Feb 22, 2008

Preliminary Thoughts on Completing Cerebus

(Originally written Oct. 5, 2007. I had just completed my first full reading of Cerebus the Aardvark. I'm planning on going into this more, once a friend of mine is finished reading it, and we have a chance to discuss it further.)

I'm not sure how to react to the Cerebus epic. I definitely have to say it seemed to hit it's high point (for me) near the beginning, with "High Society", "Church & State" and "Jaka's Story". Brilliant volumes. The Mothers & Daughters stuff was good, definitely head and shoulders above the usual comic book fare. After that, though? "Guys" seemed to drag on a bit for me, as did "Rick's Story". The two volumes of Going Home were good, though more as commentaries on a couple of famous writers, rather than parts of the Cerebus story.

And then there's "Latter Days" and "The Last Day". Now, I know Dave Sim underwent a spiritual awakening while he was writing these books. And I am resolved to read his commentary, through the mouthpiece of Cerebus, on the Torah. But there's that little voice in the back of my head that wonders how different the end of the series would have been if Sim had not found God. Would it have been much the same ending, just without the religious overtone? Or was that always where Cerebus was heading? I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts on it. I've read most of the commentary I could find online, which cleared some things up for me, though it did make the end less affecting for me, once there was some explanation of what actually happened to Cerebus after he died. That one splash page had me tearing up, and I kind of wish I could hang on to that idea of the ending, instead of what was actually implied.

Can you tell I'm trying to talk about this without actually giving anything away?

I can see myself re-reading everything probably up to the end of "Rick's Story", because if you want a happy ending to the Cerebus saga, that's where you should stop. The last four volumes I found very hard-going. Maybe once or twice more, but no more than that.

But the whole thing with Shep-Shep was weird. Kind of right out of left field. Sim claims it's what he thinks happened with Egyptian culture, that there was a culture long eradicated before ours that was at that kind of height of medical knowledge, which is interesting and not without it's supporters. I just felt there was a lot left out of "The Last Day" that might have served to put the confrontation with Shep-Shep into a greater context. Or maybe I just missed it because I've spent the last month reading 6000 pages about the life of a misanthropic aardvark and my brain's a bit fried.

Is Dave Sim crazy? It's a question that seems to come up a lot in the post-Cerebus criticism. I can't say that he's crazy for having a spiritual awakening and throwing himself fully into it. I've done it myself, though to a lesser extent. But was he crazy to have it inform the story of Cerebus so much? After so profound an experience, could he have kept his religious beliefs apart from his art? Should he have?

Perhaps the best question is, if that's not what we expected from the end of Cerebus, what did we expect?

Good question.

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