So I was half way done with my fried peanut butter and banana sandwich today, when I thought: “I really don’t have a comic read pile entry for this week”.
Really, I have been rereading nothing but Rom comics this past week and I’ve already done a Rom, the Spaceknight entry, so I am sincerely stuck a bit.
Desperation being the mother of true necessity however, I decided to move up my previously written Cerebus entry to his week, seeing that I do have 10 issues of the first “phone book” under my belt. That’s more than enough to write a blog about surely. Indeed, I did want to wait until I had finished the first 25 issues which makes up Cerebus Volume 1 before I wrote this blog, but losers can’t be choosers so here we are.
Plus I cut a deal with my fellow Ghost podcaster, blog writer, and kidney donator if necessary, Rob Stewart, that we would do back to back Cerebus reviews this week so that our readers can get something similar to the Read Piles they receive on our weekly show, aka, more than one half ass jokers opinion, but two half ass jokers opinions. So if you want the other side of this coin, come back tomorrow for a second helping of the world’s most famous sword swining aardvark.
So there are some important notes about this series which I should get out the way first.
1) I am only really reading Volume 1 of Cerebus because I felt I needed at least some back story prior to reading the really good stuff like Volume 2 “High Society” or Volumes 3&4 which make up “Church and State”. So from the word go, I realized that reading this book was like reading someone’s rough draft. Sure, you half expect it to be some what grueling what with there being things that don’t make sense or could be polished etc. but you are hoping that its still coherent enough that you get the general gist of what’s supposed to be happening and who knows you might be surprised by the insights.
2) This is actually the second time I’ve read this. The first time was when I was in 8th grade, but really there was so much stuff going on that it all seems like a blur. That and the fact that when I was in 8th grade I was only half reading all comic books while really looking for the panels with the half naked chicks, so a lot of the subtlety of any series was lost on my hormonally revved up teenage mind.
3) Also since reading this series back the first time, I’ve actually read a fair chunk of Marvel’s original Conan series. Seeing the Cerebus started life as a Conan parody, I actually get a lot of the jokes now. This seems to be very important to understanding most of these early issues, or at the very least snickering at the jokes. I personally would recommend that you sit down a read at least a couple Conan’s before diving into Cerebus as it will make the pill go down a little easier.
Overall, nothing really happens of importance in the first 10 issues of this series, which actually says a lot given that the rest of the series is known for being deep and meaningful in terms of a sociological and/or philosophical discussion on a great deal of topics ranging from the rule of law to the relationship between the sexes. Really, again, the series is in its infancy and it shows.
However it’s still an important read as even from the early days, the character of Cerebus is a striking one. Despite being a walking talking cartoon animal run rampant in a world of men, even from these early stories, Dave Sim crafts Cerebus as a rugged, pessimistic survivor, fiercely independent and more than capable of handling anything that this weird fantasy world throws at him.
Personally, my favorite issue of the first 10 has to be issue 5 in which Cerebus is “captured” by a tribe that thinks he is the reincarnation of their ancient god. It’s really the first time we are given a glimpse of the complexity of the character we have with Cerebus as he seriously considers staying with the tribe and ruling them as their god king. He thinks about all the wealth and power he could attain by molding the tribe into an elite army and setting it out upon the world. All he has to do is play along and pretend he’s not Cerebus but this long dead figurehead.
He then proceeds to destroy the statue of their dead god with his bare hands.
It’s actually a pretty gripping little scene with some fierce writing about an individual refusing to stand on the shoulders of others accomplishments but instead only accept what was truly earned. And Cerebus isn’t this ancient god, he hasn’t earned any of the praise or worship through his own actions and so it doesn’t really belong to him. And that’s something that he can’t abide. Powerful stuff.
The rest of the series has glimpses of greatness but nothing really as strong as that issue. For the most part the remainder of the stories, Cerebus just plays the straight man foil to a lot of the eccentric characters Dave Sim rolls out for our amusement. From the parodies of the Michael Moorcock character Elric to the chain mail bikini clad Red Sonja, you can tell Sim is having a blast making fun of the tropes of the sword & sorcery genre. But really other than the character of Jaka, who will play a major part in future stories, there’s not much more substance to any of the characters we are introduced to.
Does that mean I’m going to stop reading the rest of volume 1? Not at all. I mean I’m a man on a quest. I intend on reading at least the first four “phone books” of the series, so that’s at least the first 122 issues or so. And from what I’ve read, the better stuff is coming up in those later volumes.
But I do have something to look forward in the upcoming issues of this volume. As a big Groucho Marx fan, the character of Lord Julius who should be introduced in a couple issues should be a real treat to read. Plus there’s the Cockroach…gotta love some Cockroach.