I was a big fan of Pete Bagge’s Hate comic back in the day. Apparently, based on the issue number of this comic, that day was about eight years ago, which makes me feel old but also makes me feel like my opinion of Bagge’s work is based on the perceptions of a younger me. Of course, Bagge was also eight years younger at the time, and it’s interesting to consider how his characters have changed since that time.
In fact, reading this comic produces exactly the opposite question, making me wonder just what aspects of his characters haven’t changed in that time. Instead of running a comic book and used record store, Buddy Bradley now owns a crappy house next to a junkyard. Buddy also has apparently adopted the odd affectation of wearing an eye patch even though he doesn’t need one. Now Buddy looks an awful lot like Popeye, with an ugly hat sitting awkwardly atop his scratchy bald head. Meanwhile, Lisa has turned from being a hilariously depressed and co-dependent girlfriend to being kind of a wallflower wife and mother of the couple’s child.
In other words, Buddy and Lisa are very different from the people they were several years ago. That’s fine and actually kind of cool. It’s kind of refreshing to see characters change and evolve over time, just like we all do. But the Buddy and Lisa of 2007 are just less interesting to me. Just as Buddy looks strange, the world he lives in is also strange and hard to relate to. Another problem for me is that Lisa has lost some of the edge of her personality. This cranky, moody, hilariously difficult woman has become a much duller and rather shrewish wife. When Buddy castigates his friend Jay for posting an “obnoxious pro-life billboard you put up — cruelly reminding Lisa of all the abortions she had in her youth,” it has the unfortunate effect of reminding the reader of Lisa’s younger, more interesting days.
But really the problem isn’t so much that the characters are less interesting than they were in the past. It’s that this comic kind of lurches forward in fits and starts rather than having a nice flow. The ending, for instance, comes completely out of the blue. As well, Bagge doesn’t do a compelling job of explaining the immense profits to be made in the recycling business. His few mentions of the money seem to put some dollar signs in his characters’ eyes, but a bit more of that would have made the comic funnier.
But the Bradley strip takes up only the first twelve pages of this issue. The rest of the comic is filled out with other content by Pete Bagge. There are eleven pages of “Bat Boy” reprints from the Weekly World News, along with three shorter strips that fill out the back of the comic. I have to say the Bat Boy strips did nothing for me, and the one-pager “The Expert” was an absolute cliché. But the last two strips almost make the issue great for me. I found the first, a three-pager contrasting New York and Seattle, to be quite fun; perhaps because I live in the Seattle area and always enjoy seeing other people make fun of our local landmarks and attitudes. The last panel of the strip, where Bagge complains about loud people at Mariners games, was an especially funny inside joke for those of us who live in the “Pugetropolis”.
And the back-cover one-pager, about a close encounter with Dick Cheney, is the best thing in this issue. It’s bitingly satirical and funny while simply being a close observation of the events that happen at a party.
But overall the issue is a disappointment. In fact, the funniest moment in the issue is an advertisement for the magazine Comic Book Artist, which has been missing in action for over two years. In the ad, they promise a new issue of CBG in spring 2008. Yeah, and maybe Big Number #3 or Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #3 will come out that same month. If only Buddy Bradley’s adventures had been as funny as this advertisement.