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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cerebus Vol. 5: Jaka's Story (Graphic Novel)

By Dave: Sim & Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanheim; 6th Printing edition (September 1991)

Softcover  486 pages

Finished 7/21/2017

Amazon Listing

    “Over that night, as Jaka slept soundly for the first time since her mother’s funeral; as those wavering horrors which had filled the air between her and the room visible to her were banished at last; as she shared the solitude with Missy for the first time in their short life together…”
    This volume collects issues 114-136 of the series. Cerebus takes a back seat here, becoming a minor character and actually disappearing for the last quarter of the book - not that it detracts from the story. I have heard and read many people claim that Jaka’s Story is the pinnacle of his artistic achievement in art and story.
In this volume also the author begins his award-winning expressive use of lettering and speech balloons to illustrate the character’s verbal rhythms and intonations.
    Cerebus has returned to Earth, his empire, religious and secular, destroyed. The city-state of Inest, the largest in the world, has been overrun by Cirin and her religious fanatics. They are roaming about the city killing and maiming all those who will not bend the knee to the new faith of female supremacy. Men executed, men disfigured, men mutilating their genitals to join the new priesthood. It is commented on that most of the torture is confined to the poorer areas who cannot defend themselves- thus showing the true cowardice of the movement. Cerebus finds himself alone and in need of shelter from those who must surely be hunting him.
    The Cirinist movement is a violent sex-negative feminist sect with fascistic goals and an ideology determined to ground down a person’s soul until they are nothing but a ball of conformity. Women, especially mothers, are at the top of the food chain with everyone else expected to bow before them. Convinced that all men are on the verge raping women if their passions are aroused, their violent rhetoric is dove-tailed with certain elements of Islamic extremism. Cirinists dress in burqas, revealing only their eyes and act in a sort of Police of Vice and Virtue manner, committing summary executions on the spot for minor crimes, especially any hint of sexuality. It is interesting that the author had been discussing and warning us of what is now the norm for fourth-wave intersectional feminism at least two decades before it emerged. He saw the writing on the wall.
Author Dave Sim
    The action takes a jolt, or come to a screeching halt depending on your opinion, and a detour in style. Cerebus, back from a jaunt to the moon, spends the next 25 issues mooning over his lost love Jaka. The extraordinary events of the past issues not phasing him a bit- or changing him. Cerebus, if anything, is  the static character. Previously the action revolved around mystic prophecies, armies warring, political intrigue, betrayal, magic, and murder. Now it changes to emotional, rather than physical danger. A love triangle between her, Cerebus, and her unemployable husband Rick (technically a quintangle if we add their neighbor’s lust for Rick, as well as Jaka’s employer Pud secret covetous attitude toward her as well).
    This alternating of the tone is fitting to the character of Jaka. She had voluntarily given up her life of pomp and privilege to live simply and dance, diverging her power from the reaction of crowd swooning over her. As such, a story focusing almost exclusively on her would not involve world shattering events, but be a celebration of the mundanity of life, the in-between the exciting moments.    
The tone of these issues reflects the quiet before the storm. Alternating between a, possibly exaggerated, narrative account of her upbringing in Palnu under the Groucho Marx analogue Lord Julius, to her current existence dancing in a forgotten inn and shacking up with Rick and Cerebus, who add nothing to the larder. It is painfully apparent that this state of affairs cannot stay as it is. The bar has no business, Pud’s lust will boil over, Rick will need to grow up or end his marriage, Jaka will have to move on elsewhere, and Cerebus will have to flee or be captured by Cirinist forces.
    We are introduced to two new characters in this arc. One being Oscar, not-so-loosely based on Oscar Wilde. Who is secretly writing Jaka’s story based on conversations with her husband and his command of dialogue and body language. As such the stories from Jaka’s past, while factually correct, are possibly misinterpreted emotionally. The author does an excellent job capturing Wilde’s flamboyant, yet refined, style. And in the prose sections he captures Wilde’s style almost exactly with an overabundance of detail in every single act, which simultaneously casts a critical eye on their respective society.
    Next we have Rick, Jaka’s childlike husband. He is a well meaning goof. A typical guy in his early 20’: Unable to get a job, doesn’t really to get a job, hanging with the boys is the highlight of his day. Rick is completely without ambition and guile, which is why I suspect Jaka claimed him. He is the exact opposite of any man she grew up around, someone she could dominate, and as a rebellion against an uncaring “daddy” figure. Their relationship is strained, sexual, and punctuated with lots and lots of arguing. In short, it feels very real.
    The prose and visual mediums, while seemingly on alternate topics, connect on the theme of minor triumphs that escape the pages of the history book and make up the majority of our lives. Rick’s obsession with tossing a ball into a wastepaper basket, Pud mental recital of how he will declare his love\lust for Jaka and nearly making it (until she vomits on him), Cerebus’s drifting nature, Oscar’s story of young Jaka’s first feeble rebellion, the opening of a forbidden door- a triumph for her, barely notied by anyone else.
    The ending does offer a different aspect on Jaka, tarnishing her golden girl image. She is shown to be willing to allow others to suffer or be placed in danger to further her own selfish ends. As long as she feels happy the ends justify the means. This attitude leads to the deaths or ruin of every other character in this arc.

       For more readings, try my collection of books. 


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