Sim, Dave – Cerebus Volume 5: Jaka’s Story

April 26, 2010


Cerebus Volume 5: Jaka’s Story

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.