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Cerebus: Guys (Volume 11)

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari

Dave Sim
Dave Sim and Gerhard
Aardvark-Vanheim
After ten volumes of spiritual, political, literary, and comedic exploration--as well as bending every rule of comic book form--Cerebus finally gets to sit down and have a nice glass of scotch. Well, a bucket of scotch, actually.

After being shown the truth of the universe and, more precisely, the truth about himself, Cerebus: Guys takes its main character on the road of self-exploration. Faced with the realization that his life is the bread and he is the baker, Cerebus must learn to make himself happy . . . without destroying his liver.

The setting of Guys is a dank little tavern beside the massive Wall of Tsi. Only briefly does Sim allow the reader to escape the swelling air of testosterone and regret of rough liquor and equally loutish regulars--and these customers are indeed ďregularsĒ of Cerebus: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and the former barbarians Boobah and Bear from Church and State, Mrs. Thatcher from Jakaís Story, and Joanne from Minds. The remaining cast is made up of Simís usual caricature plays on celebrities and famous characters--such as Norman Mailer, bartenders Richard George and Harrison Starkey (a mixture of Ringo Starr and George Harrison from the Beatles), and Marty Feldmanís Igor from Young Frankenstein.

Simís narrative revolves around these characters, briefly engaging the reader with snippets of a story here and a joke there in creating the mosaic ambiance of a lively bar. The major theme, however, is Cerebusís quest for stability.

Much of the book is focused on Cerebusís relationship with Bear, who represents both manhood and an acceptable level of contentment. Yet, their friendship is constantly halted by Cerebusís immature attachment to power. As the two play a game of Five Bar Gate--a mixture of field hockey, tennis, and cricket--Bear becomes enraged by the aardvarkís pettiness. In a winding speech that outlines Cerebusís selfishness and childish need for control, Bear summarizes the aardvarkís action as a result of Bear ďwinning.Ē

The assumption that Cerebusís problems are a result of a single gameís outcome is obviously asinine; yet, Bearís summary does point to a major flaw in Cerebusís character: His inability to let go of supremacy. By concerning himself with stealing any game point he can, Cerebus not only misses the joy of gamesmanship, but also alienates whoever is around him.

Honestly, Cerebus is pretty pathetic in this book. Heís a filthy drunk who can barely make a connection to the people around him. When he does, he ends up pushing them away with his recalcitrant behavior.

Bear doesnít set out to mold Cerebus in any way, but their friendship inevitably leads the aardvark to mimic his friendís persona--i.e., adopting Bearís placidity and . . . wattayacall . . . verbal ticks. Although this adoption of Bearís mannerisms helps the aardvark become stable, it leads to a host of other personal issues.

The character study is a refreshing change from the heavy theological bent of the previous four volumes. It allows the reader to become more intimate with Cerebus. Simís characterization isnít pretty--especially when Cerebus fights his homoerotic attraction for Bear by maligning himself as a ďFaggot!Ē Yet, the characterís struggle to love himself is genuine and not depicted with the usual mainstream saccharine drivel. Itís cruel and painful, but makes for powerful literature.



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