These days we live our entire lives quite literally on the record, thanks to advances in technology and social media like twitter and cellphone cameras. It’s gotten to the stage where things are only real if I can ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ it; if you don’t have a photo published of a event then it never really happened, it may as well have just been in your mind, it and you do not matter. The great contradiction of this age and the Internet it was ushered in by, is that it is one where information is both perpetually permanent – good luck getting rid of anything incriminating from your Facebook page – and utterly untrustworthy – thanks to the likes of photomanipulation; more than in any other medium you simply cannot trust what you see on the Internet, but you also can’t unsee it or unshare it with your friends and family. Peter Bagge seems to have seen this technological tension at play and shaped the idea of a story from it; imagining a world where one can essentially edit the digital record of their past and have it feel as real as anything in the present.
This story, Reset, follows a man named Guy Krause who is brought in by a shady team of scientists to test out a new Virtual Reality device that places you in a recreated version of any moment you are able to remember. Krause is, or rather was, and actor and this is not irrelevant; as an actor he should know how to get into the character require – be it eighties Krause, infant Krause, etc. – he should know innately how to survive in these ‘scenes’ using his singular skills. unfortunately though that isn’t the case because the reality he is being placed in isn’t entirely virtual; this isn’t fiction, it’s Reality TV taken to a whole new level, reality gaming. Imagine being able to live through your life under the rules of the video game medium, imagine if reality had extra lives and save points. When you die it’s simply a matter of respawning back before the fatal incident; and when the consequences of an action don’t suit you, you can just reload, go back and make another choice, head down another path. It sounds wonderful right?
How though would you know when to stop experimenting, how would you know which choice is the right one? As cliché says a butterfly can flap its wings and cause an Earthquake on the other side of the world, if that’s true then who knows what that earthquake then causes in turn; life is impossible to conceive, our minds simply too infertile a tract to contain all the implications. When Krause sits down and starts using this machine he makes the mistake of trying to; the very first beat of the scene breaks him as he continually resets, attempting different tacts to differing result, never truly satisfied with any of them. And even if he were, even if we were eventually able to miraculously make the correct decision would it still mean anything without the sense of achievement that comes from avoiding disaster? Reality would become rote, we’d be constantly repeating the same acts in an attempt towards perfection, ruining any chance of it in the process. There is something so appealing in the idea of cleanliness and contrivance in our personal narrative, we so want our scripts to be heavily re-written, but the truth is that life really has to be improved.
Unfortunately most of this philosophy comes from my own mind more than it does reset itself and thus it is very unvarnished and unnecessary; the book itself only skims over these ideas after introducing them, it’s focus is elsewhere. Bagge seems much more interested in telling the story of this human stubble as he attempts to make his way through the grimy, glossy paged world of show business; mirroring and mocking the plethora of celebrity TV shows out there in our reality. Normally there would be nothing wrong with that, but when you are introduced to an idea as incredibly interesting as this one, you want it to be the centre of the book and not the bonus material. I haven’t read any of his other material but Bagge seems to be an artist that favors the mundane more than the insane, this I guess is the material he is more comfortable with which is something of a shame if you ask me. The book itself is written to fit in the slimy, shallow world that Krause resides in and so it’s not overly eloquent, nor is the art ever aloud to be beautiful ( the characters being ugly is of course essential).
I hate to be cynical but it certainly seems to me as if Bagge threw in the sci-fi story idea as a way of selling the book to Dark Horse and them to us readers, because believe it or not those types of tale tend to sell better than comics akin to cinema verite. If this is the case then the trick worked on me and will probably continue to do so through the series’ short run. If this all sounds overly harsh then know that it is tempered by the subjective; this simply isn’t the book I expected or the kind of book that I would have loved were I prepared for it and that exaggerates the few flaws that I found within it. Despite all of that though Reset is a very interesting idea and even if I may well spend every issue wishing that another author was writing it that still means something. And besides who knows, maybe Bagge will do better the second time? Cliche also says that practice makes perfect, so i’ll preserve some hope for issue two.