Written & Illustrated by Peter Bagge
Published by DC/Vertigo
Admission: I’ve never enjoyed Peter Bagge’s comics work in the past. Yet after reading his latest, Other Lives from Vertigo, I’ve decided that I need to revisit his past work, because Other Lives is simply superb.
This time out, Bagge’s chronicling four characters whose lives intersect in both their everyday, humdrum reality and in various ways via the artificial, semi-delusional secret lives that we all imagine for ourselves. In this case, Bagge’s protagonists include two “Second World” fanatics, one of whom also visits the online casinos obsessively; one self-loathing, self-critical reporter with serious family issues; and a role player and programmer selling a massively complex delusion of government conspiracy.
A study of outright lies and incidental misdirections, Other Lives dissects the divide between how we imagine ourselves and how we truly are. Dark and quite hilarious, the narrative moves quickly and confidently from character to character, each scene building the contract between what is and what is wished. Bagge’s ability to craft sad-sack losers that readers will still emphasize with is uncanny here, while still keeping enough distance to allow readers to appreciate their many faults.
Bagge’s illustrations fall into the “take it” or “leave it” category. He’s clearly very skilled at layout and pacing, a versatile and evocative letterer, and able to present a range of comical and serious emotions. His grossly exaggerated characters will likely rub some readers the wrong way, but the style suits the outlandish personalities of the book’s cast to a T.
Virtual lives overpowering real lives, it’s a powerful and creepy possibility, one skewered expertly by Peter Bagge in Other Lives. Witty and funny, the script stabs to the heart of the matter, dissecting the delusions, self-denials, and self-hatred that fuel that divide between fantasy and reality, and how easily the line crumbles. It’s excellent dark comedy, and well worth the time.