Peter Bagge's Reset: funny science fiction graphic novel

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.