Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Night Before

The Night Before
Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
by Dave Sim
(from 'An Early Masterpiece' by Craig Miller, Following Cerebus #10, June 2007)
The Night Before is a milestone in the Cerebus epic. A good argument could be made that it is the finest of the early chapters, or at least the finest 'dramatic' chapter (ie in which humour is not a dominant element). Even now, with the entire storyline complete, it stands out. It ranks alongside other dramatic high points - say, the conclusion of Jaka's Story, the conclusion of Form & Void, and the retelling of the death of Jerome Howard in Latter Days - as superior moments. If it is not the very best chapter, at the least it deserves special recognition because Sim was just twenty-six years old when he wrote it...

...The Night Before remains a remarkable achievement in Sim's career. While he would come to master additional storytelling techniques, and his proficiency at drawing would continue to improve (the Cerebus figures are fine, but it would be several years before Sim's ability at drawing women would catch up to his ability at drawing men; indeed some of the Jaka faces are downright bizarre), this story, taken as a whole, has a visceral power that's unusual in comics. Sim later acknowledged getting praise for the story even from readers whose first exposure to Cerebus was issue 36 - individuals who had no knowledge of the history of the characters. That, as much as anything, is a testament to the success of The Night Before.

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