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Monday, September 4, 2017

Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days (Graphic Novel)

by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanheim (November 30, 2003)

Softcover 512 pages

Finished 8/30/2017

Amazon Listing

        This is how Cerebus ends, not with a bang but a whimper. The penultimate volume in the series, collecting issues 266-288, is perhaps the worst in the series. The author must have felt that as the series was winding down, he could do whatever he wanted and the die-hard fans would buy in regardless. While this is true, the tedium of the last section of the book is inexcusable.
        A great deal of time elapses in this comic, roughly about 70 or more years, while Cerebus slowly ages over it all. All of the old characters -Jaka, Rick, Lord Julius, The Roach, Astoria- have passed away. The first 140 pages of the book are rather interesting (especially the first two issues). Cerebus is kidnapped by a group of cultists who are adherents to the Book of Rick (in which Cerebus is mentioned). These cultists are based on the Three Stooges and I will say that the author does a good job capturing the physical elements of the Stooges and their antics. His interactions with the Stooges and other groups leads to a guerilla movement and the eventual overthrow of the Cirinist control of the northern hemisphere of the continent. Cerebus, finally, has won. 

         During this altercation we see Cerebus dress up in the 90s breakout superhero Spawn, called here Spore. This is a tie in to a guest issue of Spawn with Cerebus, written and drawn by Dave Sim. Spawn is the creation of Todd McFarlane who co-founded Image comics in 1992. The creator himself appears as an anti-Crinist rebel leader here and Cerebus is put off a bit because he realizes that this newcomer is more popular and strategically better than himself. A reflection of the managerial position Sim found himself in Image. This new independant comes along and is instantly a bigger hit and more popular than one of the originals. 

         After this we delve into the excruciating portion of graphic novel (and graphic would nearly be in quotations marks here) when we are introduced to the Woody Allen analog, Koinsberg. He is in the story to question us holy texts that have now sprung up, all started from the Book of Ricke. Here Cerebus begins going through the Book of Genesis interpreting it as an interplay between the male deity God and a female pretender to the throne YHWH. The latter being the Jewish literature interpretation of God, whose true name could never be spoken or written out in full, so we are only left with the consonants. It is correctly pointed out that we are still unsure of what vowels were originally intended, so Cerebus adds a few making the female deity’s name Yoowhoo. From there it goes on and on and on on a reinterpretation of the various parts of the Torah from the perspective of a male and female divine interplay.
          What is wrong with these issues is not what he says, but it's appalling execution. Page after page of poorly written tripe, done in stage dialogue format between Konisberg and Cerebus with every sneeze, pause, and breath added in- which drags out the few interesting points that he has to make into an interminable page length diatribe. And it is a diatribe for the Woody Allen character has very little to say, and it is an excuse for the author, through his puppet, to rattle on and on about his “clever” ideas. It is interesting at first, but quickly goes stale.
         This section lasts for seven issues, a total of 140 pages, consisting mostly of large blocks of text done in 7 or 8 point eye straining font font. By comparison, the art is reduced to a series of Mad Marginals. All for what? So the author can make a series of witty statements and get an elitist chuckle from how clever he is. And if he didn’t intend it that way, it sure comes across as such. These issues don’t add to the overall plot or ideas of Cerebus, at least not in any way that the author had already said earlier and better. 

          I remember Robert Crumb’s visual interpretation of the Book of Genesis which, while not having must individual commentary from the author, had a lot of subtle interpretation by the author in how to present the material. It was a simple presentation: panel, caption, occasional word balloon- but the effect was much more profound than this nonsense. And I’m not saying Crumb is a better artist, Sims has nothing to prove on that score, but if he had stuck to traditional methods, Sim could have gotten his ideas across in a much more palatable way.
For those who have have whined to me in the past about this being “Sim’s comic to do with what he likes.” And if I  don’t like it “I should stop pretending to be sophisticated and go back to guys hitting each other.” While the points are well made that Cerebus is his independant comic and the author was free push out whatever he wanted. If that’s the position people want to take fine, but then the author shouldn't whine so much in his annotations about how no one in the comic medium pays any attention to his work anymore. 

Like George Lucas, I think the author has gotten rid of anyone who challenged him long ago, thus produces a substandard work in his old age. Perhaps he was just so used to being attacked that he tuned out anyone who had a difference in opinion. Either way, the material in the second half of the book was of poor quality.
         This book not not something to be enjoyed, but endured. Being a salivating completionist I had to finish what I started so I pushed through. In fact the most enjoyable part of this book was the anticipation I felt in writing this review so I can tell everyone how terrible it is. 
We needed more of this

       For more readings, try my collection of books. 

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