Thursday, 2 August 2012

Reset issues 1 & 2

Reset is a 4-issue mini-series by Peter Bagge, published by Dark Horse as part of their Dark Horse Originals line.  I consider myself a Peter Bagge fan but, if I’m being honest, that is based mainly on my love for Neat Stuff – a comic that ceased publication more than 20 years ago – more than a love for any of his later work, and I was never even that keen on Hate.  I liked it, but I certainly didn’t love it, maybe because I just couldn’t relate to Buddy Bradley’s grunge adventures in Seattle in the same way that I could relate to his time living (and arguing) with his family in Neat Stuff’s Bradleys stories.  When Hate started, I was still living with my parents, even though I was in my early twenties, and when it ended, I had not long met and moved in with the girl I would eventually marry, and I have never shared a house with anyone I wasn’t either related to or romantically involved with, which may explain why I enjoyed Hate more towards the end of its run, when Buddy married Lisa and moved back in with his parents.  I bought every issue, and even replaced them with trade paperbacks a few years ago, but it’s still something I only ever read the once (a situation I really should rectify) and I wasn’t particularly upset when the series ended.  I continued to follow Bagge’s work for several years after Hate, and even bought the first few Hate Annuals, but a lot of his more recent work didn’t seem that funny at all, more like an outlet for his increasingly conservative views (like Chester Brown, Bagge is a Libertarian), and eventually I stopped following his career entirely.

Reset, then, is the first new work from Peter Bagge that I have read in quite a few years.  It’s ostensibly a sci-fi story, about a washed-up comedian called Guy Krause, who is offered the chance to take part in a virtual-reality experiment.  This experiment involves Guy putting on a virtual-reality helmet and reliving moments from his own past, starting with his high school graduation.  His actions in the virtual-past have no impact on the real world – this is not a time travel story – but Guy is able to do things differently in the virtual-past, and is able to hit a ‘reset’ button if he screws things up again.  In fact, these first two issues mostly take place in the real world, because Guy hits the reset button A LOT.  At one point, Guy walks out but is forced to come back for financial reasons, when he loses an acting job to ‘a better-known has-been’, but most scenes involve Guy arguing with his new employers.  He wants to know their motives, how they managed to gather so much information on his past, and the real purpose of this virtual-reality invention.  Is it just an expensive porn thing, that allows men to go back in time and screw girls who rejected them the first time around?  Probably not, but its real purpose is still not clear by the end of the second issue.

So far, Reset isn’t exactly hilarious, but these two comics raised quite a few smiles, and even a few sniggers.  Guy is a grouchy bastard, of the Studs Kirby variety, but he’s also a self-aware grouchy bastard, who is able to take criticism, so he’s not completely unlikable.  My only complaint about these two issues really is that a bit too much time was taken up with arguing, and not enough time was spent in Guy’s virtual past.  I’m sure this sort of idea has been explored many times before elsewhere, but as someone who regrets almost everything I ever did or said – I don’t trust anyone who says that they don’t have any regrets! – I find it a fascinating one, and I want to see where Bagge goes with it.  Sure, while in his virtual-past, Guy does try to pick up a girl who called him a ‘spaz’ at his high school graduation, uses his knowledge of future events to win money betting in Vegas, and even picks up a couple of whores at one point, but not before he has a couple of attempts at convincing his parents not to divorce, and tries to convince his dad, who (presumably) died of lung cancer, to see a doctor (after his first heavy-handed attempt, his employers hit the reset button and tell him to try again, but without sounding too much like a ‘teenage Nostradamus’).  Even after winning a lot of money in Vegas, his first thought was of paying for his dad’s operation and paying off his parents’ mortgage, all of which was quite touching, and despite the James Bond-style cover for #3 that is shown at the end of #2, suggests that this series won’t be straying too far down the obvious routes that a less mature creator might have gone down.

I will definitely pick up the last two issues of Reset – or at least buy the trade if there is one – and reading these has inspired me to see what else I’ve missed by Bagge in recent years.