Friday, 7 June 2013

Indy Magazine: A Cerebus Retrospective

(from a Cerebus: A Retrospective by Adam White, Indy Magazine, 2004)
It works. It actually works. Cerebus is a single sustained comics narrative about the life and times of a single character, following him through his youth right up to the very end of his days. Some parts work much, much better than others and, in general, the later stuff is rather better than the earlier, but it really does work. Cerebus is six thousand pages of comics telling a single story that miraculously all comes together clearly in the end to make a single point about the nature of power, gender, and spirit. Whether that point is worth making is somewhat less clear. It is a book born of the brilliance, arrogance, prescience, skill, recklessness, self-indulgence, strong opinions, misogyny (and, yes, it is misogyny), of its creator: David Sim. It is also a book that would have failed without the stabilizing influence of the photo-realistic backgrounds created by Sim's long time partner, Gerhard. Together, these two men, the heart and the head of Cerebus, were able to create the emotional and physical reality of a world that seems, at times, more real than our own. However much its creators, particularly Mr. Sim, might protest,  Cerebus is, by its very nature, a profoundly emotional book, a work of the heart, summing up the strife of the spirit as it is glorified and terrified by the divine. In time, Cerebus will be recognized as one of the grandest achievements of comics: a unity of form and void, motion and emotion, depicting the galaxy of ways in which the human race can make itself unhappy. It is a deeply pessimistic work, though it sings its pain gracefully. It seems to look upon the universe as a colossal blunder, all the while depicting it with beauty. Certainly, the book is most successful when it is depicting that terrible beauty and depicting only; when it attempts to spell things out for us, the comic grows terribly tedious. From its early and somewhat incompetent beginnings to the masterful way with which it ends, the book holds itself together, as a wounded man might clutch his sides, pressing in his guts, in a desperate attempt to go on, even though it knows it will only die alone, unmourned, and unloved... [Read the full review here.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a review? I've seen emasculated men bow to women all my life, but this imbecile actually kisses the rear ends of fictional women in a comic book. I'm considering printing it out for use in the toilet.

A decade after the end of Cerebus we are finally seeing some thoughtful and critical reviews of this massive and important work. This is not one of them.

David Birdsong