Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reset #1
Peter Bagge
Dark Horse

 Peter Bagge first got famous in the 90's with his epic creation, HATE, starring an angst-ridden cast of grunge hipsters in Seattle, and later Jersey.  I couldn't help but be blown away by the pacing, acrid dialogue and hilarious situations that struck way to close to home even now as a struggling bohemian with a bad temper and a drinking problem.

However it is 2012, and Peter Bagge has decided to try his hand at other subject matter, which is science fiction and midlife crisis.  I read the first installment of this which was handed to me by a friend in Oakland, CA with the warning of "It sucks."  A lot of artists get softer in their old age and want to do work that either perpetuates their previous modus operandi in a watered-down way or takes a turn in an awkward way... I feel that this story is the latter.  Chris Ware and Dan Clowes switched up their subject matter to themes personal to them as they got older, and so does Peter Bagge, but I don't think he's really succeeding here.

The problem is, he was never a science fiction writer and his idea to have a character engage in a virtual reality machine designed to transport him back to his high school years is too similar to the Matrix.
 Adrian Tomine comes to mind, as the teenaged scarification theme arises.  Our protagonist, a failed actor in Los Angeles, (not a very convincing character) is transported to the day he was jilted by the love of his life and the rest of his existence is plagued by those repercussions...  I had a hard time giving a shit.

I guess the old adage, "write what you know" comes into play here.  The colorful experiences in HATE are now very cookie-cutter and not very engaging.  The characters seem to be ghosts imitating the lively characters in HATE that I grew to love.

My critical attitude here is also strengthened by the fact that I don't really enjoy his drawing style.  The facial expressions are nice, but they have a very post 1980 sunday comics feel which isn't very esoteric or classic enough for me to want to sit through a sub-par storyline.  These comics feel like I'm watching a B-movie about virtual reality or a failed pilot from the late 90's and it's 2011.  I don't know, I could always eat leftover Chinese food and listen to the Melvins if I wanted to feel the way this comic made me feel...  like some kind of faded enthusiasm sprouting from the Grunge scene, and a kind of Technophobia that might result from someone using a 56k dial-up modem.
Alien Invasion Volume II
Lala Albert, NYC
Self Published

 While in NYC, I was given this Zine by the artist Lala Albert at a private comic book sale near Chelsea in Manhattan. 

The cover was a day-glow reference to our lost adolescence.  I first encountered her drawings in Vice Magazine a year or two ago.  The eyes and the Anime faces were a mysterious combination of artistic concentration and utter kitsch that were fascinating and hilarious...

She also did quite a good job with her piece that appeared in Happiness #2 this year, a Zine printed in NYC by Leah Wishnia.  http://happinesscomix.tumblr.com/
Initially I assumed her work to be done by a 19-21 year old male.  The subject matter never varies.  The women are waif-like and always sport the grotesque, reptilian eyes.  The consistency of this theme, application and prolific output speak of maturity which conveys the irony.

The naked woman theme and the strong presence of Anime influence and science fiction aspects definitely make one cringe, however.  Had this art been entirely sincere, and done by an older male, it would denote severely stunted sexual development and warped consciousness...

Often people I show this work to react with either confusion or laughter, but some people say "These chicks are hot," which makes me start laughing at them.  In any case, it's a theme which has a design element and a trademark I can stand behind.  . . . Because I have an art degree and used to read cyberpunk manga as a teen.