REMEMBER SECOND LIFE, the interactive online community that was going to be the new big thing on the internet? You don't hear too much about Second Life anymore, but a few years ago when it was making news it apparently caught the imagination of several authors and artists. Veiled versions of it have appeared in recent books by Jonathan Lethem, Charlie Huston, and now Peter Bagge's new graphic novel, Other Lives.
The story focuses on three out-of-control losers: Vlad Rostov, a struggling journalist; his girlfriend Ivy; and a divorced gambling addict. Faced with eroding trust in her relationship, Ivy starts an online-only affair with the gambling addict, while Vlad pursues a story on personality disorders and assumed identities. As the characters' personal lives become more problematic, they descend further into various guises and charades.
Other Lives shares some of the best aspects of classic noir stories, where characters are destroyed by their own reckless and selfish behavior. But it lacks the humor and satirical bite of Bagge's best work, the long-running Buddy Bradley stories from the underground comic Hate. In that work, his manic style helped characterize a world of misanthropic drifters. In Other Lives, it feels out of place. These losers aren't as funny as the alcoholic, apoplectic twentysomethings of Hate, and Bagge's goofy art seems wasted. While Other Lives' plot takes a very incisive and satiric look at its characters, they remain distant and unlikeable.