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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cerebus Vol. 9: Reads

By Dave Sim & Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanheim; Second Printing edition (January 1997)

Softcover 247 pages

Finished 8/2/2017

Amazon Listing

Collecting issues 175-186 of the series, it is the third volume in the Mothers and Daughters arc. This volume breaks down into three sections: the one everyone cares about, the confrontation between Cerebus, Astoria, Cirin, and Po; and the other two which many many people hated. But we're going to cover them anyway.
Of the four characters Po takes the center stage, explaining that his self-exile is due to the “magnifier” ability of the Aardvark mutation. Things happen around an aardvark that it has no control over. It is a celestial force of undirected change. But ultimately this change will come to nothing, as once the magnifier influence is removed, everything falls back into its natural pattern. Essentially the aardvark is a bubble in reality that the universe will eventually smooth out. Po then takes his bows and leaves, stating that the attempting to control another is useless and he would prefer to live quietly until he dies.
Astoria’s exit is done with style and taste. She alone listens to Po’s words and realizes that she cannot achieve the things that she wants and remain happy. Her and Cirin make are faced with the choice and both, representing their philosophies (described in Women)  choose opposite sides- as they do in all things. She chooses happiness and Cirin chooses power.

Before Astoria leaves she does give us the revelation that Cerebus is a hermaphrodite and that Cirin’s greatest fear is that he will impregnate himself and become the progenitor of a whole race of Aardvarks. This scares the feminist more than anything else, as she, the great advocate of motherhood, desires this spot in history. Her need to be the “great mother” overrides all other consideration, leading to her moral and political corruption.
Also making his last appearance is Elrod of Melvinbone, the lost scion of a dead race who talks like Foghorn Leghorn. Easily the most annoying character in the series, I welcomed his departure. As it turns out, he is a illusionary product of the chaos gems from issue two and only held together by a belief in himself. Once it’s revealed to him that he isn’t real, he disappears. Good riddance.
Thus we are left with the massive fight scene between the two unwavering polar opposites of Cerebus series. Cirin, who will not give up her political rhetoric or desires, and Cerebus who fights because that is what he does. He is the warrior and what is important to him is the struggle, not the why of it or how it will end, but the fight itself. He fights because without the struggle he has no definition. Thus a giant battle is inevitable. He had spotted an enemy, even if she is an enemy that he doesn’t understand or care about, therefore she must be destroyed.
The battle, taking most of the last half of the book, is long, extraordinarily bloody, untainted by dialogue, and beautifully illustrated. It is a joy to gaze upon and took me just as long sucking in the visuals and reading the prose. Epic by any definition, it ends spectacularly with another ascension, up to the heavens. But it won’t be the Judge they meet this time, that characters seems to have been merging with the Roach, causing split-personality and forty thousand eyes. It’s why I feel it’s a shame that many believe this volume to be the series’s jumping-the-shark moment (When we all know that distinction goes to volume 13 Going Home).
Author Dave Sim

The section which many claimed was boring is the “reads” story, which this volume is named for. The style used here is double column prose with a single illustration on the corresponding page. In the series, reads are heavily illustrated books, cheaply produced, and lurid in plot, popular among the masses. The protagonist here Victor Reis is a suddenly popular author, now faced with dealing with the politics of a big publisher. His wishes are crushed beneath the weight of the money offered and ultimately he crosses the line between being successful as an author and selling out as an artist.
His dreams of the Ascension reads, where he wants to ascend in his writing is put aside, his ideas of cutting down the illustration in reads- an unsubtle jab at what the author is doing in this section. All the protagonist's desires are shoved aside and he becomes a parody of himself, churning out faded shadows of his past work.
For some reason these sections garnered a lot of vitriol from longtime fans. I’m not sure why, in reality it wasn’t much different from the style he used in Jaka’s Story, only with more text. One fan said to me, “If I wanted to read a book, I’d read a goddamn book. But I wanted a comic book here.” It could be that fans were more interested in the overall plot between the series’s main player, and felt that the Victor Reis story just got in the way. If this is the case then I can understand. The confrontation was certainly much more interesting. I do remember the text elements not being such a problem when reading Jaka’s Story- probably because the two elements were linked more firmly together.
The author, in his introduction, suggests that if the reader has a problem with the text pieces then they should feel free to take a razor blade and cut them out. Personally I have a less damaging suggestion: read the book out of order. Start with the confrontation, skipping ahead to each part. Then read the Victor Reis reads section. Then the editorial section at the end with the paper thin facade of Victor Davis. The books flows better that way and you will find it a much more satisfying read.

The last part mostly is experimental writing by the author. He plays with different methods of expressing himself, interspersed with various vignettes containing famous comic book personalities and other observations. It comes across very distinctly that the author was a mean drunk. The type to make vicious phone calls at night while shitfaced, then forget them in the morning. It’s just as well that he converted to Islam (or a subsidiary thereof) and quit the vino. The writing itself is not great, can be tedious, and really out of place in the book.
The end of this volume contains the infamous issue number 186, Tangent, which went on to become one of the most controversial books in comic history and this, coupled with the other criticisms above, lead to a sharp decline in Cerebus’s readership A lot of people have tried to defend or excuse this portion claiming it to be satire, but it certainly doesn’t read that way. I am of the opinion that he believes what he says, at least at the time of its publication, and must point out that many of his points in regards of feminism and misandry are becoming more and more popular in light of the anti-sjw backlash appearing online. It seems that once again Sims was ahead of the curve. He highlights that in the then media (the 90s) and other talking points feelings trump reason. How one feels about a situation is the most important aspect of the story, not the facts.
His view of male feminists and men in relationships in modern times is, again, now standard. He held back previously from these observations because he was trying to get laid. Now that has given it up, he felt free to express himself without restraint. And as most the male population still wants to have sex, they go along with the feminist dogma.
Using the idea of the female void vs. the male light, he lambastes the idea of patriarchy ruling the government, and the politics of feelings have overrun the necessity to get things done. Virtue signaling through government funds is the most important and visual part of a politician's job.  Though I believe part of that is the introduction of television into the political process, not the feminization of politics themselves.

None of these are new ideas now. They are howled from every corner of Youtube. The skeptic community agrees to all of his points and expands upon them. So why was he vilified in certain quarters? Because he was the first to come out and say it, and the first man who tells the truth is always nailed to a tree. The new Mountain Dew flavor should be “Dave Sim did nothing wrong.”

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