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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cerebus Zero (Graphic Novel)

By Dave Sim and Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanheim; 1st edition (1993)

Softcover 105 pages

Finished 7/22/2017

Amazon Listing

"Someone pushes a button and blows up the sun."
This is a collection of five issues which, though part of the Cerebus continuity, has been left out of the phonebook trade paperbacks. These are not as such a book, technically it is a large comic book, but I am putting them in a post simply for completeness sake.
The issues collected here, numbers 51, 112, 113, 137, & 138, are transitional issues between arcs. Issue 51 “Exodus” comes between High Society and Church and State, 112 and 113 “Square One” go between Church and State and Jaka’s Story, and the last pair, “Like-a-Looks” bridges the gap from Jaka’s Story to Melmoth (which will be the next review after this one).
The action in “Exodus” takes place after our anti-hero has been deposed as the prime minister of the city-state of Iest, the area is now occupied by an enemy army, and he is forced to flee in the hold of a ship. He discovers he is not alone, as every other major official of the fallen government is making their escape on the exact same vessel. This leads to a war of words and puns between Lord Julius, Elrod of Melvinbone, the Roach, and so on. Cerebus, out for blood, can’t decide who to kill first. 

“Square One” happens just after Cerebus has returned from his meeting on the moon with the Judge who has informed him that his dreams of military conquest will all fail,  that he will die in a few years “alone, unloved, and unmourned”, and that life on the planet will eventually be snuffed out in a nuclear holocaust. Of course, to the Judge, who is hundreds of thousands of years old, a “few years” could be a long time from our perspective. Cerebus is understandably depressed and entertains thoughts of suicide. He walks through the wreckage of his life, physically and emotionally, and sees how little his ambition has yielded him. All of his money is gone, his loyal retainers run off, and his power evaporated.  
The telling scene is when he is standing over the rotting corpse of Bran Mak Morn, a true believer that  committed suicide. As the maggots devour his unburied retainer's flesh, he realizes the only thing he has ever accomplished is death. Now back to square one, he picks up his sword, dons his leather Han Solo vest, and reclaims his medallions (his outfit is so 70s, I’m surprised that he wasn’t into EST as well), and walks down the mountain into Jaka’s Story.  

We learn a bit more of the Cirinist sex-negative militant feminist philosophy as well, at least the practical applications on it. Women are not allowed in bars (they might be attacked by sexually crazed men), no music is allowed (as if might cause lustful thoughts and cause men to rape women), no dancing either (for the same reasons), all children are raised in government nurseries, and voting rights and citizenry only extended to women who have given birth. That last stipulation is the cause of the great divide in their movement.  
Mostly told with silent imagery, the silence is powerful and necessary. There are no words that could adequately express what he has learned. It is reminiscent of the “Silent Interlude” issue of G.I. Joe back in the early 80s. I truly wish these issues had been included in the beginning of volume 5 or the end of volume 4, because without them it appears as if Cerebus was completely unphased by his cosmic trip.  

The last pair “Like-a-Looks” has a purely humorous plot. Lord Julius, the Groucho Marx analogue, has returned home to discover that a number of his stand-ins\body doubles, are now all claiming to be him. A power struggle occurs where it is nearly impossible for the reader to tell who is the real Julius (except for the pair that are obviously Elrod and Chico Marx).  There is lots of snappy dialogue and a very humorous ending- not gut-busting laughs, but still funny. It also reveals that the Lord Julius who appears in Jaka’s Story is one of these like-a-looks. 

These are not essential issues, but if you’re going to collect all of Cerebus then you 

will need this book. 

       For more readings, try my collection of books. 

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