"Reset" #1 is the latest release from comics auteur Peter Bagge, the first part of a four-issue series following washed-up and misanthropic comedian Guy Krause as he is given the chance to re-live his life as the test subject in a new reality simulator device.
What sounds like a simple high-concept premise is, as it turns out, explained in some detail by Bagge, who pays as much attention to the low-level detail as the higher idea. What could have felt like a Jim Carrey comedy of social awkwardness instead ends up being a Philip K. Dick-style look at reality and how we relate to it. Krause is a reluctant participant in the experiment, resistant to what he sees as a form of psychotherapy. Although he seems the perfect candidate, revelations near the book's end suggest that his present failures may not all be what they seem.
Krause himself is a difficult lead to engage with -- he's abrasive, ungrateful and cantankerous and to cap it off, he's not even very funny despite being a comedian. He's a loser, but in a way that seems deserved rather than unjustified. However, by witnessing the type of failures of his past, we come to understand him a little and the fact that he's the wronged party can offer some measure of sympathy for a character who in any other story, would still be due a come-uppance.
Bagge's visual style is distinctive and firmly rooted in the world of underground/alternative cartooning, but at the same time, it's incredibly polished. Here, he tends towards the more realistic end of his spectrum, concentrating on storytelling over expression. The scenes within the simulation are given their own distinct look, reflecting a more computerized feel (though it's "computer-drawn" rather than pixelated) which suggests that despite the apparent success it has in approximating reality, Krause isn't fooled yet. This may change as the story progresses.
There's no doubt that fans of Bagge's other work will enjoy this, but it may surprise those who have found his other series (such as "Hate") a little too acerbic. There appears to be a strong, traditionally structured story at the heart of this issue and plenty of directions in which it could develop. It's a slow-burning introduction with an occasionally frustrating lead, but by the end of the issue it's concept and characters should have you engaged enough to want to continue -- if not to learn what'll happen to Krause, then at least to see what the real truth of the Reset technology is.