Sim, Dave – Cerebus Volume 1
I know better men than me have tried, but one of the goals I had when I started rereading this series was the answer to what I thought would be a simple question: when did this series start getting good? Obviously it was somewhere in the first volume because High Society is fantastic, but where? After reading this book for the third time (or maybe the fourth… my memory ain’t what it used to be), I have it figured out: somewhere around the middle. I tried by just going through the book on an issue by issue basis and seeing when I started really enjoying it. #1, bad. #2, slightly better, but bad. #3 introduces Red Sophia, which will be important later on, but still pretty bad. #4 has Elrod, but it’s a pretty raw version of the character. Better issue, though, just still not something that I could recommend to somebody just starting the series to get them hooked. Did I mention that that’s the criteria? #5 has Bran Mak Muffin and has importance later on, but still isn’t very good. #6 has Jaka but she looks like a throwaway character at this point. The issue is better, but still not great. And on it goes. I decided that I’d just go by feel and see when I unreservedly liked the book, and it turns out that it’s right around the time that Lord Julius shows up in #14. Granted, there are many great moments before that, not the least of which is the introduction of the best character in the book for my money, the Cockroach.
Something else I was trying to figure out with this book was whether or not I was right in my initial judgment in that people could just skip this and start with the second volume. I still think that’s accurate, even though I had a friend who recently started reading this whole thing and he liked the first book just fine. I think that it’s OK, but when compared to how good the series gets later, it doesn’t make much sense to waste that much of your time on a 500 page behemoth that’s just OK. When you read the whole series and love it you’ll go back and have more appreciation for this volume anyway, so there’s really no reason to start here. As for the contents, it’s hard to say what this one is about, as it’s the only volume that doesn’t have any real unifying theme. It obviously starts off as a Conan parody (keep in mind that this series started in 1977)and you can see Sim gradually gaining confidence and ideas as the volume moves along. Red Sophia, Jaka, Elrod, Roach, President Weisshaupt, Professor Charles X. Claremont, Lord Julius, a lot of the pieces of the puzzle are here, but it’s obvious that they’re fairly directionless at this point. Still some great dialogue and it’s worth getting for that alone, but the story really doesn’t go anywhere until High Society. This does set up a lot of situations for later though. Cerebus running out on Jaka, the ever-changing Roach, Cerebus’s constant desire for money over all other things… There are 25 issues in this and a lot happens, it’s just that most of it isn’t something that you need to know right away. I said it before and I’ll say it again: buy this after you’ve already read the rest of the series and you love it. If I see anything in the other volumes that I forgot about, I’ll tack it onto this so you’ll know to buy it first, but I just don’t think that is the case.
Note from the most wishy-washy reviewer around (and I’d like to thank Mr. Charles Schultz for making that not show up as wrong on my spellchecker): get this volume first. Forget everything I said, there’s just way too much stuff that they refer back to in the next volume. Just keep in mind that it gets a whole hell of a lot better and you shouldn’t hold this volume against the rest of the story.