P. Bagge is perhaps best known for his Reason magazine cartoon work. His quirky humor, libertarian politics, frenetic art-work, and profusely stressed-out characters appear in vignette-like sketches almost like animated narrative fiction.
Along comes Apocalypse Nerd, a six-part comic book series from Dark Horse comics, (Publishers also of the three-part Serenity comic books.) Issue #1 debuted in February 2005, and #2 arrived in stores around October 2005. The color covers mask the black and white interiors, yet the books are populated with the same Starbucks-in-veins type characters as in Reason.
Imagine the end of the world, for example via a nuclear holocaust. Bagge’s heroes, two disparate buddies heading back to work in the big city after a week at a cabin in the woods, encounter a world gone mad heading in the opposite direction. Chaos erupts at a gas station, shots are fired, and anarchy rules the day. They’re informed that the Koreans nuked the US, and people are fleeing the cities en masse. What’s a middle-aged computer geek with zero survival skills and a crazed Republican shoot-first-ask-questions-later supposed to do? Head back to the cabin and hunker down, that’s what.
The first issue of Apocalypse Nerd details the initial shock and first attempts at survival in the woods. Faced with starvation, the two city folks must figure out how to get food, and worry about what might happen if someone else (the owner, for example) should stumble across their hideaway. One of the men has a rifle, and some experience with it, so he heads out to bag a deer. The kill is not clean, and the uber-nerd is forced to use drastic and gory measures to finish the poor animal.
Picking up six weeks later, issue #2 finds our two heroes suffering from an unmixed diet. Too much deer meat appears to have a disastrous affect on the intestines, sending the nerds into thunderous gassy outbursts and spasmodic fits of the runs. In graphic detail, one of the men is interrupted by the arrival of the cabin’s owner, who is quickly dispatched by the gun-toting partner. The owner’s wife and two kids, who witnessed the whole thing, run screaming into the forest.
Wracked by a brief moment of conscience, the wimpy computer jock decides to leave the cabin and head back to town. He makes it almost back to a gas station when his buddy appears, and they decide two people are better than going it alone. At the gas station they manage to bungle events again; with the result being another dead body. Apocalypse Nerd is not for the squeamish, and not always funny, but has its moments. So grab your bug-out-bag, your Claire Wolfe books, and head for the hills with Bagge on one weird ride. Each issue functions as brief window into a world gone mad, with people unprepared to deal with the situation, screwing up everything along the way. One of character sums it up as follows: “I know it’s not funny. What is anymore. It’s either laugh or cry, ya know.”
As a bonus, each issue features a savagely irreverent look at the Founding Fathers. Comic books attack your sensibilities far differently than novels or movies. There’s little or no libertarian content to speak of at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how Bagge handles the remaining four installments. What’s left of civilization for these two crazy nerds to find?
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