Archive for July, 2009
From Wikipedia -
Second part of the story-arc Mothers and Daughters. Cerebus crashes back to earth. He is assisted by a mysterious old woman who is being openly spied upon by the Cirinists; she sends him to a bar to hide. This story arc includes a parody of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (DC Comics/Vertigo), with The Roach playing “Swoon” (a parody of Dream (DC Comics)” and Elrod playing “Snuff” (a parody of Death (DC Comics)”. Astoria and Cirin symbolically duel in a dream realm. The book includes excepts from books written by Astoria and Cirin that describe their differing beliefs. Cerebus flies across the city to slay Astoria, but is interrupted by the physical arrival of Suenteus Po.
Yeah. Sums it up all right.
Maybe this is why Sim keeps coming back to already established characters for comic relief/exposition…
Would explain a lot (although with 6000 pages, one would think that Sim had the room to do a large cast – but chose not to). The comic relief goes on and on, diluting the seriousness of the Ascension/Cirin/Astoria subplot for people like me who are at least willing to give Sim a chance with what he’s doing. Pity that, since this volume gives me some things to like about Astoria’s character.
In my opinion – another placeholder session. It’s going to take some time to review Reads, since there’s huge sections of the volume in text, and in comic form, which for the sake of my own sanity I’m going to read separately. At least the text there isn’t overly-hard to read…
First part of the story-arc Mothers and Daughters. Cerebus’s return to Iest and slaughter of Cirinsts leads to a very brief failed revolution.
Cerebus ascends into darkness and speaks with Suenteus Po. Meanwhile, Cirin works to manage her sect and arrange her own Ascension. Artemis, with Elrod as his sidekick, also stages his own impromptu revolution under his new persona “PunisherRoach,” a parody of the Marvel comics character The Punisher.
A placekeeper of sorts – art as gorgeous as usual, but apart from Cerebus’ failed revolution, not much to interest me.
Instead of staying with Cerebus to keep the suspense up, we get exposition of Cirin’s character and the Cirinists…
Long…long…stretches of exposition by Suenteus Po…Galvanized yet?
And more comedy relief by the PunisherRoach and Lord Julius. (No grabs for that – sorry.) Just more maddening flip-flops in tone for this volume, overshadowing the well-written parts, like this one: Cirin has decreed anyone who has seen Cerebus alive is to be killed – I thought this was an awesome exchange between one of the Cirinist soldiers and an eyewitness (right side of page)…
Further evidence that Sim is losing interest in the title character.
From Wikipedia -
This short volume (which Sim has referred to as a “short story”) concentrates on the last days and death of Oscar Wilde, attended by his trusted companion, Robbie Ross, rather than on Cerebus himself, who puts in only a minor appearance. Believing Jaka to be dead, a catatonic Cerebus spends his days mourning on the patio of a café. At the conclusion of the volume, Cerebus overhears a conversation by two Cirinist jailers insulting Jaka. Enraged, Cerebus murders one of them and then springs into action.
Again, a really well-written (although, since Sim used excerpts of Ross’ correspondence in the creation, is “writing” the proper term for those vignettes dealing with Oscar? Would “selection and illustration” be better terms?) volume, especially in the nuances of the minor characters.
Cerebus, being catatonic, doesn’t do much until about page 149 of this edition (which is I think the fifth printing, 12/1995)*.
Here’s also where Sim jars me (at the least) again – the Cirinist** telepathy angle…
I know all about the “gimme” rule in Science Fiction (or fantasy, call it what you will) – “Gimme the existence of one thing (faster-than-light drive, aliens, telepathy) and a story can be written about it that doesn’t bring the reader out of the story saying, ‘that’s stupid’ “. Problem is, I thought Cerebus himself was supposed to be the “gimme”.
Especially after the events of Church & State.***
Where did the telepathy come from? I notice that in the flashback scene, Cerebus has his long nose circa issue #1 or so. Sim trying to cover up why he didn’t have anybody mention it in passing when Cerebus was discussing Cirinists with Suenteus Po back in Mind Games II? (High Society pg. 49, First printing, 6/1986 )
* I wonder if this is the first page of a new issue, and Sim decided to put more of the story into action here?
** Terimist? Look! Now Sim’s got me talking like the world he depicts really exists!
*** and I fully realize that I’m sounding like an idiot here – let’s see, the talking aardvark, the Regency Elf, the monsters, the wizards, the ascension into godhood subplot – all that shit – didn’t phase me. But the telepathy…?
And now up to this volume – which I have to admit, is one hell of a piece of writing (aside from the tonal shifts that I write about below)…
From Wikipedia -
Under a brutal Cirinist dictatorship, the fallen Cerebus runs into Jaka again. She is illegally working as a dancer in her landlord (Pud’s) tavern; he treats Jaka kindly but secretly spends his days lusting after her. Cerebus agrees to live with Jaka and her husband Rick as their houseguest. That story is interwoven with unreliable tales of Jaka’s childhood told by a writer, representing Oscar Wilde, using notes and stories provided by Rick. In the end Cerebus disguises himself and travels to the Lower City; while he is gone, the Cirnists find the tavern, kill Pud, and arrest Jaka, Rick, and Oscar. Jaka is made to sign a confession of immoral behavior, and is reunited with Rick; however, the Cirinists reveal to Rick that Jaka aborted the son that Rick always wanted. He lashes out at Jaka and is allowed to divorce her (although he is maimed for striking her). Jaka returns to Palnu, and Cerebus returns to the inn to find it in ruins.
While reading this, I started to think, Well – he’s starting to lose interest in Cerebus.
Most of the characterization I found interesting was focused on characters who were not-Cerebus: Pud (who Sim wrote in sympathy to “much of the comics-reading community” due to his repressed sexuality. (more than a grain of truth to that characterization, Mr. Sim – kudos).
The Oscar Wilde stand-in, Oscar…
The really well-done scene between Jaka, Rick, and the Cirinist inquisitor Mrs. Thatcher…
And some characters who are hanging over Sim like albatrosses – for one, Lord Julius. Fun as far as he goes, but when he keeps recurring as a character antagonist to someone we’re supposed to care about – Jaka – the effect for me was jarring.
In fact, the turn-on-a-dime tonal shifts of this graphic novel (this being part five of same) do really grate. I understand that Sim supposedly had the whole thing planned out, but the tonal shifts seems to be telling a different story.
Lookit that! An appleseed in Bristol, WI – and earlier than the 29th of August. Guess I’ll be attending this one. Guess I’ll attend this one and see if I still suck…
I’m working on why my beautiful scans/files are not openable in a new window to see them full-size. Stay Tuned, anonymous reader…
Onward then; more brilliant (at times) writing mixed with surreal imagery…spoilers ahead…
Cerebus returns to Iest’s Upper City and uses Weisshaupt’s cannons to destroy Thrunk and reclaim the papacy. Astoria has mysteriously killed the Western pope (“the Lion of Serrea”), and Cerebus must execute her for the crime in order to retain his papacy. Cerebus confronts her in a dungeon, and after being taunted by Astoria, he grants himself a divorce from Red Sophia, marries himself to Astoria, rapes her, and then divorces himself from her. Astoria’s trial, which echoes with similarities to a repeating pattern of historical executions of reformers, is interrupted when Cerebus makes the predicted Ascension to the Moon that is the culmination of the land’s religious prophecy. There, Cerebus meets the Judge, a timeless, godlike being who has watched over history from the very beginning. The Judge explains his version of the creation myth of Cerebus’s universe, before warning Cerebus that he will live only a few more years before dying “alone, unmourned and unloved.” The Judge tells Cerebus that if the Aardvark ever questions his suffering, he should remember his “second marriage” to Astoria. Cerebus then falls back to earth, where he discovers that the Cirinists have invaded, and his empire has collapsed.
I’m not too keen on the other aardvarks in the series. Feels like lazy writing to me. That Suentius Po and Cirin are both aardvarks seems a little too convenient.
Nice peek at some of the silly stuff that would lead to a schism in religious sects though…
I do have to give Sim credit for his writing though – one never knows where he’s going to go with the narrative, especially when you get a guest star with the Flaming Carrot.*
Coming to the rape scene (and in no way would I endorse such behavior in real people), it’s handled in a tasteful manner, and in no way do I sense Sim condoning the act – it merely happens in the narrative, organically through chacterization.
Here’s where he starts going overboard with the page layout (sorry, not adding a scan here – they’re difficult to read in the original form as it is), and with the rendering of dialect. Now, I acknowledge he’s a master at this, but I’m starting to think he’s overdoing it when I have to stop reading in order to sound out the text to figure out what a character is saying.
And the layout issues – forcing the reader to turn the book physically in order to read the pages – sorry dude, asinine.
It also feels like Sim is reaching with this book of the narrative – almost like he’s looking around for a big finish. The stuff with the Judge near the end of the volume especially – almost as if he’s exorcising some personal stuff through the medium.
* Look him up, kids.
Sorry for the wait – trying to wrap my thoughts about this in a nice little package, and it’s not working so well. So, instead of trying to summarize the story myself, I’m going to use Wikipedia’s entry for a summation (which is probably more trustworthy than most subjects Wikipedia covers) – if this throws me out of the blogging community for some sort of violation, so be it.
After some travels, Cerebus returns to Iest and is manipulated by Weisshaupt, who wants to use Cerebus’s popularity with the masses, into again becoming Prime Minister of Iest. Weisshaupt has maneuvered himself into the tenuous presidency of a federation of states (including Iest, Palnu and New Sepra) as a bulwark against the Cirinists. Weisshaupt lures Cerebus into a drunken marriage to Red Sophia, but ultimately over-reaches himself when he has Cerebus appointed Pope of the Eastern Church of Tarim. Finally out from under anyone else’s control, Cerebus lets absolute power go to his head and demands that all the citizens must give him all their gold or face the end of the world. Sophia walks out on Cerebus, and then he discovers that Jaka is married and pregnant. Cerebus is threatened by Weisshaupt’s secret invention of cannons, but Weisshaupt suffers a heart attack and Cerebus continues his papal reign of terror. He is finally ejected from the Upper City by the sudden invasion of the giant stone Thrunk, who claims to be the God Tarim.
We also start to get a view of the Cirinist/Kevillist schism that going to fuel a good chunk of the rest of the story as well. Gerhard shows up in issue 65 (thanks Wikipedia), and is quite apparent in how he took the workload off of Sim.
I do find the comic funny – look: Cerebus doesn’t have a lower jaw! Just a seeming cylindrical mouth opening in his head…
However, I’m not too keen on the experimentation that Sim was building into the comic (and will continue to build into the comic – reading ahead, remember?) The experiments in typography are fine for the very occasional use, but when you do it for several issues it does get tiresome (and hoo-BOY is it going to get tiresome!)
And what an animator Sim would have made (and might have been)… look at this 2 page spread…
Although the craftsmanship does suffer in other parts…
it’s kind of like (and I paraphrase) when Terry Gilliam gave advice for animators saying that it easier to animate a character behind a tall swath of grass that it is when you can see his legs, because then you have to animate the legs, so use a long coat, set of wheels, etc – anything to make yourself less work. Is that what Sim’s doing? But then, what do I know about self-publishing a 6000 page graphic novel?