Sunday, 10 December 2017

Reading Cerebus #2

Hey look kids! It's "READING CEREBUS" time!
Kevin Kimmes:

Welcome back to “Reading Cerebus”, a new weekly column here at A Moment of Cerebus. The goal of this column is to bring a fresh perspective to the 300-issue saga of Cerebus as I read through the series for the first time and give my insights into the longest running independent comic book series of all time. Think of this as part book club, part lit-crit, and part pop culture musing. Oh, and they told me Dave Sim himself may be reading this, so I hope I don’t screw this up. Let’s continue.
Issue #2 – “Captive in Boreala”
Cerebus #2: Captive in Boreala
Issue 2 opens an indeterminate amount of time after the events of issue 1. With his money gone, we find Cerebus has fled the cities of the south and has joined a Tansubal warband headed for Boreala and the countries to the north-east.
After being ambushed by a group of savage marauders (no, not the 1980’s X-Men villains), Cerebus finds himself outnumbered and proving his worth as a “sword for hire” in the sacred “Duel of the Long Knives”.
Some of you are saying, “What’s this “Duel of the Long Knives” of which you speak?” Well, I’m glad you asked. In the “Duel of the Long Knives” two competitors, each armed with long knives (surprise, surprise) fight with a two-foot length of cloth between their teeth. That is how “sacred tradition” dictates the fight is supposed to transpire. However, due to a height disparity between Cerebus and his opponent, Klog, this fight features a six-foot length of cloth in order to be “more - - uh sacred”.
Sacred tradition demands I caption this image from the first phonebook... courtesy of CerebusDownloads

This test is meant to favor the physical attributes of the man-mountain, Klog, and plays out as such in the early going. Cerebus is quickly thrown from his feet and his knife flies several feet away. This would be the doom of less qualified warriors, but only a momentary distraction for Cerebus. See, he has a secret weapon at his disposal, his snout.
As mentioned in last week’s column, the Cerebus of the early issues has a long snout and is a bit “off-model” in comparison with the look that most comics fans of the last 40 years would recognize, but in this week’s tale, this strangely pays off for “The Earth-Pig Born”. With, Klog’s attempt at a charge foiled, Cerebus draws him in close and unleashes a dreaded “Earth-Pig Snout Punch”. Yes, sometimes being a bit off-model pays off in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
Sadly, poor dumb Klog learns a harsh lesson from this contest: Don’t piss off Cerebus!
While Klog lays unconscious in the snow, the Borealan chieftain quips about how as a southlander Cerebus doubtlessly has a moral code that prohibits the execution of an unconscious foe. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as Cerebus picks up his knife and plunges it deep into Klog’s skull. Again, repeat after me, kids: Don’t piss off Cerebus!
Cerebus soon finds his time as a Borealan marauder short lived as on the third day of their march they run into fatal opposition from an ensorcelled army of fifty warriors. Cut off from the Borealans, Cerebus soon finds himself herded toward the precipice of a cliff with two options presented: fight against unfathomable sorcery or face the unknown danger of what lies below. Cerebus chooses the unknown.
As it turns out, the unknown holds two things: 1) “The Eye of Terim”, 2) An artistic shortcut. We’ll get back to “The Eye…” in a moment, but let’s talk about this shortcut for a minute. In his introduction to issue #2 in “Swords of Cerebus” (later re-printed in “Cerebus Bi-Weekly” #2), Dave admits that drawing twelve pages of Cerebus and rocks was a lot more appealing to the artistic part of him at the time, than the alternative of spending the next two weeks drawing Barry Windsor-Smith people and buildings and snow. Thus, we get the heavy blacks of the poorly lit resting place of “The Eye of Terim”.
“The Eye…” is said to be guarded by the demon Khem, but as Cerebus is soon to learn, legends can be deceiving, as can appearances. As with the “Flame Jewel” of issue #1, “The Eye…” is not actually “The Eye…”, but instead the trappings of a succubus!
As the succubus attempts to attack Cerebus for seeing it for what it is, an interesting twist is uncovered: “The Earth-Pig Born” may have no soul. Explained as “…his unusual nature” on the last page of the story, this is something I’ll be keeping eye out for in later stories. For now, this lack of or difficulty in finding a soul, has just saved Cerebus’ grey hide.
This issue ends with Cerebus realizing that his battle with the succubus has released the ensorcelled army, leaving a battle field of skeletons as proof. Finding himself broke and hungry again, Cerebus heads to the nearest port twenty-plus miles away where he plans on enjoying the finer things in life like ale and brawling.
Join me back here next week as I discuss the “Song of Red Sophia” which features the introduction of Red Sophia, based on another Robert E. Howard creation, Red Sonja. Take care.
Currently Listening To: “Sunshine Daydream: Veneta, Oregon, August 27, 1972” by Grateful Dead
Kevin Kimmes is a lifelong comic book reader, sometime comic book artist, and recent Cerebus convert. He can be found slinging comics at the center of the Multiverse, aka House of Heroes in Oshkosh, WI


Tony Dunlop said...

So are you old enough to have seen The Dead live? I mean, the real Dead, with Jerry?

Kevin Kimmes said...

I'll be 39 next month, so yes I could have, but didn't have cool enough parents.

Tony again said...

So no tie-dyed onesies for Baby Kevin, then...

Byron Dunbar said...

Having just finished Latter Days (specifically, Sim's notes at the end) it's so bizarre to look back at this time in Cerebus and remember that this is the same series!