Free Pass

Julian Hanshaw. Top Shelf, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-60309-505-1

The simulated dreamspaces of the coming metaverse and flash points of modern politics collide in this eerie and low-key cringey comedy from Hanshaw (Cloud Hotel). Two tech workers get their sexual fantasies turbocharged when they beta test a new invention with dystopian potential. Huck, a moon-faced comments moderator, is tasked with separating the hateful from the distasteful but becomes increasingly aggravated by suggestions he block comments that promote beliefs his colleagues find simply disagreeable. His programmer girlfriend, Nadia, is as addicted as Huck is to pornography—but does not share his conservative grievance politics. As the days count down to a divisive election, Huck and Nadia distract themselves with sex fantasies ranging from the mundane (creating “free pass” lists of people each is allowed to sleep with) to the fantastical (an AI-powered sex android that takes on the appearance of any person on the internet). The art is brilliantly colorful yet somewhat grimy (sweaty close-ups, dirty surfaces), emphasizing decay and entropy as the characters slide further down various rabbit holes in a slightly uneven narrative. Situated somewhere between Jeff Noon’s surreal sci-fi eroticism, Douglas Coupland’s slacker comedy, and a raging Reddit throwdown, this comic reads like a dispatch from an uncomfortably close future. (May)