Peter Bagge is one of my favorite cartoonists. I was introduced to his work when it appeared in Robert Crumb's legendary Weirdo magazine. (Crumb later made Bagge the editor. When I was in my 20s I sent some of my samples to Weirdo. On his hand-written rejection postcard Bagge wrote, "You gotta be your own worst critic." Excellent advice!)
Bagge also created two long-running comic book series for Fantagraphics: Neat Stuff, a grab-bag of comic stories featuring a cast of recurring characters, and Hate, a comic that depicted the self-destruction of the Bradleys, a Seattle family (where Bagge lives). I eagerly snapped up each issue as it appeared on the rack.
Bagge also writes funny, curmudgeonly comics for Reason magazine, which are collected in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me: And Other Astute Observations.
Bagge's latest comic book is a four-issue mini science fiction series called Reset, published by Dark Horse and now collected in a single volume. Reset begins in an enforced DUI education classroom. One of the people in the class is a has-been actor named Guy Krause. He's grumpy, bitter, and broke, so when he meets a woman in the class who offers to pay him to be a human guinea pig in a virtual reality experiment that will cause him to re-experience his life from early adulthood up to his current middle age, he accepts the offer without question. Through the experiment Guy is given a second chance to make decisions that could possibly lead him to a better place (or an imaginary better place).
As the story progresses, we begin to see clues that there are Truman Show-like elements at play -- where does reality and virtual reality begin and end? Who is behind the curtains? And does Krause really have a say in what is happening to him?
It's great to see Bagge mining new territory, and at the same time retaining his sharp sense of humor.
Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three — collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success — turned the series’ reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.
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