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Other Lives HC Hardcover – April 20, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Bagge (Hate) again sets his sights on aspects of contemporary human dysfunction, this time focusing on a cast of characters who each hide behind fabricated identities. Vader Ryderbeck—né Vladimir Rostov—is a journalist who cannot move past his awkward teenage years and wallows in unwarranted self-loathing while coping with what remains of his Russian immigrant family. Vladimir encounters a scruffy conspiracy theorist who claims to work for the CIA, and can't shake the feeling that he's met the guy before. Upon deciding to interview the conspiracy nut, Vladimir sets in motion an escalating series of events involving himself, the alleged CIA operative, his old friend Woodrow (who is now an online gaming addict) and his live-in girlfriend, Ivy, who resorts to an online fantasy gaming persona for fulfillment when Vladimir fails to make good on his feeble marriage proposal. To say more would give away the surprises Bagge has in store for those who approach this story cold; while not as funny as some of his previous works more based on social commentary, this is prime Bagge that will surprise readers with its artistic maturity and a plot that is in no way predictable. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Secret identities, a comic-book staple ever since Clark Kent, here receive grimly humorous treatment for the twenty-first century. Best known for chronicling 1990s Seattle slackers in the comic book Hate, Bagge now gives us a quartet of neurotic misfits: insecure journalist Vader Ryderbeck; his girlfriend, Ivy; his computer-savvy friend Woodrow; and Homeland Security agent Otis, an asocial slob who still lives with his mother. Each has secrets, some more dangerous than others. Vader changed his name to escape his family, Otis is an undercover operative gone uncontrollably freelance, and Ivy and Woodrow are carrying on a torrid, avatar-based relationship in the virtual-space “Second World.” They could be grown-up versions of characters from Hate, for besides their misfit status, they share the distinctive speech patterns and attitude of bemused resignation that distinguish Hate’s Buddy Bradley and his friends. What ties them most firmly to their precursors is Bagge’s distinctively wild, broadly cartoony drawing style. Rather than undermining the serious themes that underlie the story, however, Bagge’s loopy visual idiom effectively reinforces the characters’ pathetic-but-humorous, self-delusional nature. --Gordon Flagg
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Top Customer Reviews
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.)
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"
FIVE STARS !!!
It comes shrink-wrapped.
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).