User, by Devin Grayson


Can you become a better person by living a lie? The answer makes for surprisingly good copy in User, a three-issue miniseries from Vertigo/DC Comics.
Meg, the story's protagonist, is a girl with serious problems - her morn has abandoned the family, and her dad is turning a blind eye while his best friend molests Meg's younger sister, Annie.  Our heroine escapes into an online role-playing game, entering a world of knights, dragons, and damsels in distress, and reinvents herself as Sir Guilliame de la Coeur, a French Paladin. Thus beginneth her career of falsehood. She seduces and abandons a sensitive woman, then turns her romantic attentions to the menfolk.The complications that arise are familiar to anyone who's spent time in an online community, where people change identities like T-shirts and relationships get messy fast.

Writer Devin Grayson weaves these small complications into a larger plot that successfully bears the weight of its gimmicky split structure: half online, half real world. Her artwork emphasizes this dichotomy - reality is represented in a muted, almost monochromatic style, while the Net environment is displayed in lurid colors and follows a looser set of physical laws. User is presented in Prestige format, so each 48-page issue appears on high-quality paper, and the printing does the artwork justice.
Books one and two follow Meg's descent as she abandons her everyday existence to live as Sir Guilliame. Even when absenteeism gets her fired from her job, she can't pull away from her PC. After her exasperated father gets rid of her computer, she goes offline to search for her online mentor, a wise old knight named Kaltron.  WhenMeg meets him in real life, she discovers that he, too, has a lot of secrets. In book three, Meg's online philandering leads to betrayal and danger for Sir Guilliame. But after spending so much time playing a noble character, Meg eventually finds nobility in herself, as well as the courage to help her sister.

The story's not without some technical gaps. Readers will wonder how this giant D&D chat room is administrated. And if Meg can become a superknight her first time in the room, why are so many people playing second-string characters? Plus, Grayson also gives Meg too many navel-gazing internal monologues. Ultimately, though, the story's momentum carries it past all this, and Meg stumbles toward a hopeful ending.-

Maurice Martin Vertigo/DC Comics: www.dccomics. corn.