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on October 24, 2010
When I read Peter Bagge comics, I always figure that the style will take me over the weaknesses of the plot. And for the most part that's true, but after the excellent Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me: And Other Astute Observations, this comic is just a giant let down. Following the adventures of four losers who all have things to hide and all try to recreate themselves online, this is a storyline that's full of squandered potential and cheap jokes.

As much as I like Hate comics, I felt like they had really played themselves out by the last few issues. The saga of Buddy and Lisa could only be told so often without tedium. This feels like a sequel with different characters but similar pathos. Every single one of them is trying to put on a new identity for the world and the idea of mixing and matching identities in order to create the identity you want has a long standing existential tradition that should be even more fascinating in the days of computers when we are all trying on different identities in some form or the other (which is why I was a little uncomfortable finding out that most of my RL friends know about my LJ and read it on a regular basis) but these people are just too easy. Ivy comes from a traditional Chinese family and turns herself into a sexy fairy online as she carries on a virtual affair with Woodrow who claims to be a traditional family man with a job but is really a degenerate gambler who is divorced and living in motels. So Woodrow has three identities - family man, loser and king of some virtual realm on Second LIfe or the Sims or whatever. Vader or Vlad actually changes his name to get away from his Russian family who keep showing up throughout and pulling him back into their drama (the belief that you can get away from your family is one of the best fantasies of the 20th century). And to top it all off, there's a conspiracy theorist who claims to work for the FBI but probably doesn't.

Mostly, I didn't like this book as much as I thought because these are pretty easy characters. Bagge has a long standing tradition of writing about losers who aren't going anywhere but trying nonetheless. Knowing intellectually that he was writing about people 10 years younger than himself for Hate doesn't soften the shock when you find out that he was born in 1957 as he was such an astute chronicler of Generation X lifestyles. But with Hate, everything seems fresh. With this book, there's really nothing left but people who are doing their best to ruin their lives and their fantasy lives aren't providing much comfort or even escape. The movie Catfish is similarly about how we create ourselves anew online and that's a fascinating movie but this book works with fascinating topics and renders them bland and childish.
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on November 11, 2011
Peter Bagge at the top of his game a master of his craft brings us an insightful look at human nature and the impact that the cyber world of the internet has had upon us. As always his skill as a cartoonist is bar none and his ability to bring us completely believable characters in an emotional driven story is perfect.
Hopefully it won't be too long before we see more work by Bagge.
(If you're not familiar with his other work I recommend, Buddy Does Seattle and Buddy Does Jersey for a first introduction of the world of Bagge.)
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on April 27, 2010
If you don't know Peter Bagge, he is one of the great working artists in the humor genre of the comics medium. I've been reading him for almost 25 years, and his work has only matured. OTHER LIVES is a hilarious and insane tour into the emptiness in our modern lives. Centered around characters playing the popular "Second Life" on-line game (or "world"), Bagge takes us up and down a roller-caoster of maladapted mishaps as we watch the private lives of the main characters degenerate further and further. As we learn of each person's secrets - the ones they have both in the real and "virtual" worlds - we are drawn deeper into their personal undoings. As always, Bagge's characters are highly neurotic, and his drawings rivetingly dynamic, with a sharp eye for slapstick and plasticine expression. In other words - it's a BIG LAFF through and through! Plus it's got elements of Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Jacques Tati, Woody Allen, Basil Wolverton and Cher! You can't lose!
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on July 26, 2010
Peter Bagge's Other Lives was not what I expected to see from DC's Vertigo imprint - in fact, it's not what I expected at all - and that's probably a good thing. Described on the back cover as "Zelig meets Dr. Strangelove by way of The Big Bang Theory", I had certain expectations of what that would entail based on my knowledge of Bagge's other work. Having now read the book from cover to cover (in one sitting, no less), I would have to say Other Lives is like The Guild for grown-ups. Hang on a minute, that sounds a little disparaging to The Guild (which I absolutely love). Let me try again ... Other Lives is like a slice of The Guild mixed with a portion of Curb Your Enthusiasm and dipped in a little R. Crumb - a graphic schnitzel, if you will.

Peter Bagge introduces us to four distinct characters: Vader Ryderbeck (not his real name), a neurotic journalist who hides behind his nom de plume; his girlfriend, Ivy Chin, who wants nothing more than to marry Vader and have a big wedding; Woodrow Wooley, Vader's longtime friend and college buddy; and Otis Boyd, a man who may or may not be privy to national secrets as a member of the CIA. It's an interesting blend of people and personalities that Bagge manages to juggle in some rather unique and clever ways. Chance encounters draw them closer together and begin to expose the cracks in the walls of their 'other lives'.

Ultimately that's what the story is about - other lives and how the walls between them can break down. In this age of the Internet we are surrounded by obvious examples of people living alternate lives and realities online. Bagge uses this as a basis for his tale to get readers used to the notion, then uses it as a springboard to go one step further and shows how it's really the way things have always been. We may not have always had the Internet, and not everyone allows themselves to get so caught up in it, but one way or another we all lead other lives. The question is whether we can keep these lives separate or if one day they will eventually collide.

Other Lives hurtles toward this inevitable collision and, like any great car crash, you simply can't look away. The finale is like some Paul Thomas Anderson film where the ensemble cast are brought together and forever bound by forces beyond their control. Seemingly innocent events escalate to a point where they are no longer innocent. Ivy joins the Second Life world as an escape from her own and, in her desire to be free and different, begins an affair between her Avatar, Shi'a, and Woodrow's Avatar, Lord Burlington. It's just a bit of fun for Ivy who uses her Second Life to be completely unlike herself, but for Woodrow the lines are already blurred, and eventually he'll force Ivy to reconcile her two lives.

This is definitely an ensemble piece, but the main touchstone is Vader who probably goes on the biggest journey over the course of the book. While Ivy tries to live another life online, Vader's been living his other life openly for several years now. Having adopted his pen name as his main identity, Vlad Rostov (his actual name) has slowly suppressed his real self and created two distinct personalities - Vlad, the overweight, timid boy, beaten down by his father; and Vader, the slim, Award-winning journalist who still can't come to terms with his success. It's only as he sleeps that the walls between the two identities break down and force Vader to confront the circumstances that made him who he is. It's an interesting juxtaposition to the other characters and their other lives.

There's some nice twists and surprises in the story, particularly as the mystery of Otis Boyd unfolds and we begin to find out who he really is. I don't want to spoil anything, as this is an intricate part of the book's plot, but I found Otis took quite a journey as well (at least in my mind). He is the tragic figure in this Shakespearean drama, and one you will remember long afterwards. Bagge succeeds in making Other Lives an entertaining read which forces you to take a long hard look at yourself. While each of us seeks to escape into other lives, it's only by reconciling them that we can really move ahead and be happy. We cannot live behind some Avatar - we need to discover who we really are and then live authentically in that knowledge. I give Other Lives a solid 8 out of 10 and would like to give Vertigo 10 out of 10 for publishing such a unique work. You can find it available here and here. See more reviews like this at Pop Culture Hound (popculturehound dot com).
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on May 5, 2010
Bagge really captures the eerie dichotomy in post-modern life -- the way the internet creates an alternate reality that swallows increasingly large parts of our lives while remaining invisible to those closest to us in our daily life.
The "virtual" lives of his characters are like the 90% of the iceberg that floats under the surface of the water and when reality crashes into virtuality, lives sink like ships. Powerful stuff.
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on May 20, 2010
This is another crowning achievement in the career of Peter Bagge. A dark work ( in my opinion darker than Apocalypse Nerd) about modern age escapism done in a way only Mr. Bagge could manage. Although quite hilarious at times, this really shows how (in my opinion) technology is not always a positive thing.
It comes shrink-wrapped.
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on August 7, 2010
Betrayal, is the most basic human trait.
We are always exactly just what we don't want to be.
These two sentences form the basis for the central themes of Peter Bagge's newest work of twisted artistic graphic storytelling entitled: "Other Lives."

I have been amazed by Peter's cartoon worlds since my earliest encounters with his art found in R.Crumb's twisted magazine: "Weirdo" back in the mid eighties. Bagge, has matured to become a master of this medium of graphic arts. Not as disturbing as the works of Kafka, (thank gawd!) but, this tale does indeed become very close to that form of insanity.

There is so much to the plot of the this story that there is no way that I could do it the proper justice it deserves here. The lives of the four main characters of this tale, are interwined through their connection at websites and the fanatical devotion to whom they appear to be while living within the realm of the world of cyber-space. With so many truths in conflict with their fears, these four souls are going to end up somewhere that they never bargained for at the begining of this journey.

This tale builds slowly, then the pace increases like a wild ride at the Boardwalk that you thought you could handle when you purchased your ticket. As I read this book in three sessions, (and had some horrible nightmares in-between) I knew the finale was going to slam me into a nasty brick wall, and after some CPR and a few hundred hours of therapy at the looney bin, I had no chance for a normal existence, ever again.

EPILOGUE: This hospital bed is fantasic! But, nobody here in the Sanitarium will give me any details as to the contents of those pills they are force-feeding to me...."Bunnies" "Bunnies"
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on January 4, 2012
Best graphic novel I've read in a while.... Great characters, nice sub plots... a little bit haunting of a read.
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on August 11, 2010
This is a hilarious comic book (sorry, graphic novel) by Peter Bagge. It is about the interlocking lives of four neurotic people. Okay, the girl isn't that neurotic, but she does develop an addiction to playing an online game that is a funny parody of "Second Life". This is an uproarious satire of life in the early 21st Century.
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