Written by Andy Diggle
Illustrated by Victor Ibañez
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover art by Lee Bermejo
Published by DC/Vertigo
Rat Catcher stands out among the Vertigo Crime line, certainly one of its better offerings. The plot revolves around an aging FBI agent whose partner has gone missing while investigating the rat catcher, a rumored hitman known for erasing state’s witnesses while in protective custody.
Andy Diggle (this is the first comic of his I can recall reading; mental note to look for more) handles the script with white-knuckle tension. He’s able to give each character shape with just a few snippets of dialogue (abetted, of course, by Victor Ibañez’s strong grasp of facial expressions and body language), so readers connect with the cast without spending much time on actual characterization. The plot’s the driving force here, with the missing agent Lynch on the run, uncovering secrets of the rat catcher, and his partner Burdon in pursuit, figuring out why Lynch remains on the lam.
At the exact moment enough information is put forward to make the rat catcher’s identity inescapable, Diggle goes for the reveal, upending the entire book and setting loose a breakneck chase for the finale. It’s fast and thrilling, with plenty of danger, some double-crosses and a respectable body count among the supporting players.
As strong as Diggle’s script is, Ibañez’s illustrations match the standard every step of the way. Burdon’s weary countenance captures the character’s exhaustion and emotional distress. The southwest vistas feel open and sun-scorched; the character acting is solid if slightly exaggerated (ah, comic book characters and their snarling faces); and the violence hits hard without being overly cartoonish.
A fast-moving, surprising and effective thriller, Rat Catcher stands tall as one of Vertigo Crime’s best titles to date.