The Little Death of Reality: Alt-Life

Alt-Life by Thomas Cadène

Published: October 17th, 2018
Publisher: Europe Comics
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Format: ebook
Length: 184 pages

Alt-Life is the story of what happens when two horny French people volunteer as beta testers for an all-encompassing VR experience that lets them escape from the polluted, dying Earth. Once you’re inside the VR devices, which look like giant red eggs full of undulating cilia, the system integrates with your body and you live out the rest of your life on the inside.

For the first year they’re inside the devices, Josiane and René are alone in an infinite world, testing out the system so that the rest of humanity can join them when it’s ready. They explore its limits and discover that there aren’t any as long as your device has enough memory. They also explore every possible sexual fantasy. Josiane sinks into endless hedonism, but René quickly becomes disillusioned with the lack of substance in his imagined encounters and loses his sex drive.

This, then, is where more existential questions come into play. If you can have anything you imagine with the snap of your fingers, does any of it have meaning or value? What does it mean to be rich or powerful in a virtual world? The arrival of other humans in the virtual world brings even more complications because, by that time, Josiane and René have changed in immeasurable ways.

While René and Josiane are inside their virtual world, we also get glimpses of the world outside. It’s obvious that the Earth has become inhabitable, presumably due to some kind of environmental catastrophe (sound familiar?) and humanity has created these bizarre organic VR devices as a way to preserve themselves in some form, even if that means living out the rest of their lives in an imaginary world.

From reading some of the other reviews of this book, it seems like the wall-to-wall sex was a bit much for some readers, but Alt-Life is about more than just sex. Instead, the author explores the nature of humanity and what it could mean to give up on “real life” and retreat into a virtual refuge. It just happens to be a particularly horny refuge.

I especially enjoyed the art style. At first, everything is minimalist, all solid colors and simple lines, but once Josiane and René start letting loose and playing with their abilities, there are huge panels full of bright colors and meticulous detail. It’s a beautiful book. My only criticism is that the dialog is lettered in a tight cursive, which makes it difficult to read.

REALLY LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

Purchase at: Comixology

Neither is True: Grand Passion by James Robinson

Grand Passion by James Robinson

Art by: Tom Feister
Colors by: Dave Curiel
Letters by: Simon Bowland

Published: September 6, 2017
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Crime
Format: Paperback
Length: 120 pages

Grand Passion doesn’t begin to live up to its title. Instead, it tells a small-scale story that ends up feeling a bit dull.

The main characters are a cop and a bank robber who (we’re told) fall in love at first sight. Really, though, they fall into bed together and then get caught up in a shootout.

Most of the story takes place in a handful of locations over a very short amount of time, and everything wraps up at the end in a neat little bow. Of course, the ending only gives one of the characters what they want. The other has to make do with pretending to be someone else for the rest of their life.

Not only do we not get to know these characters before their story ends, we’re asked to believe that they have such incredible sexual chemistry that they are willing to forgo a lot of baggage to be together. I didn’t believe it for one second.

To top it all off, an unseen character who speaks in a distracting country dialect narrates the entire story. The author lays it on so thick at times that I wasn’t always sure what the narrator was saying.

The art is decent enough, but the story is totally forgettable. Grand Passion is the sort of crime narrative that Ed Brubaker could pull off in his sleep, but the execution here is uninspired.

DISLIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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Just… Ugh: Irresistible by Gregory, Santacruz and Riesco

IrresistiblePublished: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Zenescope
Genre(s): Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback
Length: 148 pages

I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting when I requested a copy of Irresistible from Net Galley. Maybe I thought it would handle a clichéd male fantasy in an interesting way. After all, Y: The Last Man spun out a masterpiece with similar material. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken.

Irresistible tells the story of Allen Keeg, a whiny jerk who hasn’t had sex in a year and a half because his girlfriend broke up with him. After he whines about this for a few pages, he saves an old woman from muggers. When she asks how she can repay the favor – anything, really – he tells he her wishes all women found him desirable, because he’s a horny asshole at heart. Naturally she’s actually a secret witch, so her eyes glow when he walks away and she grants his wish.

The next day, a pretty barista surprises Allen in the bathroom and bangs his brains out. He seems to enjoy this, but his constant narration makes sure to remind us that his nightmare is only beginning – not because he feels guilty, mind you, but because it isn’t exactly what he wants. Every woman he meets – leggy, buxom model-types, of course – immediately jumps his bones… but the only woman he wants, his ex, won’t have him. Naturally he calls her and shows up at her house uninvited like a creepy stalker, but that doesn’t change her mind. Go figure.

The story only gets more unpleasant as it goes along. One of his conquests shows up at his apartment and starts cutting herself when he isn’t immediately happy to see her. Woman start fighting each other for his attention, and the sex starts happening against his will. Never mind that all the women he’s having sex with were brainwashed by a spell, of course. That’s consent, right? The climax of the story is entirely gruesome and only confirms that we’ve spent way too much time with a self-centered sexually obsessed sociopath.

This book misses the mark as a cautionary tale by a wide margin. The main character is a jerk from the start, the women are cartoonish sex-bots, and the resolution is both nasty and predictable. As for the art, it was competent but nothing special. It’s a rare book I hate so completely, but this one wins the prize.

HATED IT
HATED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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