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Peter Bagge. Dark Horse, $15.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-61655-003-5

By the time we meet him, comedian and actor Guy Krause has done a stellar job of torpedoing his personal life while wrecking his career. With only dismal prospects in front of him, the abrasive entertainer agrees to serve as the guinea pig in an experimental Virtual Reality program that will allow him to relive various pivotal events in his life. Two stories play out in parallel; the researchers, set on pioneering a new interrogation method for America's alphabet soup security agencies, fumble their way through a tale made up of equal parts ominous conspiracy and hilarious ineptitude; meanwhile Guy, unlikable and self-destructive, embraces the opportunity to escape the trap his life has become and by so doing transcend the negative persona he has created for himself. Bagge's art, seemingly comedic but quite deliberate, presents the reader with figures who are awkward and repellent but the story itself has considerable sympathy for its characters, from self-sabotaging Guy to the cohort of ambitious but flawed researchers. Bagge takes what would in other hands have ended as yet another conspiratorial thriller and turns it into a strangely hopeful tale. (Jan.)