Who else never expected to see Rick again? I’d have to think that most people thought he was gone for good after the events in Jaka’s Story. Honestly, it might have been for the best if he had stayed gone, because this ends up being the most forgettable of all the books so far. Guys had Cerebus in a bar, sure, but it was funny because of all the other characters that kept popping up. Here you have Cerebus and Rick talking about stuff and it becoming increasingly apparent that Rick has a few mental problems to work out. If this was just a chance for Dave to talk more shit about women, well, that’s what the letter’s page and the Notes From the President sections are for. Don’t get me wrong, there were funny parts in this, and I guess you can’t technically skip it because a few important things do happen… you know, scratch that. Go ahead and skip this and see if you really miss it in the larger context of the story.
Want me to get into specifics? OK. The parts where Rick is writing a Bible according to Cerebus are impenetrable. No other word for it. It would have been hard to deal with anyway, then he went and wrote it all in Olde English style (or something like that. I don’t know what it was and I’m not about to research it). First thing I had to skip in the course of the entire storyline, and that’s saying something. Then there was the head wound that Rick mysteriously received. If that was supposed to a comment on how the women parasites tapped his brain (from his famous remarks in #186), then it was just nonsensical because he wasn’t even dating anyone at that point. Throw in a an almost completely useless and gratuitous cameo by Dave himself, and what you’re left with isn’t much. There are positives in the book, of course. His natural knack for dialogue makes it impossible for there not to be. Cerebus’s internal dialogue at times, especially after he realizes that Rick is crazy, are priceless. The return of a character that I didn’t think we’d see again after the events of Mothers and Daughters was a nice touch too. Overall, if you have to read this, skip the Bibley parts. Trust me. It’s just not worth it…
Take this book for what it is (a bunch of characters from Cerebus sitting around a bar talking) and you’ll love it. If you’re expecting Cerebus to storm Cirin’s stronghold or something after the events of Mothers and Daughters, you’re in for a rude awakening. I think I laughed out loud during this book more than I had during any of the other ones, and that’s saying something. Still, I had a few problems with it. He went a little crazy with the xerox machine in an issue or two. It helps you get the book out on time, granted, but all of these are (in theory) going to have long shelf lives, and you should really focus more on getting as much as you can in each issue as opposed to just making sure that it’s sitting on the shelf when it’s supposed to be. My humble opinion, but there you go. And I loved the parts with Eddie Campbell, Rick Veitch, Bacchus, the hunchbacked guy from Starchild and some other folk, but any casual fan wouldn’t have any idea who those people were. I think his theory is that only comics people are going to be reading his work (and he might be right after his rant in #186, because this is no longer a good book to show to a girlfriend unless that girlfriend has an extremely open mind), but I don’t know how true that is. There aren’t any other books that have 13 volumes available right off the bat, so I think that a lot of people who wouldn’t ordinarily read this might get it just for that reason.
Anyway, the story. There isn’t one. Cerebus is in a bar after the events of Minds, along with Bear, Mick, Boobah, and a whole cast of characters. If you’re looking for a good laugh in this series, this is it. He takes a different turn after this (I’ll get to that when I read them), so enjoy the light-hearted frivolity while you can. Actually, this is one of very few books that I can honestly say would be good for anyone to read, whether or not you’d read any other part of the series. How much history do you need to know for a bunch of guys sitting around and getting drunk? It’s not exactly all ages stuff, but that’s about the only thing that would prevent anybody from liking this, and they’d have to be pretty uptight, now wouldn’t they?
I was really pissed off by this book the first time around. Thought the ending of the Mothers and Daughters saga was an incredible cop-out, that Dave had run out of good ideas and the rest of the run would be dull as hell. Having already read 60+ issues after this book, I can see it a bit differently now. It seems necessary for the being behind the whole Ascention to be… but that would be telling. It makes sense. Kind of takes some of the fun out of the presumed naivete of the series, but it had to be done. I think I had a problem with the whole thing at the time too because the Cerebus story was such a distant second (or even third) to whatever else was going on in the book. Every issue in this arc opened up with a 2-6 page rant about the state of independent comics or the latest convention of small press folks. Granted, there weren’t very many of them back then, but the announcements shouldn’t have been coming before the story. Follow that up with a letters page that was more interesting than the story (not to slight to story, but this was right after the infamous #186 and the letters were pouring in about the whole mess. A lot of people were trying to figure out exactly how much he really meant out of all the stuff he was saying) and a preview that was always at least interesting, and Cerebus got the short end of the stick. I’m sure this problem has been solved for the ages through the phone book for this one, but it’ll always be a jumbled mess for me.
What does that mean for the state of the book? This one is absolutely crucial, like it or not. Whether or not it’s just an explanation for why nothing happens the rest of the way remains to be seen. Without giving anything away, this one is Cerebus and Cirin flying through space and meeting their maker. The whole Terim/Tarim debate is finally cleared up, you learn a lot of interesting things about Cirin, and the Roach is, to the best of my knowledge, forgotten completely. I was wondering if he would show up at all after Reads and he doesn’t here. Which makes a little sense when you take the ending of the series into context, but it sure feels like Dave forgot about him completely. After the first two books were nonstop action and revelations, Reads slowed everything down quite a bit and Minds threw the whole thing in reverse. Not a satisfying conclusion to the story but, as always, that could change depending on the how the whole series ends. It’s frustrating to have to be even more wishy washy than usual in these reviews, but there’s so much yet to be seen that’ll make a lot of this look like the work of a genius, or just somebody who wanted to fill up 300 issues. I’m confident of the former being true, but there’s always that small element that tells me that he might have gone a little bit nutty and changed his mind at some point in the story. We’ll see. For now, this is probably the most crucial book in the series, so that makes it required reading. Even if I did have a few problems with it…
There’s an immediate dilemma to my reviewing this. Do I review the text parts, the comic parts or both? Because the reviews for the two of them would be quite different. I’ll tell you right now that I’m not going to touch #186 though. Smarter people than me have done it, and that’s not what I’m here for right now. Well, obviously you can’t separate the text from the pictures. Like it or not, this is how Sim chose do to Reads and this is how it is now. One thing that he made abundantly clear in his rambling is that we are only the audience, so we have to accept that. That being said, this is my third time reading this over the years. It was a chore to get through when I was reading it month to month, but I looked forward to it because it helped me kill some of the dead time between classes, what with taking a couple of hours to read per issue (between the Notes From the President, Aardvark Comment, the preview each month and, oh yeah, the actual comic). The second time around I thought the text was intrusive and unnecessary and, quite honestly, I skipped over chunks of it. This time, I actually liked the first part of the text. It didn’t fit in the story, granted, but it was a needed shift in momentum from all the action going on in the actual comic. But the text bits changed when the fight between Cerebus and Cirin started, and that’s when this whole thing became self-indulgent and meaningless in the extreme.
What’s that you say? You can say anything you want about Sim’s comments throughout this, but “meaningless” isn’t one of them? Sure it is. What did it do for the story? Absolutely nothing. The only reason he put this in the context of the story is so it would be in print for as long as the series was. Honestly, he’s addressed this issue since then, and it’s never been in the storyline since. Why? What makes it less intrusive now than it was then? I don’t know, and I’m among the many who can’t figure this guy out for anything. Even with what he believes in, the guy is still one of my heroes simply for what he’s done in comics and how high he’s raised the bar for anybody else who wants to do a continuing story. This could have easily been the best of the books. How can you go wrong when you start with Cerebus, Cirin, Astoria and Suentes Po all in a room? He could have changed the name of the book to “Revelations”, kept the text out of it (or at least kept it fictional), and he would have had a masterpiece. Instead he’s got a jumbled mess. People, if you’re asking my advice here, skip the text pieces entirely. That’s not what his story is and I have no right to tell you that, but when I read this thing again through the years, I’m not going to read the text again. It would improve the story immeasurably, that’s for sure. All that being said, this is still a crucial piece of the larger story. Much as you’d like to, you can’t skip reading this one. Don’t get me wrong, the comic part is fantastic. The fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin is one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve been reading comics for a long time. He took a big chance with this one creatively, and I think he blew it. You’re entitled to your opinion, but after the third time through I just can’t see where this text helps the story in any way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to read otherwise, but we could have read it in the Aardvark Comment and everything would have been fine. It’s the mark of a great storyteller, though, that I can’t wait to move onto the next book.
OK, I’ve been looking around online for almost an hour now, trying to find an “intellectual” review of #186. I can’t find one. I’ve found a few that call it a “misogynistic rant”, but they’re really short on fact about that comment, and don’t offer much in the way of debate. Anybody out there know of any intelligent reviews of this issue? I know I’ve seen some before. Let me know, I’ll put a link to it up here.
I’m starting to wonder about the wisdom of reviewing every part of this storyline. Granted, this is how it was all published and I’m sure Sim knew what he was doing. And reviewing any of this series is, by nature, sheer guesswork. That’s just the case with reviewing books about ongoing series when the series isn’t actually done yet. This particular book picks up where Flight leaves off, obviously. Cerebus is back from talking to Suentes Po and is confined to a tavern due to a law against Cirinists entering such establishments. Astoria is confined with her followers in a hopeless situation and Cirin is in a coma due to the Upper City being mostly destroyed. Everything is in chaos, basically. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone as their first book in the series by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are buying these one at a time or something, I’d recommend getting all of the Mothers and Daughters books all at once. Every one of them has an ending that is going to bug the hell out of you if you have to wait for it to continue.
There are a few new technical things in this book, I guess. Tracts from Cirin and Astoria about Cirinism and Kevilism, respectively, are spread throughout the book. It gives a fascinating look into just how much time Sim put into these religions that he made up for the sake of this book. Granted, both groups bear more than a passing resemblance to Republicans and Democrats, but these are done completely through the eyes of women, which is a completely different perspective. And I honestly don’t see how somebody who could spend that much time on it and seem to have this much respect for the opinions of women turn out to be a misogynist. Does anybody know if he still claims not to be a misogynist? I know he did after #186, but he recently released another rant that all but confirms that he mostly hates women. Or that he just has no respect at all for their opinions and/or contributions to society compared to that of men. But that’s a conversation for another day entirely. Bottom line for this book: not as much action as the last one, but all kinds of important stuff is going on in the background and there’s no way you can miss this and make any sense of the rest of the storyline. Once again, if you’re already reading this series then you’re convinced of how vital this book is, if you’re not reading it you probably aren’t reading this anyway. In other words, I’m mostly just pissing in the wind here…
Bloodshed! Mayhem! Wanton brutality and murder! All the things you’ve come to expect from Cerebus. Well, not really, which is what makes this book such a departure, especially after a three year span (as far as the comic is concerned) without Cerebus doing much of anything. This one starts off with a bang, with him on the run from basically all the Cirinists and with them all after his head. Those sword fights are pretty realistic (it seems) too. Most movies and other media just show swords killing people without going into detail about how it’s done. This is all shown brutally in this series. And the Roach is back, and Elrod, and Suentes Po, and Cirin, and plenty of people where I don’t want to ruin the surprise. We get a few glimpses into why things are as they are, and plenty of things that seemed completely unimportant at the time are brought back for a brief spell. You’d have a hard time finding any character to ask “whatever happened to them?” after this whole story is over.
How does it stack up? Well, it starts off possibly the best large storyline of the series, at least so far. It’s not easy to pull off constant action for as long as Sim did and have me buy it either. That’s one other thing that I’m getting when I’m re-reading all this. He knew exactly what he needed to do to make this a hit (at least with his diehard fans) when he started this thing. He could have easily spent the rest of the series after this dealing with Cirin and everyone and with the politics of Iest, but instead he chose to take all kinds of chances. Still, that’s a review for another time. This one has anything that any fan of the series could ever want: a starring role for Cerebus, more plot advancement (at least as far as the “main” plot goes) than you could shake a stick at, and the return of almost every character who has meant anything to the story. All this while still going light on the giant blocks of text! This is a real crowd pleaser, and probably the right one to start someone with who isn’t convinced of this series and also has a short attention span. There are better books, sure, but most of what happens in them leads up to the event in the Mothers and Daughters story.
I was really curious to read this one again. I knew that I liked the end of it because of what it meant for the rest of the series, but I wasn’t sure how well I’d like the story of Oscar Wilde the third time around. I always kind of resented it because it took up valuable space that could have been advancing the story. Well, I’ve completely rethought that position. Sim has 300 issues to do what he has to with the story, and he knows it. This book wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if it was a couple of issues of Cerebus getting over Jaka’s death (so he thinks). With all these issues, he’s given the character time to realistically get over that trauma. And I’d forgotten how much I liked Doris as a character. Just something about the way that she makes every sentence a question and that little hair flip thing she does. Hey, I don’t know, I’m just telling you my observations here.
So now that I know that having Oscar around wasn’t a terrible idea, how well does it hold upÂ Pretty well. A whole bunch of pretty much forgotten (and, in some cases, useless) characters show up at some point for cameos. Oscar dying was dealt with in minute detail; there was no turning away from any of the unpleasant aspects of someone wasting away. Would I have preferred more Cerebus, more story in this one? Yeah, I guess so. But I’m also along for the ride in this series and am content to let a master experiment a little bit. Now, if he’s telling the story of Dostoevsky in the last twenty issues of the series, that’ll be a different story. Until then, you need these quiet moments to add importance for when all the big stuff happens.
I don’t think any graphic novel has ever taken me any longer to read. Between the distractions of trying to run a website and keeping it current with new creators and the whole mess that the world has become since 9/11, this just didn’t seem that important. The end result is that the book that I said was probably the best in the series got the short end of the stick. Still, reading it again did give me a few new impressions of the book, and not all of them are good. The story, for those who don’t know, is comprised mostly of Jaka’s struggle to become a successful dancer again after the Cirinists have taken over. Flashbacks to her childhood are spread throughout the book and serve to make her character much more fleshed out than it was before this book. I think this was the first time that a large panel and text on one side of it was used this extensively, and I honestly don’t know how he could have pulled this book off without it. He basically had to invent a new technique to make the book the way he envisioned it, and it’s hard not to praise something that inventive.
But how did the whole thing work? Well, at the time a lot of people were pissed because they weren’t getting enough of the main character. Strangely enough, the part of the book that works the best (“Mystery Achievement”) is without Cerebus for all but one panel. This part of the book deals with Jaka after (SPOILER) the bar she was working in was raided by Cirinists, with all the consequences that come from that. The scene where she is reunited with Rick is one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve seen, and the last panel of the whole thing… well, I’m not going to give THAT much away. I felt bad for Gerhard in parts of this book though. Lavish backgrounds all over the place and nary a character to be seen. It must have been a giant pain in the ass to draw those dungeon scenes. Was I rambling again? Sorry. Anyway, is this the best book in the series? As of right now, without having read any of them over again (and my opinion of some of them is sure to change when I read them all in one chunk as opposed to month by month), yes. Simply for the fact that it completely changed what this series could do. After the first book it could go anywhere within the realms of politics or conquest. After High Society it seemed like that part of things was over, but with Church and State we saw that that wasn’t the case at all, and that led me to believe that we would be getting more of the same the rest of the way. It’s the easy thing to do, and the easy story to follow. Sim took a huge risk of alienating his readers by focusing on Jaka and the sheer humanity of the characters and succeeded in making a book that I’ll happily force on any friend.
Wow. Mick and Keef, Cirin, The Judge… what you have there is almost everybody who is important to the storyline all in one book. Don’t forget the return of Astoria. What keeps this from being the best of the books is the ending, and I can’t really talk about that here. As for the rest of the book, well, it’s fantastic. Probably the best of the series right up until #102 or so. Secret Sacred Wars Roach, Dirty Drew and Fleagle, Elrod, and all the rest, it’s probably the funniest of the book up until this point too. I’m pretty sure that title belongs to Guys, although I’m not there again yet. It starts off with Cerebus, almost dead with his brush with Epop and without a clue what to do. I really don’t want to ruin anything for you people that haven’t read it, there’s just much goodness in here and most of it is because of surprises. If you’re just not sure if you should buy this one and already have the first book… well, that could never happen, because I can remember how the first book ended. If you want to buy this book first or something, don’t be stupid.
How do you review a story when it’s only halfway through? Well, seeing as how this whole series is ongoing and a lot of things are going to change, I guess it isn’t that big of a stretch. This is the first half of the biggest Cerebus storyline of them all. This half goes pretty much everywhere. Cerebus after he’s forced to give up being the Prime Minister all the way to Cerebus becoming the Pope, this volume gives the impression to me of not that much happening. That’s probably just because he’s a lot more active in the other books, what with trying to take over the world and all. He mostly sits around and tries to collect gold in this one. What makes this book notable is how much farther the plot advances here. It’s obvious that Dave has settled in for the long haul in this one and that he has a definite plan for the whole series. He sets things up in this one that aren’t dealt with until Mothers and Daughters (#151-200), if then. Suentes Po and Cirin and both major parts of the story and we don’t see them until much later in the series, but they’re both talked about plenty in this one.
So what happens in this one? Well, certain things are wrapped up and all that usually does is raise more questions than it answers. This also introduces Bishop Powers, Bear, and Boobah, and it features appearances by almost everybody from his past once again. Another incarnation for the Roach with Wolveroach, which got Sim in a lot of trouble with Marvel back in the day. Some folks say that a lot of Cerebus is padding. You could point to the two dream issues where almost nothing happens, or you could point to the fact that you can usually sum up the plot advancement in two or three sentences of 4 or 5 issues, and I just don’t think that’s a valid reason to slam this book. Look, he knows exactly what he’s doing. I’ve had my doubts along the way, but he has come through every time and I’m perfectly content to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve seen a lot of what pacing can mean to a book with Lone Wolf and Cub in the past year, and I think that’s basically what he’s trying to do. He’s having fun with dialogue and the characters, and he’s making it a lot more interesting than just saying “time passes”, basically. Suspend your disbelief, try not to see the man behind the curtain and you’ll get along just fine. As for the actual review of this series well, obviously I’m going to do that after I read the next book.
Went into this one thinking that this was my favorite volume of the series. Obviously, that’s something that I’m not going to know until I read the whole thing again, but this is at the very least in my top two, with whatever else might somehow replace it. The issue where Cerebus is “kidnapped”, the election, the campaign to get elected…. There’s a whole pile of priceless moments here. The volume starts off with Cerebus getting the royal treatment, much to his surprise. Turns out that not very many people get as close to Lord Julius as Cerebus did and people are willing to pay dearly for that kind of influence. If Cerebus was content with that he probably would have been fine but hey, this is Cerebus that we’re talking about. He sets his eye on becoming the Prime Minister based on the advice of a figure from his past, and the rest of the book is about his attempts to win the office (in an election where his only opposition is a goat that is sponsored by Lord Julius). Incredible, dead on political satire is what this is all about. And to think this was written almost 20 years before the election debacle we had this year… You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.
I’m not sure what else to say about this one, honestly. It’s perfect. The Roach in a new persona, another Mind Game, the introduction of Astoria (my second favorite character, my favorite if you want to take humor out of the whole equation), Duke Leonardi (Lord Julius’s cousin, a flawless caricature of Chico Marx), his inner conflict between being the Prime Minister and returning to his old ways… It’s all here. If you hate Cerebus, then you hate this volume anyway, and nothing I say here is going to change things. If you love Cerebus, you probably like this book quite a book anyway and agree with me. If you’re undecided and only want to give it one book to decide if you’re going to get the rest of them, get this. Unless you’re one of those hoity toity intellectual types who think that a comic has to have artistic merit beyond the story, in which case you should probably get Jaka’s Story and prepare to be disappointed in about half of the volumes. If you’re going to get them all (or at least the first three or four to make an educated decision), then get the first volume before this one. If you want a more in-depth review, too bad. I’m too busy basking in the glow of a truly great book…
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.