Friday, January 12, 2007

Apocalypse Nerd #1

Apocalypse Nerd #1, January 2005, Dark Horse Comics
by Peter Bagge

What do movies like Armageddon, Independence Day, and War of the Worlds have in common? Aside from the suspenseful peril from an interstellar threat shtick, apocalyptic films like these always tell their stories through the eyes of the defiant hero, the brave everyman that decides to spit in the face of mortal danger and oftentimes inadvertently discovers the means with which to vanquish impending doom on a global scale. Rarely has the tale of the common common man in the midst of worldwide panic been told. Mars Attacks did it. Maybe Louis Tulley in Ghostbusters did it. Now, Apocalypse Nerd does it. Thank God. Finally, a testament for the rest of us.

In Apocalypse Nerd, distinctive and acclaimed cartoonist Peter Bagge introduces us to Perry, the “nerd” in question, who, while returning from a weekend mountain getaway with his machismo buddy Gordo, discovers that they missed a nuclear attack on Seattle, courtesy Kim Jung Il. With a lack of information and in the sudden grip of desperation, Perry and Gordo decide to return to the cabin from whence they came, until they realize that Gordo’s friends that own the cabin may return for shelter and security, too. Surely, their jars of pickles and cashews couldn’t keep them all alive! So, Gordo decides to hunt for deer, successfully wounding one, but Perry earns some stripes in the end by dealing the fatal blow. With a flare gun to the deer’s head. Desperate times . . .

Bagge’s tale is surely survival of the whiniest, and while Perry’s constant complaining and pessimism offers both amusing and annoying respite to the bitter, potential reality of the story’s terrorist backdrop, our Apocalypse Nerd is also the most relatable character I’ve read in a while. In one instance, he fears the worst for all of mankind, in another, he tries to muster the courage simply to remain in the cabin alone while Gordo goes a’hunting. Gordo is a foil, his bravado a bit too exaggerated not to classify the character as an archetype or an allegory for Bagge’s perception of those Will Smith or Tom Cruise types. In a few cases throughout the latter half of this issue, I expected to turn the page and find Gordo dead by some obscene accident of his own design, leaving Perry to fend for himself. Although I have no doubt that this trend continues throughout the series, I wonder, would Bagge actually kill him? Or is this contrast between these two reactions to the apparent end of the world what drives our desire to read stories like Apocalypse Nerd? Until our inevitable crisis comes, is the only way to determine how we would respond based on which character we like (or loathe) most? Art is, if anything, a broken mirror.

Bagge includes a short tale at the end of this issue dubbed Founding Fathers Funnies Presents, starring the “odd couple” of John Adams and Ben Franklin. It’s an odd yarn in the context of this issue’s cover story, unless Bagge sought to compare the end of America with its humble beginnings. A few moments of the strip were chuckle-worthy, but I think the concept deserves either a comic all its own, or a web-comic forum. Did Bagge have pages to fill, or was he genuinely and equally passionate about this tale, too?

So, President Bush confirmed it. We’re sending more troops into Iraq. I can only imagine that we should anticipate potential fallout from such a decision, that some color-coded scale should tell us that the terrorists might attempt retaliation in the face of our military’s boldness. Bring it on. I know what to do. I finally have a hero. I have the Apocalypse Nerd. Maybe we all have an apocalypse nerd . . . inside each and every one of us. It’s in the bag.


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