Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I was on my own for 5 minutes before I was sexually assaulted by a squirrel."
Hardly the Rosetta Stone for this graphic novel, but it made me laugh. And Ivy wasn't lying: she was a novice roaming Second World in a fake identity she'd been persuaded to take up by her fiancé's friend, stumbled on an S&M room, and an online avatar looking like an anthropomorphic squirrel took advantage of her! This is what they're typing to each other as they wend their way through this virtual reality.
Quincy: Don't call me "Woodrow" in here.
Quincy: And you shouldn't have named your avatar "Ivy", either, Ivy.
Ivy: Why not? That's my name!
Quincy: Exactly. You want to be anonymous here. It frees you up to be who and whatever you want to be.
Ivy: Huh. Oh well, Too late now.
Quincy: You can always create a NEW avatar. I have more than one myself.
That particular piece of sad self-indictment ("It frees you up to be who and whatever you want to be") is perhaps the key to this comedy as much as the dual identities. And just because it's a burlesque it doesn't mean Bagge isn't making some perceptive points about identity, the internet, and how one might unconsciously start to confuse our real lives with our virtual ones.
It's not just the internet, either: the back cover boasts faces split down the middle, and there are plenty of lies being told throughout, some by delusional schizophrenics, others by self-deluded addicts and all will come tumbling out at the expense of those simply trying to be honest with each other.
It kicks off in 2003 in the Cyber Surveillance Department of America's Homeland Security where Otis Boyd flags up a suspicious internet exchange and personally takes charge of the arrest, torture and detainment of suspected terrorists... although this turns out to be a story told in a bar five years later to impress a couple of chicks. Its narrator is confronted by the main protagonist, an investigative reporter working on a piece on how people assume false or multiple identities on the internet. He recognises Otis but can't quite place him. Certainly he believes the entire story to be a fabrication so he leaves him his card in the hope of setting up a meeting: Vader Ryderbeck. But this itself is the nom de plume of Vlad Rostov, a man who remains haunted by a childhood of obesity and self-loathing and a father who himself turns out to be other than he seemed. After finding a photo of Otis in an old school yearbook, Vader/Vlad and his new fiancée Ivy visit another old school friend, an overly chirpy Woodrow who identifies Otis as Javier Ortis with whom he's still in contact online via Second World. The novelty of Second World fascinates Ivy and when Woodrow offers to introduce her to this virtual reality it sets in motion a whole new board game of escalating fantasy and deceit...
The creator of HATE has always been drawn to losers telling fibs and trying to get away with it, but this - in a world of internet grooming, online poker, online role play and otaku-like devotion to all things outside reality - is a particularly pertinent piece with a wider relevance than I first considered. Because I have to concede that I myself chose to adopt a professional nom de plume some twenty years ago in addition to which I was given the nickname Peter some twenty-five years ago which quite innocently went on to confuse those who knew me on the post-punk scene when they came into contact with other friends and relatives. But if you honestly think that I behave in or outside the shop as I do in the letter column/blogs and naughtier reviews here, then Page 45 would quite rightly have no customers left at all! The point Peter is making, I think, is that the danger would be if I confused their entertainment value and its amused reception in that particular environment with a mandate for behaving that way on the shop floor as well. Conversely, as we've all seen, the anonymity of the internet does seem to free certain emotionally retarded cowards into being who they evidently want to be: belligerent bullies and thugs.
... I wrote in 2010.