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Cerebus v15: Latter Days

Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2004
By: Page45



collects issues 266 to 289 plus nearly fifty pages of new notes and annotations

Writer & Character Artist: Dave Sim
Backgrounds: Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanaheim

For me, this is the most problematic Cerebus book since the very first collection. In fact, for me, itís the only problematic Cerebus book since the very first collection. The latter is easily forgiven, being the meandering journey of Cerebus into society, the book into its full potential, and the creator into his two and a half decades as an extraordinarily accomplished writer and peerless sequential artist. As in: he knows this medium, he uses this medium and he invents devices for this medium like no other person on this planet. You could do a thesis on his craftsmanship (and no, you can't on Dave McKean, though so many students appear to insist on trying) - even the lettering is exquisite.

Cerebus is the story of one life, and as early as the fourth volume the title character was promised he would die "alone, unmourned and unloved." His rejection of Jaka in the closing sequence of the previous chapter take him one step there, and Latter Days accelerates the process, often taking the preternaturally long-lived individual decades on in the space of a single panel. Narrated by Cerebus from some unspecified point in his future, we see the increasingly portly, wrinkled and grey-haired protagonist taking up a rustic life as a lowly shepherd (clue), sporting champion, drunken tavern owner, kidnap victim, military conqueror and spiritual leader. The first issue boasts some very funny sheep gags.

So why is this problematic for me? Well, I don't like the Three Stooges. Marx Brothers, I love, Three Stooges leave me cold. So early on, I was tiring. Secondly, I'm no scripture nut. I did manage to score 99.3% in my Divinity O Level (it was New Testament, so had plenty worth listening to), though I doubt I could repeat that improbable performance today. And whereas The Old Testament is an interesting work of historical science-fiction which I can endure in small doses (and you certainly can't fault its sales figures), a full third of this book consists of a text-heavy (and when I say heavy, we're talking a planet of lead compressed to a pinhead), repetitive, and allegedly "amusing" analysis by Cerebus of - what - the Torah...? Bits of the Torah...? Oh, I don't even care.... all contrived to reinforce Dave's asinine view that - to quote The Cramps' ironic, thundering swamp-stomp - "All Women Are Bad." And, of course, God is wonderful. And male. I have never skipped or skimmed a note of this work. In fact I lapped up Reads, including its controversial contents. It was cleverly done, so cleverly done. But this, I gave up on the text. It bored me rigid. Oh, and I'm not overly keen on Woody Allen, either, so that didn't help.

However, however, however. Although this seems completely implausible, these four hundred and sixty pages represent yet another incredible leap in Dave's and Gerhard's extraordinary visual, artistic prowess. Page after page of unbelievable beauty, and of course, comic book innovation. As ever, Cerebus is a masterclass in what can be done. I just wasn't overly keen on what was done, though I can tell you that the next and final book has so far proved to be stunning. Plus, the notes here will help.

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