Other Lives - Peter Bagge 

New works by alternative-comics giant Peter Bagge are always something to look forward to ... even if they sometimes disappoint, which is the case with "Other Lives," his first graphic novel for Vertigo.

The title refers to the identities we front to others versus the ones that are true. Sounds like heady stuff for the artist and the medium, but his characters remain as rubbery as ever. There are four major ones: journalist/plagiarist Vader, who's a commitment-phobe when it comes to his Asian girlfriend, Ivy; Vader's friend, Woodrow; and Javier, a conspiracy theorist and supposed CIA agent whom Vader is interviewing.

How the last two characters interact with the first two is where the plot forms. The match to the kerosene is Woodrow and Ivy's cyber-affair on a Second Life-esque Web site. The convergence results in a finale that feels forced and prompted a bit of disbelief in this reader.

Worse is that none of the characters are likable, perhaps not helped by Bagge's pen, which tends to exaggerate the ugliness of his subjects. They're hateful people, making for a read that is neither enjoyable nor humorous. The only saving grace is that it is brief. Still, it's 45 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

This marks a misstep for Bagge, who usually delivers. "?Rod Lott

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