassinates mob informants. Readers will be blown away by the rough visuals and in-your-face storytelling.

The story kicks off from the very first page with a burning building. All of a sudden, a bullet-riddled FBI agent stumbles out of the fiery wreckage. While wandering onto the streets, he’s accidentally run over by a speeding car. Soaking in sweat and blood, the wounded agent manages to punch out the driver and steal his vehicle. Nothing seems to stop this violent madman as he recklessly drives across the Texas border.

Elsewhere, special agent Moses Burdon has been called out of retirement to investigate the crime scene. Agent William Lynch, one of Burdon’s closest friends, has been accused of starting the fire and killing two of his fellow agents. All of the evidence from the burnt rubble officially points to Lynch having turned rogue.

As Burdon searches for the missing agent’s whereabouts, he discovers new truths about his best friend. Over the years, Lynch became obsessed with a case specializing on the mythical hitman, the Rat Catcher. No one in the Witness Protection Program will admit the serial killer actually exists. Beyond a doubt, Lynch truly believes there is a hired assassin killing off mob informants.

The thrill-seeking Rat Catcher has many ways of making an informant talk. In a meat factory, the ruthless assassin enjoys hearing the snitch squeal, begging for his life. Even after the informant has confessed, the Rat Catcher coldheartedly throws the traitor into a meat grinder. Was the Rat Catcher someone who worked inside the bureau? Was Lynch playing with the FBI and killing off mob informants? Or, has Lynch completely lost his mind and believes he is the hired assassin? No one in Texas is safe, as the Rat Catcher leaves a trail of dead bodies for Burdon to follow.

Just as he did with THE LOSERS, writer Andy Diggle creates an ensemble cast rich in character complexity and moral ambiguity. When the rulebook is tossed aside, the lawmen are just as worse as the criminals. Just when you think you have these characters figured out, they do something quite unexpected.

Readers are thrust into the story by Victor Ibañez’s black and white artwork. In order to depict guilt-ridden suffering, Moses Burdon’s physical shape and facial expressions are drawn in excruciating detail. In his introduction, Burdon can barely get up from his bed, but in action—during shootouts, explosions and bare-knuckle fistfights—this figure suddenly springs to life.

With a plot that rivals most crime thrillers, the RAT CATCHER is a hard-hitting tale of brutal action and double-crossings. Readers should be prepared for a story with a never-ending supply of bullets and snappy dialogue! The graphic novel will be available in stores this Tuesday.