Written by: Rich Bernatovech
Art by: Teyo
Published by: Drumfish Productions
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Felix is your average teen reject. He gets bullied at school, girls pay no attention to him, and his single mother just doesn’t understand him. Felix is basically your average teenage nerd-underdog, struggling to survive the battleground that is puberty. He gets no respect from anyone in his life and he has no confidence in himself. The only bright spot in his mundane and insufferable existence is his job at the local movie theater where he gets to hang out with the coolest girl he knows…his co-worker, Rachel, who he obviously has a big crush on as she embodies all of the spitfire and self-confidence he wishes he had himself. In short, Felix doesn’t have much going for him and not a lot of prospects for the future. Things even get worse for him when the bullies who torment him at school expand their territory to encompass his place of work where they humiliate him in front of the one person who doesn’t seem to loathe him, his fair Rachel…who ends up kicking the ass of Felix’s tormentors for him. Humiliated and frustrated, Felix sees no hope for the future…until he meets Bob.
Why is Felix’s life changed so much when he meets Bob? Well, that’s because Bob just happens to be a talking cockroach.
You remember earlier in this review when I mentioned Joe’s Apartment?
Yeah…there’s a talking roach in this book. Beyond that though, there’s very little similarity that lies between the aforementioned MTV short and Bugged. Bernatovech’s story mines significantly different territory and said talking roach is much more sinister than Joe’s cohorts ever were. In Bugged the,uh, bug is present for very different reasons. Once Felix realizes that he can talk to roaches, or one particular roach, he also begins to develop the ability to see visions. Visions of people at their worst. Visions of people doing truly horrible and dreadful things. Bob talks him through these visions and gives Felix the purpose he’s been looking for…Felix, Bob says, is here to punish all the sinners. At first Felix is hesitant but with a bit of prodding from his carpace shelled companion he embraces his new mission with vigor. Felix becomes a killer of evildoers with a somewhat sinister and tiny mentor guiding his way.
Bernatovech combines elements of horror, humor, and teen pathos extremely well within the pages of Bugged. Despite Felix’s awful activities Bernatovech is able to build a character who has a somewhat confused yet sympathetic core. Bugged is a tale of manipulation and of a young man with no place in the world looking for meaning. Unfortunately Felix’s mentor ends up being a roach who has his own twisted agenda. Bugged is a horror tale that makes you feel for the protagonist despite the really awful things that he does. I’m not condoning what Felix does in the book but what I am saying is that Bernatovech makes Felix identifiable and that’s a pretty solid achievement in a book about a murderous roach and his teenage boy.
Teyo’s art is highly stylized in the book. There’s an eighties retro vibe that Teyo has embraced here, particularly with his color palette, that shouldn’t work with this kind of story but it does. Teyo’s line work can be frenetic and powerful and when combined with some of the lighter, almost pastel like colors he uses Teyo’s art is able to keep the book from delving into too much of a dark place. As such the art is effective but doesn’t immerse the reader in too much gloom. Basically, Teyo’s art strikes a perfect balance between a pop culture cartoon style and a harder, scratchier technique that makes the story somewhat creepy and fun to read at the same time.
Bugged is a graphic novel that seems to have crept under the rug for the most part. I haven’t really seen it mentioned much anywhere in the press which is a shame. If you can track it down it’ll make a great Halloween read. It’s a twisted little tale of manipulation and murder that should leave fans of horror comics satisfied. If you ever come across a roach again it’ll have you scurrying for the nearest can of Raid that you can find. Not that you wouldn’t already be doing that because, well, roaches…gross.