Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Upstairs Downstairs

Cerebus doesn't see any way out of the pending invasion by the feared Hsifans. His three advisors; Blakely, Filgate and the fop from the Anarcho-Romantics, aren't any help either. This isn't Cerebus' type of fight. He should be commanding troops on the front line, not directing things from a war room.

The news from the front just keeps getting worse and the Iestans are fighting desperately to hold on to their city. While Cerebus is meeting with Blakely and Filgate to try and find a way to keep the Anarcho-Romantics off his back the Roach is listening outside. He probably would have made things worse again, but he fell off the wall before he could do so. The Isshurian says he'll do his best as long as he and his men are paid, but if they don't find the money they want then Cerebus is on his own.

Cerebus manages to pull the Anarcho-Romantics into line by getting their leader to agree to fight on the front line unless they stop causing problems for Cerebus. He puts Blakely out of the way by giving him a largely meaningless role, much in the way Lord Julius handles his bureaucrats.

The city is fragmenting with all parties turning on each other and the Prime Minister. Cerebus is almost completely out of ideas when someone tells him that there is a Mistress Jaka there to see him.

Jaka seems to be waiting n what looks like a folly out of the city in the middle of the snow. She tells Cerebus that she intends to leave the city and that he should come with her. Staying is likely to get him killed. She tries to convince him that they can just leave and do all the things they planned so long ago: see the Wall of Tsi and the T'Capmin Kingdoms. As Jaka is a Tavers, she knows how these things work and she's telling the truth that when push comes to shove they will throw him to the wolves because he's not one of them. Light fills the window and shines on Jaka giving her an angelic aspect, yet another hint that to Dave Jaka is somehow perfect, other worldly. The more Jaka tries to convince Cerebus that the smart thing to do is leave and to give Astoria up the more the stubborn little creature digs his heels in. I almost cried when she whispered that she loved him. As always with Cerebus his rage overcomes everything else and he hits Jaka. My heart broke at that moment. At times Jaka could be such a doormat, though. When Cerebus tries to apologize she tells him that she understands and then flees.

The kicker is that as she leaves a messenger tells Cerebus that the mercenaries found the outpost in the Red Marches where Bran was supposed to be waiting empty and they wish him good luck. Cerebus is standing alone now.

This was a tough issue to read, not just because yet again Cerebus blew it with Jaka, but because his whole world is crashing down around him and he is powerless to prevent it. I noticed that Dave does nearly all of Cerebus' expression with his eyes, often everything Cerebus feels and is thinking is shown by subtle movements of his eyes and brows. The man had grown so much as an artist.

Monday, September 28, 2009


When we last left our hero things finally seemed to be working in his favour, but this entire sequence was called Cerebus' Six Crises, so that state of affairs could not possibly continue as we were only up to Crisis Three.

Astoria meets with a foppishly dressed member of the pretentious Intellectual Revolution (are they ever anything, but?). Her meeting over, Astoria goes into Cerebus' office has to wake him up and then delivers a document called The People's Manifesto of Demands. One thing you should never ever do to Cerebus is demand anything. The manifesto provokes the expected temper tantrum, but with Astoria's diplomatic influence that's as far as it would have gone, except for the fact that the thoroughly deranged Roach was literally hanging around outside the window listening.

In his current incarnation as Sergeant Preston of the Northern Iestan Mounted Police (one I never felt really worked. He dressed like a fuzzy Moon Knight and he still had the habit of using the Kevitch personality to commentate on his movements, so calling himself Sergeant Preston, a character based on the matinee hero Sgt Preston of the Mounties didn't make an awful lot of sense) the Roach busts into the revolutionary headquarters and beats the living daylights out of everyone there, letting them all know that he is doing this on behalf of Cerebus the Prime Minister of Iest.

The Isshurian mercenary commander returns, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't see him as anything other than Commander Krull with a bigger jaw. I think Dave may have been extending himself artistically and there are only so many people you can draw before you find some of them start to look the same. The Isshurian has used nearly all of the money he and his men liberated from New Sepra to pay himself and his men. Cerebus isn't happy, but there's not a lot he can do about it. Especially when a message from Palnu arrives informing the aardvark that Lord Julius has significantly devalued the currency of New Sepra due to Cerebus' smash and grab invasion. During a discussion with Bran, Cerebus comes to the realisation that he has been played yet again by the wily Palnan bureaucrat. The fact that he can't work out if whatever move he makes is actually playing into Lord Julius' hands effectively ties his hands and leaves him largely powerless.

As his financial advisor, Filgate advises Cerebus that to get around the devaluation he has to get the banks to agree to work with him against Lord Julius. This was a sound strategy and would have worked had it been allowed to start. Unfortunately once again the Roach heard the conversation. This time he heavied the director of the Bank of Iest into signing a document that would make him loyal to the Prime Minister. The director does himself no favours when he points out that any document signed under duress is not legally binding. The Roach very nearly breaks the man's arm making him sign a second document that the first one was not signed under any coercion.

Cerebus frets because his major hope against the revolution in New Sepra that was forcing his army out, led by Bran, has not contacted him and it is past time. The local revolutionaries rise up because of how the Roach treated them and now Cerebus also has no hope of getting the banks to cooperate with him again because of the Roach's late night visit to the director of the Bank of Iest.

One by one the dominoes begin to fall and Cerebus is forced to sign away concession after concession just to keep his position. He believes that Bran has made it through and done the right thing for Iest, only to discover that they are being invaded.

Dave had done it again. I sometimes wonder if he really hated his hero, because every time things seemed to be going right for him the rug was pulled out from under him and he ended up in a worse position than he started in. I can't deny it was huge fun to read, though.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Night In Iest

The second of the six crises was called A Night In Iest or Summit Enchanted Evening (geddit?)

It introduced the imbecilic Duke Leonardi, the ruler of New Sepra. Leonardi was very obviously the eldest of the Marx brothers; Chico, right down to the shapeless hat. He was every bit as silly as his film counterpart and spoke with the same accent.

When Lord Julius refused to compromise on the interest rates that Cerebus owed him, Cerebus told him to go ahead and foreclose. As Cerebus had no money Lord Julius would get nothing (does this remind anyone else of a recent financial crisis?). Realising that Cerebus was correct, Lord Julius advised him to attack New Sepra. Duke Leonardi had no idea what they were talking about as they held the conversation in pig latin (which they told the idiot duke was an obscure Borealan dialect).

The leader of the Western Church of Tarim started to make overtures to Cerebus and again the albatross came into play. Everyone wanted the albatross, but Cerebus didn't know why.

During a drinking session with Henrot and the Elf, Cerebus had the idea to speak to the highest ranking church officials not involved with the exodus inward. Henrot wonders how the aardvark is going to get them to tell him anything, because they're notoriously tight lipped. Eyeing off the bottle passing between the Elf and Henrot Cerebus believes he knows how to loosen the bishop's tongues.

The two bishops become extremely inebriated and reveal all sorts of interesting things to the new Prime Minister. Of most interest is the fact that Cerebus was supposed to find the albatross, that would have made him the pontiff of both the Eastern and the Western churches. This is what the Eastern bishops want because politicians are so easy to manipulate. A great shame for them that Cerebus is not a politician.

The cavalry commander from the New Sepran front arrives in Iest carrying a large sack, which contains just under 4 million crowns. Things are definitely looking up for Cerebus.

Astoria continued to act as the Prime Minister's secretary. She's up to something, I just know it. This issue was also another hint that the church would soon become a large part of Cerebus life and the lead in to Church & State 1, the next book in the series.

The Bureaucratic Rebellion

The fact that this issue was subtitled: Cerebus Six Crises, Crisis Number One, hinted at all sorts of fun. It was also the 44th issue which meant that by the sixth crisis it would be the final chapter of High Society.

Cerebus had moved into the Prime Minister's offices and Astoria was working as his secretary. I'm sure her title was something else, but she was filling the role of secretary. She had to be planning something. Astoria was the Duchess of Parnoc, she had planned Cerebus' campaign and pushed him into the Prime Minister's office, yet she was working as his secretary? I didn't buy that.

As feared, power goes to Cerebus' head. He bullies people into doing what he wants, and immediately launches military action against Lower Felda. This again illustrates that as a military commander Cerebus is perfect, but a failure as a political leader. He doesn't understand diplomacy, he understands that a blunt or edged weapon nearly always gets you what you want. Nearly always being the key words there.

Cerebus' intention is to use the money he plunders from Lower Felda to pay his mercenary forces. Unfortunately when he takes Lower Felda he finds out that the entire country is broke, and he now owes Lord Julius more than he can ever pay back, as well as owing his own mercenary forces about half again what he promised them in the first place. To add insult to injury, Lord Julius sends some cigars with his demand for payment and one of them explodes in Cerebus' face while he is smoking it.

It's hard to see how the aardvark is going to get out of this. He successfully manages to alienate nearly every useful ally he has, except for Astoria. His inner circle is comprised of Henrot and the Elf. Henrot's powers only work part of the time and the Elf seems to regard membership as being like part of a child's gang.

Cerebus is in way over his head.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Deciding Vote

In an effort to get secure the one vote that Cerebus needs to become the Prime Minister, Cerebus, Astoria and the Roach travel to the far flung,snowy province of Lord Storm’send. In keeping with the wintry environs the Roach has invented a new alter ego, this one is the fearless Sgt Preston (based on the old matinee idol Sgt Preston of the Mounties).

Lord Storm’send proves to be a crusty old farmer type, although given that he and Cerebus are about the same height he’s either a midget or old age shrunk him dramatically. If the movie ever gets made I’m putting in a vote for Warwick Davis right here and now, provided that they haven't put him in the Cerebus costume. The straight talking Lord locks Astoria and the Roach in his shed and takes Cerebus cross country for a ‘chat’.

Storm’send and Cerebus do not get along well. This is odd because they’re both very practical and no nonsense, although Stom’send has a moral compass, which is something the aardvark lost a long time ago. It is possibly because the two are so alike that they strike sparks off one another. Surprisingly Storm’send knows something about the albatross. The one that Cerebus has been looking for that formed his ransom, is worthless, it’s a painted lead decoy. The real one is priceless, exactly how a back water ruler knows this is not explained.

The farming lord also tells Cerebus about how elections run up in his province of Northbell, you get the impression he’s not a fan of democracy, too much fuss and bother for him. He had to distribute 78 leaflets to people who mostly could care less and waste a day when he could have been mending fences on his property. When he gathered the leaflets up only 4 had been properly filled in. Two for Cerebus and two for the goat. Storm’send has the deciding vote. Lord Julius has already visited him, but he gives no indication which way he’s likely to vote. I discovered one thing; the voting system wasn’t based on the Australian version. Down here voting is compulsory, you exercise your democratic right to vote or you get fined. Rather interesting way to do it; force people to vote. Then again we’re all so apathetic that if they didn’t do it this way so few people would bother that any result would be largely meaningless.

Eventually Storm’send and Cerebus reach a hill top with two beacons. Storm’send lights one to indicate who he’s voting for. His brother will see it and relay the message back to the city. He refuses to tell Cerebus who he voted for. Once Cerebus has made certain that the vote cannot be changed and nothing can be done about it he punches Storm’send out and then treks back to the farm to liberate Astoria and the Roach.

The shed is full of home made liquor. As Storm’send had told Cerebus, Astoria and the Roach have started to drink it. The alcohol affects the Roach’s addled mind to the effect that he believes he is the Roach version of the Hulk and Professor X. An inebriated Astoria goes along with the fantasy and thinks she’s got spider powers. By the time Cerebus gets them out they are both drunk to the point of almost losing consciousness.

Cerebus loads them both into the sled and with the Roach’s slurred commentary (Kevitch is still awake) ringing in his ears he heads off for Iest. Cerebus is forced to stuff one of the Roach’s gloves in his mouth to shut him up or at the very least muffle him partway through the trip. He gets lost, winds up going in the wrong direction and is eventually pointed the right way by a local. He arrives at the main bridge to be told that it’s out and won’t be passable for at least a week. After finding out that there’s no other option but to wait he agrees to check in at the inn on the bridge. As he’s giving the clerk his details the man comments that it’s odd his name is the same as the new Prime Minister. After letting this sink in, realising that he’s won and doing a very unCerebuslike celebration he goes to his room to think on his victory.

The Roach is becoming more and more unhinged by the issue, considering that he’s always been crazy this shouldn’t be surprising, but it is funny. The prospect of Cerebus as Prime Minister is a scary one. On the one hand he may try and turn his power into absolute power, on the other he may find out that working as a bureaucrat is not the same as being a military commander and he’ll plunge Iest into chaos. Going to be a fun ride either way.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Election Night

The night of the long awaited election. Cerebus wins the first block of seats and Astoria tells him that he should appear in front of the crowds watching. The aardvark refuses. The events in Campaign’s End have shaken his confidence. He believes that Lord Julius goat is the favourite and he doesn’t want people laughing at him. Bran has almost successfully convinced Cerebus to do as Astoria has requested, but then the next block of seats go to the goat and Cerebus stays put, instead angrily hurling a bewildered Elrod out through the curtain and off the balcony, where the assembled masses mistake him for an entertainer and toss him up in the air for fun. A battered Elrod limps away.

The goat starts winning seats hand over fist and the suspicions rise amongst Cerebus’ party that Lord Julius has somehow fixed the election. Blakely and Filgate (the representative of ‘dadocks’, he and Cerebus have mended their poor start in Petuniacon and the mafiaesque Filgate is now firmly in the aardvark’s camp) argue and then begin to make wagers on the results of the provinces.

Cerebus’ bid for Prime Minister is coming apart at the seams and Cerebus is losing his composure. The anger and frustration that is never far from the surface in Cerebus boils over and he shouts that if he can’t beat Lord Julius in an election he will beat him in a war. He immediately begins to order Drew McGrew (Drew seemed to have become the leader of the brothers, despite the fact that he is younger than Fleagle and was initially the junior partner, the Moon Roach does not appear in Election Night, I assume he was somewhere pursuing his Superman fantasy) and Bran to prepare for a short and brutal conflict.

Lord Julius is thrown into a panic, he’s not equipped for war. To combat Drew’s handpicked thugs and Bran’s pikemen he has a handful of guards armed with butter knives, a pot of boiling oil and his son Silverspoon. He plans to tie Silverspoon to an arrow, set him on fire and hurl him into the midst of the enemy. I had wondered about Silverspoon and whether or not Dave still considered him as one of Julius’ offspring, we hadn’t seen him since the fill in issue that introduced Lord Julius into the story.

Cerebus starts to win a few seats and conflict is averted for the immediate future. There’s a page where we the readers are given a glimpse into the thoughts of six of the main protagonists at that moment in time. Cerebus has fears of being ridiculed and laughed at. I sometimes wonder if Cerebus’ fears of being made fun of are something that affected Dave as well, although being an aardvark in a world of men can’t have been an easy gig. Drew McGrew has visions of being a great military leader with beautiful, scantily clad women at his feet. Lord Julius dreams of ever rising interest rates. Astoria was interesting, she was daydreaming about locking lips with someone who looked scarily like Drew. Given her associations with the Moon Roach and then Cerebus, you wonder if despite her background and upbringing if Astoria actually likes ‘rough trade’. Filgate only wants money, as much of it as he can get. The Elf dreams of Cerebus as an elf. It’s never stated, but I think she was in love with him, in a typically elflike way of course.

The race becomes very tight and it comes down to one province. The seats are split equally between Cerebus and Lord Julius goat. Initially Cerebus and his entourage believe that they have lost, but when Astoria checks the results again she realises that the election is actually tied with 50 seats apiece.

This was an enjoyable issue. Parts of it were too farcical, generally when Lord Julius had centre stage, he was becoming more and more Marxian as the story continued. At times he was indistinguishable from his real life counterpart. If they ever make a movie of High Society they’re going to have to find a Groucho Marx lookalike and soundalike for Lord Julius. Gabe Kaplan would have been perfect, but he’s too old now. There are hints in Cerebus behaviour that power would not be good for him, he shows signs of turning into a genuine tyrant. Astoria will only be able keep him on a leash for so long and with Bran continually stroking his ego and telling him stories of conquest and aardvarkian empires Cerebus could become totally out of control. Certain parts of the chapter were narrated by an unseen voice, it happened during Campaign as well and maybe Campaign’s End, it was like one of those books or documentaries about elections where someone tells the story of their experience with a prospective candidate. The fact that it can be recognised as such is a rather telling commentary that in literature of that sort very little has or is ever likely to change. Nearly 50 issues in and Dave is still able to surprise us with the breadth and variation of his story telling and willingness to extend artistic boundaries beyond the confines of the comic book medium.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heroes & a rant

The first part of this is a review of as much as I can find of Heroes, the next full chapter, then I'm going to go off on a tangent.

Heroes opens with Cerebus and the Elf. Cerebus is telling a seemingly enraptured Elf the story of a speech he gave, she appears interested, but then asks what colour the curtains were. Cerebus realises that she was only listening to be polite and is about to leave in a huff when she begs him to finish his story and sits listening silently.

For reasons Cerebus doesn't understand he's actually trailing the goat in the docks and the suburbs. The Moon Roach is beside himself because he has finally realised that Astoria does not love him anymore. She never did, but he deluded himself that prior to Cerebus arrival in Iest that she did.

There's a small interlude with a group of derelicts in the lower city reading about the campaign in a discarded newspaper. We glean from this that the reason the goat leads Cerebus is due to Astoria's rejection by the Cirinists. I'm not really sure why Dave used a group of hoboes to get the message across to the readers. In my experience derelicts generally don't vote or care much about election campaigns.

I was just getting to the bit about the Moon Roach's delusion about his heroic abilities and his comparisons with Superman when it just stopped and went to Election Night. For some reason my 'phone book' is missing 33 pages, that's most of Heroes and all of Campaign's End. This is unfortunately the chance you sometimes take with the 'phone books'. They were never really quality productions. The covers look great and are very glossy, but the pages inside are of poor quality, frequently smudged and poorly printed, small writing can be almost impossible to read and in the case of my copy of High Society 33 pages simply aren't there.

For those that are interested the following issue summary was gleaned from Margaret Liss' marvelous Cerebus Fan Girl site: http://www.cerebusfangirl.com/.

For the remainder of Heroes Cerebus was trying to find an albatross, this albatross was the duck statue that formed Cerebus' ransom from the McGrew brothers. Astoria had a protege and assistant, this was Therese who was previously seen in issue #24 as one of the students at Professor X Claremont's school for girls. I found this interesting as I always thought that the 3 girls became part of the professor's Woman Thing which was last seen mating with the mad artist's Sump Thing in issue #25.

In Campaign's End Cerebus continues to campaign, but behind Astoria's back offering bribes to the commanders of the border fortifications in exchange for their support. Although Astoria wouldn't have liked the deals done without her say so Cerebus was really the best equipped to deal with the commanders, he understands them better than any other member of his campaign staff. The Moon Roach's Superman fantasy expands with him believing that snow is frostonite fragments of intense cold formed when his home planet of Froston exploded. Frostonite = kryptonite, Froston = Krypton.

I'll be able to pick the story up properly in Election Night.

Still really crabby about those 33 missing pages. Grrrrr! Frigging phone books!


I'm not even sure that this qualifies as a chapter/issue. It's only about 4 pages long. It's a transcript of Lord Julius' meeting with the Mother Abbess of Grace introducing his candidate for the Prime Ministership. This seems to have taken place before Cerebus' meeting with the abbess. Lord Julius and his goat gain a significant advantage when the abbess decides to throw her votes behind the goat rather than Cerebus because of his association with Astoria.

Astoria received a copy of the transcript, exactly why this would have been so is not made clear. Possibly in her capacity as Cerebus' campaign manager or her position as Duchess of Parmoc, maybe because she was Lord Julius ex-wife or maybe because of her standing as a Cirinist.

The whole meeting was very typical of how Lord Julius dealt with the various bureaucrats he was forced to use. In fact it could have been lifted from a Marx Brothers film and the abbess could have played by the marvelous Margaret Dumont.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Cerebus hits the campaign trail. He has gathered an entourage. Astoria is of course his campaign manager and advisor, Bran Mac Mufin is another strategy advisor, his security is looked after by the Moon Roach, who still clings to the fantasy that Astoria is his ‘chick’, and curiously enough the McGrew brothers, who probably accepted the job because it legally allowed them to beat people up.

Between Blakely and Astoria they have thirty two seats, but need another twenty five to guarantee Cerebus the Prime Ministership. While Astoria heavies one of the lower city powerbrokers, Bran talks military strategy with Cerebus, convincing him that if everything goes to plan he could be the emperor of most of the known world before very long. That night Cerebus dreams of his empire. I found it telling that the two major cities in the Aardvark empire were called Jaka and Astoria. Jaka was not unexpected, Astoria, to me, was. I’d always thought Cerebus’ tolerated Astoria because of what she could do for him and that their ‘relationship’ was public only and for the sake of convenience. Naming one of the major cities in his dream empire after her hints at something approaching genuine affection. I’m not sure Astoria felt the same way. By this stage I don’t think Astoria did anything with, or for anybody, unless she could see some sort of angle that advanced her own ambitions.

Fifteen seats that Cerebus needs are held in the province of Grace, which is controlled by the Cirinists. Cerebus goes to see the Mother Abbess to see if he can get her support. Astoria’s presence guarantees him an audience. Astoria was at some point a highly respected and influential Cirinist, she may have fallen from favour by this point. The Abbess tells him that she will give him her support if he loses Astoria. As that’s not likely this may be fifteen seats they’ll have to find another way. It does bring up the question of exactly why the Cirinists are abandoning Astoria. It’s another illustration of just how powerful the Cirinists are becoming and interesting how no one, except Suenteus Po, and he’s not particularly reliable; being thought of as a myth, seems to see it.

The rest of the campaign goes swimmingly, with Cerebus speaking to packed houses and rapturous applause. It is amusing seeing him give speeches and having to remember to refer to himself in first person instead of his customary third person. Cerebus begins to have delusions of grandeur, believing himself already Prime Minister, after all his stiffest competition is Lord Julius’ goat (yes, you read it right. Lord Julius did actually intend to run an actual goat as his candidate for Prime Minister. Caligula put a horse in the Senate, so why not?). Cerebus is brought back to earth, somewhat literally, by a chance encounter with an ill mannered gutter rat in the lower city.

A lot of talking, but not much action. The first appearance of the typical mannish Cirinist in the abbess. The race for Prime Minister is on. I’m not sure what political system Dave was using in Iest. The talk of seats has echoes of both the Commonwealth System, but no mention of the upper and lower houses and the American system, but they don’t have a Prime Minister. Being a Canadian Dave would have been familiar with the two systems and may have borrowed from both, creating his own in the process.

The Ambassador Suite

A somewhat peeved Astoria escorts Cerebus back to The Regency, scolding him about a future Prime Minister behaving like a common thug in a lower city tavern. It would appear that Cerebus’ plan to work off some frustration and cause havoc at the Rams Lords Tavern was successful.

Back at The Ambassador Suite (Cerebus’ suite) in The Regency they find a well dressed, older gentleman by the name of Blakely, I don’t think he had a first name, if he did we never heard it. Blakely’s presence was expected. He’s a kingmaker that Astoria has invited to assist with Cerebus’ bid for Prime Minister. He must wield quite some influence, because he’s able to tell Astoria to ‘be good girl and run along’ and get her to do it! Admittedly she’s livid at being spoken to in such a way, and treated so condescendingly, but she does it all the same. This astounds Cerebus and gives him respect for Blakely.

Blakely tells Cerebus that he has no real interest in becoming Prime Minister himself, but can, and will decide who does become Prime Minister. As he’s weighing up the aardvark, and deciding whether he is worth throwing his support behind, Lord Julius enters wearing a bathrobe and a shower cap, asking for directions to the bathroom. This throws Blakely, against Cerebus’ advice he attempts to work out what this means. Cerebus has already told Blakely not to try and work out the reasons behind Lord Julius’ actions because they usually don’t make sense. To confuse the issue, and Blakely, further Baskin enters, and the two men go through a charade of creating a fake letter.

Once Blakely doesn’t know up from down Lord Julius calls a cab and departs before anyone arrives. The cabby appears, he’s the same cabby that Cerebus met on his first night in Iest and the same one that he got to take Elrod out of town. There are a number of possible reasons for this: coincidence, unlikely, that’s not how Dave works, very little in Cerebus’ life is coincidence. The cabby is a generic figure to represent the common man? Again not likely, he’s too well drawn to be a generic. Only one cabby works in Iest or the upper city? Possible, but Iest seems like a bigger city than that, it is after all a city state. He is somehow important to the story? That fits Dave’s way of operating and is the most likely explanation.

While Blakely and Cerebus are trying to explain to the cabby that Lord Julius has left, the McGrew brothers burst in through the window. They have escaped from prison and are going to take their frustrations out on the ‘varmint’. With arrival of the imbecilic siblings the cabby starts to mutter and rips off his clothing unmasking mild mannered, common man, cabby Blake Jocksley and replacing him with ‘the merely magnificent Moon Roach!’ This is the explanation for the regular appearance of the cabby and the completion of the Moon Knight parody. The only thing that had been missing from the Moon Roach’s parallels to his Marvel opposite was the personality of the regular guy cab driver Jake Locksley. This had now been rectified with the appearance of cabby Blake. The unveiled Moon Roach fights and defeats the McGrew brothers, diving out the window when hotel security arrives. The appearance of the Moon Roach or as Blakely describes him: ‘Astoria’s boyfriend’, shows Blakely that it was the Moon Roach who dropped a giant crescent moon on the Head Inquisitor, not Cerebus.

Before the two can get back to business Elrod arrives to offer his condolences, having recently won the election and replaced Cerebus as the ranking diplomatic representative. Cerebus takes advantage of the situation to rough the albino up before sending him on his way. This also impresses Blakely. But he’s not sure he can back someone who people think ‘wee wee’s in the sink’, added to that the fact that no one, not even Astoria, has any idea who 'you know who' is or if they will strike again.

Cue the Elf. She zooms in and not only appears to Cerebus, but also to Blakely. She explains that she’s ‘you know who’, but she did that when she was mad at Cerebus and she’s not any more, so it’s okay. She’s overjoyed by the prospect of Cerebus becoming Prime Minister, because Iest hasn’t had an aardvark Prime Minister since….since….well since before they had Prime Ministers! Cerebus makes her realise who she’s talking to and she quite promptly vanishes with her customary ‘poit’. Once he recovers from seeing the legendary Regency Elf Blakely says that he can’t in all conscience back someone who talks to figments of the imagination. Cerebus denies all knowledge of The Elf, Blakely insists that she was there and realises that he’s out a very long limb with no support so has to back Cerebus as Prime Minister.

After the two rather pedestrian Petuniacon issues this one was a welcome change of pace. I also liked seeing so many figures from the recent past. In some ways it was rather reminiscent of Three Days Before with the reappearance of people from Cerebus’ past. Besides any issue that features The Elf is a winner in my book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Petuniacon...Day Two

Cerebus is dreaming about trying to sketch potato salad, Jaka comes to him and then screams: “Aren’t you dressed yet?” Apparently it’s time for another day of fun and games at the Con.

Day 2 seems to be panel day. Cerebus has been signed up for 2 panels, where he will debate Elrod and the representatives will decide on who they want as the ranking diplomatic representative. The first panel features Lord Julius and King K’cor (the unethical King of Imesh from issue #9) as well as the two candidates. Lord Julius spends most of his time ducking questions and answering them without actually saying anything. K’cor is remarkably blunt and Lord Julius warms to his method of operating. Elrod takes every possible opportunity to insult Cerebus and has the crowd eating out of his hand. Cerebus barely gets a word in edgewise.

After a short break Cerebus appears on another panel. It seems to be the same as the first one with the only difference being that Lord Julius assistant; Baskin is one of the panellists. The format is much the same with everyone, including Baskin and K’cor, taking aim at Cerebus. No one notices the aardvark’s mounting anger and Cerebus himself can see any hope he has of remaining the ranking diplomatic representative disappearing. One of the things that is really annoying Cerebus is the continual belief by everyone that Elrod is this brilliant swordsman. From previous experience with the albino Cerebus knows that Elrod has trouble even holding onto his sword, let alone besting someone who knows how to use one in combat.

After a conversation with one of The Regency’s senior staff, where the man all but says goodbye to Cerebus as a guest, underlining the strong belief that Cerebus will not win the election, Cerebus goes to the Oak Room to brood. While he’s sitting there at the lectern he becomes angered by the unfairness of the situation and smashes the lectern into splinters. He reappears in the main hall, where everyone is fawning over Elrod. Cerebus isn’t wearing his suit. He’s dressed in his black vest and medallions, his sword is in his hand. He challenges Elrod to a duel. The albino wants somewhere to hide. He knows that Cerebus is capable of cutting him to ribbons, at the very best he’ll be exposed as a fraud, at worst he’ll wind up very dead. He is saved by Astoria demanding that Cerebus attend her.

An angry Cerebus storms out, telling Astoria that this is the only way he can hold onto his position. She tells him that he may kill Elrod, but will be lynched by his admirers. Cerebus is angry enough that he’s prepared to take that chance. Astoria then goes on to inform Cerebus that if he takes that course of action he won’t be able to run for Prime Minister. That stops him in his tracks. Astoria is prepared to concede the position of ranking diplomatic representative, she will let Elrod and the current Prime Minister run Iest into financial ruin and then run Cerebus for Prime Minister. Cerebus still wants to cut Elrod into bite sized pieces until Astoria begins to list the advantages of being Prime Minister, it’s an attractive package. Even then when she tells Cerebus that he has to withdraw his challenge and admit that Elrod is the superior swordsman he’s prepared to toss it all away for his pride until he finds out about the military power that the Prime Minister of Iest has at his disposal. He agrees to stand down, but has to find some way of alleviating his frustration. The final page is Cerebus arranging a major brawl at the Rams Lords Tavern (High Society) and charging it to Astoria.

I still hadn’t recovered from The Night Before and seeing echoes of it in Cerebus dream at the start of this chapter didn’t help. Once again there were echoes of Cerebus’ past, obvious indications that he’s not prepared to let it go (keeping the vest and the medallions) and a reminder that Cerebus the barbarian warrior is never very far from the surface.

Dave was again experimenting with the concept of what he was doing. The panels were covered very differently. Each of them were two pages. The bulk of the space on the pages was taken up with a crowd shot of the representatives and conventioneers looking at and interacting with the panel. The panellists themselves were quite small and indistinct as if view from within the audience and seated near the back. What they were discussing was conveyed to the readers by means of typewritten sheets reproduced on the pages. Some of the most interesting information was at the bottom of these sheets in the form of instructions as to who was to receive copies. Cirin was one of those, she must have wielded a great deal of power in Iest even then. One sheet also contained the information that Astoria is the Duchess of Parnoc.

I can’t remember ever having seen a comic produced in this manner prior to reading the chapter. It was another example of Dave’s attempts to expand his own abilities as artist and story teller, of how he liked to push the boundaries and at the same time give his readers a complete creative experience. Remember the internet was only in it’s early stages and not freely available in the way it is now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Showtime!

Cerebus arrives back at his suite, a stunned look on his face, still numbly holding the sword. A furious Astoria immediately begins to harangue him about not even being able to complete his dinner with the Prime Minister. She then proceeds to berate Cerebus about how this could damage his chances of remaining as the ranking diplomatic representative. Cerebus places the sword on a bench behind a curtain, his medallions can be glimpsed hanging on the wall, turns and growls “Cerebus is the ranking diplomatic representative and Cerebus will be the ranking diplomatic representative until Cerebus decides otherwise.” That’s the old Cerebus, not the one who plays political games and simply talks, this is the Cerebus that does things, the one that takes action.

The following morning; the opening day of Petuniacon, Astoria walks Cerebus through the convention's great hall where people are signing up, registering, trying to work out appearance orders and posting up flyers advertising appearances. Dave’s intention was to lampoon the comic book conventions, where by this stage he was probably a regular attendee. It comes across rather like a cross between a comic book convention and a political rally.

Astoria has booked Cerebus into the Oak Room, one of the event’s larger venues, and tells him if it gets too crowded to alert security. The room is empty. Cerebus takes the opportunity to needle Astoria, she departs and Cerebus begins to laboriously compose a letter to Jaka. He is interrupted by Bran, who as usual is spouting prophecy, the one sensible thing that Cerebus does manage to get out of the Pigt is that Cerebus is too important to concern himself with being the ranking diplomatic representative, he should instead be aiming at the position of Prime Minister. Astoria returns, demands to know who Bran was, and before she can find out, or Cerebus can explain, gets some news about the polls which causes her to become extremely agitated and hurry out of the room.

Cerebus goes back to his letter, and is again interrupted by a rough voice asking him where he got the potato salad as it’s great. This individual, who to me looked like a larger, rougher Chico Marx, introduces himself as the representative for ‘dadocks’. Cerebus eventually interprets this as meaning ‘the docks’, described by his guest as ‘where da boats come in.’ Cerebus somehow managed to offend the man and he stormed from the room. However the aardvark proved a hit with everyone else who entered the room and it was soon filled with people hanging on his every word and asking for autographs. One of these people asks him what it’s like living with Lord Julius’ ex-wife (Astoria). As Cerebus was, as due to his incredible self interest, so often is, unaware of the woman’s background, this startled him, causing him to break the quill he was writing with, and make an ink blot on the page. Someone believes this is a sketch of a tree and soon Cerebus is madly sketching trees and autographing them for the conventioneers.

He receives a message from Astoria telling him to meet her at The Regency when the delegates all leave to vote. As the room is now empty Cerebus hops down from his lectern and heads to The Regency. On his way he encounters the mad artist from issue #25. He was hired by Lord Julius to paint all manner of things with the message 'vote for Elrod' down the bottom and was promised 5,500 crowns for it, but when Lord Julius found out that the candidates could sketch their own drawings and sign them and he didn’t even have to pay for them he ended the contract with the artist. Cerebus does trees, apparently Elrod does bunnies.

The convention continues.

A lot of this issue reminded me of the very first issue of High Society. With Cerebus being the centre of events, but not truly understanding what's going on around him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Night Before

Dave always seemed to pull out all the stops and get everything right with the Jaka issues. The Night Before was no exception.

The opening page is Cerebus and Jaka meeting in a long glass roofed hall, with leafy potted plants lining the walls. Jaka is facing the reader, you can only see Cerebus from behind. Most of the scenes in Cerebus' suite illuminate the characters only, with darkness all around them. This was the exact opposite, the room was light filled and you could see the stars twinkling through the hundreds of glass panes that made up the roof. It was the most impressive pre Gerhard background I could remember.

The reunion does not initially go well. Unaware of Jaka's background Cerebus' attempts to impress the beautiful blonde tavern dancer with stories of his wealth and power. Jaka does not like this new Cerebus who is so far removed from the cute and smitten mercenary she met all that time ago. Cerebus offers to let her live with him. Jaka asks about Astoria. Like the rest of Iest she believes that Cerebus and Astoria are lovers. Cerebus explains that his suite has 7 rooms. Astoria and Jaka can have 2 each and that still leaves Cerebus with 3 for himself. Of course Jaka will have to do something so that Astoria doesn't accuse him of taking in a free loader. She can't dance, though, that would be bad for business, as dancers are held in low regard in the upper city of Iest.

In an attempt to remind him of what they once were to each other Jaka asks Cerebus if he would still kill a yak for her supper or would that too be bad for business? Cerebus tells her that if she really wants a yak he will buy her one. That somehow wouldn't be the same. A poignant and beautifully drawn silence follows. With both of them highlighted separately, backs turned to each other.

To break the silence Jaka asks when Cerebus remembered about her....them. Cerebus said that sometimes when he got drunk he would have dreams and once he saw a tavern dancer in Beduin. Another silence follows and this time Cerebus breaks it with a silly joke that makes Jaka smile and call him crazy affectionately. Cerebus tells her that the Iestan Prime Minister told him the joke and she remarks how he's moving up in the world. This would have been the best time for Cerebus to shut up or accept the comment as a compliment. He doesn't, he says that Astoria had told him people from his past would appear now that he was wealthy and successful. Jaka quite correctly sees this as implying (although there is a joke about the difference between inferring and implying which echoes an earlier criticism Astoria levelled at Cerebus) that she has come looking for a handout. The resulting exchange brings tears to Jaka's eyes.

Jaka said that she didn't come seeking charity Cerebus says that he has been a mercenary, a tax collector and a professional gambler, he may not know much, but he does know when someone is broke. Again Cerebus is correct, but he has no idea why Jaka has no money. She tells him that until recently she had a good amount of money in the Bank of Iest, but she used it buy something from a salvage merchant. Cerebus chides her for her foolishness and tells her about a swindle he once pulled by staining a jug with berry juice and selling it as rare pink-iron.

The meeting not working out at all how Jaka had envisioned and she takes her leave. Cerebus asks here where she will go and what she will do without any money. Jaka says that she's taken care of herself since she was 12, she'll manage. Cerebus offers to give her something to tide her over, she refuses saying that she actually came to give him something. It's package by the wall, he can decide whether or not it was a bad investment.

Cerebus shouts 'Jaka!' at her as she disappears into the night, then goes to inspect the package. As he opens it and displays it's contents I could have cried. It's a sword. Cerebus' sword. The one he lost in Beduin in issue #12 when he tried to transport the Roach's hoarde out. That also explains why it was found with a number of gold coins, some over 30 years old.

It isn't the gift itself that is valuable, although Jaka did use all her savings to purchase it. It's more that Jaka took the trouble to track it down and buy it for Cerebus. The sword is a symbol, unlike other barbarian warriors Cerebus did not place a huge amount of value on his weapons, he didn't develop emotional attachments and name them. They were simply things he needed to survive. The sword is of a common design and not decorated, it's a strong, functional weapon. It is a symbol of what Cerebus once was, and at heart, still is. It's what he was before Astoria got hold of him and tried to make him into something he isn't for her own personal gain.

I found myself comparing the two ladies. They are total opposites, sharing only physical attractiveness and gender. Jaka is fair and free spirited, totally uncomplicated, she has renounced her former life and become a tavern dancer. Astoria is dark and scheming, she comes from money and power and seeks only to gather more. Jaka seems to be everything Dave wants in a woman, the fantasy, whereas Astoria is the reality, at least the way Dave views women.

One thing that was different about Jaka was her failure to talk about herself in 3rd person the way Cerebus always refers to himself. It was not commented on and it stuck out for me. I can only assume that Jaka did it when she first met Cerebus because it made it easier for her to escape her old privileged life and made it harder for them to find her.

I wanted Cerebus to succeed, I really did, but somehow I knew that he'd mess it up. Stupid aardvark.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two Days Before

Cerebus arrives back at The Regency roaring drunk, and not particularly concerned that Lord Julius intends to replace him as the ranking diplomatic representative of Palnu in Iest with Elrod. Even had the aardvark been sober I doubt the news would have bothered him overly much. He would have been angry, because that's largely Cerebus' state of being, and it would have annoyed him that he was being passed over for someone he can't stand, like Elrod, but he's had and been removed from posts of power and importance before. He simply picks himself up, moves on and lurches to his next disaster.

Once Astoria has cruelly put a medicinal compound in Cerebus' drink that cures inebriation by bringing on an instant hangover, he's willing to work with her. Actually he's willing to do anything so long as she doesn't speak too loudly. If such a compound genuinely existed in this world the pharmaceutical company that had the patent would be worth a fortune. Cerebus' hangover cure consists of: a dozen raw eggs, twelve gallons of water and hot towels. We had seen him utilise this cure in one of the add ons in one of the Swords of Cerebus collections.

While Astoria prepares Cerebus' wardrobe in preparation for his counter attack against Lord Julius and Elrod to retain his position in the sun in Iest, she explains to him the current political situation and the economy of Estarcion. To back his nomination of Elrod, Lord Julius has adopted the albino as his son. Silverspoon is never mentioned again, to tell the truth I would have preferred to see the Prince Valiant parody return rather than Elrod. Astoria's explanation of how the world of high finance in Estarcion works is largely how it works in our world today. I found it interesting that Dave wrote this in the early 80's and here in 2009 it still applies almost word for word.

Astoria has somehow emasculated Cerebus, and he is well and truly under her thumb. A chance meeting with Mac Mufin (the Pigtish leader, not the footballer), serves to remind us, and him, that at heart Cerebus is still a two fisted brawler who will visit great physical harm on anyone who upsets him too much.

That evening Astoria gets the Prime Minister of Iest to join her and Cerebus for coffee after dinner. The Prime Minister would rather enjoy Astoria's company, and Cerebus gives the impression that he'd rather be somewhere else, doing something else. Astoria has a mind like a steel trap, and will not be deviated from her mission to ensure Cerebus remains the ranking diplomatic representative of Palnu in Iest. The Prime Minister would also prefer this, but he does not want to upset Lord Julius, because his position is dependant on the master bureaucrat's will.

While the Prime Minister and Astoria are arguing, they appear oblivious to the fact that the waiter serving them coffee is actually Lord Julius. Cerebus does pick up on his presence, and speaks to him away from the other two. As always Julius stalls and says nothing, but drops a clue to Astoria's origins revealing that she had a Cirinist connection.

Cerebus is in his suite getting changed for another engagement with the Prime Minister and a delegation of businessmen, when there's a knock at the door and a clerk informs him that a Mistress Jaka is there to see him!

OMG! When I read that last line I almost couldn't wait to see the next issue. While my spirits dropped at the reappearance of Elrod, and I was mildly intrigued by Bran suddenly coming back, I was positively elated that at long last we were going to see Jaka again. Although he doesn't deserve it, there was something in me that wanted Cerebus to find happiness with Jaka and I'd been waiting since issue #6 to see her again.

Three Days Before

Cerebus is suitably horrified and annoyed to see the walking irritation that is Elrod step back into his life. He promptly knocks the albino unconscious mid sentence, and bundles him into a cab, (coincidentally driven by the same cabbie that took Cerebus to the Rams Lords Tavern the night he arrived in Iest) with orders to put him on a ship going somewhere very far away.

Once safely back behind The Regency's doors, Cerebus heads for his room to stay out of trouble. Before he can get there he is accosted by a well dressed and groomed young man who starts spouting some sort of prophecy at him. Initially Cerebus has no idea who this is, until he introduces himself as Bran Mac Mufin (despite the fact that he's spelling the surname differently it is the leader of the Pigts, last encountered in issue #5). Convinced that any association with Mac Mufin (these days due to a derogatory nickname supporters of my Aussie Rules team; the Richmond Tigers, have bestowed upon the less than brilliant Jordan McMahon, I have problems disassociating the two, in fact I think I'd rather prefer that we had the Pigtish leader on our list) will only cause trouble Cerebus waves him away, and continues onto his room. It appears that people from the aardvark's past are popping up all over Iest. The reason for this will become apparent at the end of the chapter.

Thinking that he has now successfully avoided all possibilities of trouble, and can tell Astoria 'Nyah-Nyah!' when she returns, and he is sitting quietly in his room doing nothing, Cerebus enters the room only to find a dripping wet Elrod waiting there for him. About to throw Elrod out the window, Cerebus is startled by the Moon Roach appearing there and vowing to kill everyone who attempts to help the aardvark. Cerebus is about to climb out the window, and give chase when Elrod tells Cerebus that the Roach can't possibly carry out his threat, because Cerebus' actions in bringing the Inquisition to it's knees has garnered him more friends and allies than the Moon Roach could ever wipe out single handedly.

Astoria reenters, and before Cerebus can stop him Elrod introduces himself to her, and then takes his leave. Instead of being angry with him, Astoria asks Cerebus how he managed to cultivate the most charismatic swordsman in Estarcion as a friend. Cerebus cannot believe this. To me this illustrated that ever since he arrived in Iest Cerebus has been so busy concentrating on his own issues that he never even thinks about the greater world outside of himself. Cerebus only cares for one person and that is Cerebus, he often does this to the exclusion of all else. At times the aardvark seems completely cut off from the world around him.

Cerebus demands an apology from Astoria for remaining out of trouble while she was gone, she's about to grant it grudgingly, and mentions telling the desk clerk to cancel all her appointments while she was gone, when suddenly Cerebus remembers that he didn't do that.

Astoria goes downstairs to try and put right what missing all her appointments has messed up, and comes back to tell Cerebus that she's going to need 500 crowns. Cerebus has 1,000 crowns that she gave him on the day the Elf left, so gives Astoria 500. Once he's gone Astoria opens a hidden safe, and puts the 500 with the neat piles of crowns that Cerebus is obviously unaware she has hoarded. While she is closing the safe Elrod reenters to give Astoria an invitation that he forgot for Cerebus.

Astoria looks at the invitation, and sees with wide eyes that it is an invitation to Lord Julius' Petuniacon at The Regency with guest of honour King Elrod of Melvinbone (Lord Julius' nominee to be the next ranking diplomatic representative of Palnu in Iest).

The bit about Petuniacon made clear to me the title of the issue (Three Days Before), and why people like Elrod and Bran from Cerebus' past had suddenly bobbed up. By this stage in the life of the comic I'm betting Dave had been to his fair share of cons (short for convention, they're very popular amongst sci-fi/fantasy fans and comic book collectors), and this was his little joke about them. It was a successful stepping stone of an issue and had some very interesting things: Astoria's hoarding of money, Cerebus' growing popularity, Elrod's fame and relationship with Lord Julius, and the reappearance of Bran Mac Mufin.

There are some characters in long running TV shows, book series and comics that make fans react when they reappear. In Cerebus Elrod was one such character. Most fans like him. I never really did. Once you got past the fact that he bore a similar name to a popular Moorcock hero, and looked like the same character, but was totally incompetent, and spoke like Foghorn Leghorn that was it, joke over. By the time he came back into the book in High Society I felt that the character had outlived his usefulness. He was still wearing the outdated medieval style dress that made him an anachronism in cosmpolitan Iest, which favoured an almost 19th century Victorian mode of dress and lifestyle, yet we were supposed to believe that people saw him as a dashing, charismatic heroic type. Yet the fans and Dave liked the character enough that this would be far from the last time we saw the albino.

Friday, September 11, 2009


If Alliance was a tour de force I found the follow up; Conflict just a bit disappointing.

Predictably enough Cerebus and the Bug end up in a fight, once the Roach has surprised the aardvark in the arms of his lady love Astoria. Seeing all her carefully laid plans disintegrate, Astoria breaks the two up, and orders the Moon Roach to his lair to wait for her. She and Cerebus turn on each other, and Astoria tries to play on Cerebus’ feelings to win the argument. She should have known by now that Cerebus has very few emotions beyond rage. The aardvark remains unswayed by her tears and apparent breakdown. Astoria recomposes herself, and the two declare an uneasy truce, knowing that they both manipulate people to get what they want.

Cerebus soon finds he has other things to occupy his thoughts. The Elf has struck again. In large glowing letters placed prominently in the foyer of The Regency are the words: ‘Cerebus wee wee’s in the sink’, it’s signed ‘you know who’. Cerebus retires to his suite to try and work out what would placate the Elf: a bathtub full of whiskey, pixie dust, a boy elf? I laughed out loud at the boy elf option.

Alone and without Astoria’s guidance, with only Kevitch to talk to, the Moon Roach doesn’t know who to direct his anger at, or who to drop giant crescent moons on. Astoria gets urgent word that someone who shouldn’t have, has met with a Roach driven end. Cerebus immediately leaps to the conclusion that the Roach has killed the wrong person, and the house of cards that he and Astoria have built is about to come crashing down on them. Astoria tells Cerebus to pull himself together, and to stay in The Regency while she tries to sort everything out.

While Cerebus stews, one of The Regency staff comes to discuss the matter of the graffiti in the foyer. They have put six layers of wallpaper over it, and the letters just keep on glowing through, they have also appeared elsewhere. Cerebus asks where, and is told that the newest message is over the gates of the city. The aardvark goes for a walk to clear his head, and just when he thinks things can’t get any worse, they do. A familiar voice hails him, and walking towards him is a tall, skinny albino wearing a pointed hat.

Astoria is one of the most interesting characters in High Society. Dave based her on the actress Mary Astor, and her name is derived from the actresses surname. There are definite similarities between Astoria and Mary Astor as she appeared in The Maltese Falcon; playing femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy. At times, most notably in scenes featuring the Moon Roach crouching high in the city, High Society has a noirish feel to it, and maybe that is what prompted Dave to portray Astoria as an actress who was most famous for her role in one of the definitive noir films. The Maltese Falcon connection also led my thoughts back to the duck. Could it be possible that the duck statue is Cerebus’ Maltese Falcon?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sometimes when you’re reading a long running comic you come across the occasional issue which is somehow better than the others. The stars align, and everything in that issue just works. Alliance is one such issue. It’s funny, it introduces some key plot points, and it advances the story.

Cerebus is in a quandary, thanks to the Roach he has two sets of people on his tail: the Prime Ministers wolves demanding their money, and the Inquisitors who believe he was involved in Holland M Hadden’s rather surprising death. He can’t get rid of one problem without creating a new one. As the Elf in her role as exposition explains to him if he doesn’t give the contract Hadden signed to the Prime Minister then the Prime Minister will throw him to the Inquisitors, if he does give the contract to the Prime Minister then the Inquisitors will pounce, believing that to be evidence that he was involved with the killing of Holland M Hadden. What to do?

Stalling for time, Cerebus enters another room of his suite to find the Moon Roach and his female carer lounging there. Cerebus orders them both out, and is prepared to enforce that, until with a few words the lady gives him the key to getting rid of the Prime Minister, she then tells him that she can make him wealthy. That was the magic word: wealthy. All Cerebus has ever wanted in life is money, if this woman can help him reach that goal then it might be worth putting up with her and her insane boyfriend.

The woman, whose name is Astoria, is as good as her word, and proceeds to use her considerable political know how to exploit Cerebus’ position as Lord Julius’ Kitchen Staff Supervisor, and make them both an obscene amount of money. She also explains to Cerebus that it was highly likely Lord Julius gave Cerebus the position because it was the position he started in, and possibly it amused him to do so, and watch people’e reactions to the appointment.

The one fly, or rather elf in the ointment, is the Elf. The Elf doesn’t like Astoria. Cerebus thinks that this is because there has to be something wrong with her, something that will ruin his new found wealth, because something always does whenever Cerebus gets some money. The Elf then confesses that there’s nothing wrong with Astoria, no secrets or skeletons in the closet that she knows about, the Elf just doesn’t like the woman. Possibly it’s jealousy. The Elf had Cerebus all to herself before Astoria came along, and now he’s spending more time with Astoria because she can make him money. The only thing that stops Cerebus from losing it is that he once got an elf mad at him in Imesh and it was not a pleasant experience. He grips the table, repeating to himself: ‘Don’t get mad at an elf.’ Predictably the aardvark does lose his temper with the Elf, and she quite promptly vanishes with a huffy 'WELL!’. I love the drawings of Cerebus’ face afterwards, he makes a number of horrified expressions culminating in a stricken look, and the small words: ‘oh oh’

While Astoria plots, Cerebus stews and wonders what form the Elf’s revenge will take. A messenger arrives with a package from an Edmonds, Lord Francis. Astoria takes it and wonders who Edmonds, Lord Francis is. Cerebus realises what the initials spell and immediately throws the package in the fire. Lucky for him it wasn’t explosives. Seconds after, two Inquisitors arrive saying that they’ve been tipped off that there are illicit, illegal and immoral substances on the premises, and they have authority to search the rooms. Astoria attacks the package in the fire with a poker, desperately trying to break it down. The Inquisitors search, and then finding nothing, depart with an apology.

Judging by Astoria’s reaction there was definitely some sort of narcotic in the package, she’s inhaled the fumes from the fire, it has given her a high, and also made her rather amorous. She starts coming onto Cerebus, and he’s trying to fend her off when the door crashes open and an angry Moon Roach looms in it demanding to know what’s going on.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chasing Cootie

Having seen the Roach just kill the man who can get him off the hook, Cerebus gives chase. He follows the Roach to a well situated apartment not all that far from the Regency.

Inside, the Roach is being attended to by an attractive and elegant young lady. This woman relates how she and the Cootie first met. He appeared in her room one night in his costume, and bleeding. She nursed him back to health (the Roach has always possessed amazing recuperative powers, so it didn't take long) and then he woke up speaking in a completely different voice. Apparently he was two separate personalities, the dominant one was called Kevitch, and it was Kevitch that drove the hero personality of the Moon Roach to destructive and violent acts. To calm him down the woman built her hero another personality, this one was a quiet, gentle character she named Artemis....Artemis Strong. It was the Artemis personality who told her the story of how a simple gardener became the Moon Roach. The costume appeared to him one night and took him over, it felt, he said like having an origin. (Very funny use of words and one that makes any fanboy break out into uncontrollable laughter).

The lady begged Cerebus not to arrest the Cootie, she implored him to take the costume, without the costume he couldn't become the Moon Roach. Cerebus remained unmoved. She threatened to kill herself. Cerebus took the costume.

On his way back to The Regency Cerebus encountered the diplomatic representative of Eshnospur who had come to warn Cerebus the church's inquisitors were after him, and they would seek to blame him for Holland M Hadden's untimely demise. Cerebus thinks he's avoided further trouble with the church after speaking to the inquisitors, that is until a giant crescent moon falls on them!

Once again Cerebus chases the Moon Roach, and we start to see how truly nutty this version of the Roach is. The Kevitch character provides a running commentary in the Roach's head about his actions as he performs them. This time the Roach is too good for Cerebus, and the aardvark has to give up his pursuit.

The Elf is posing in the mirror wearing Cerebus' disks, when a wet and angry aardvark returned, While Cerebus is ranting and raving about the Roach, and how he's messed everything up by dropping a moon on Holland M Hadden, and that he intends to solve his problems by getting money....a lot of money, the Elf watches him dry off, and becomes very amused by the way the tuft of hair between his ears fluffs up. She calls him 'Fluffy', and then bursts into hysterical laughter, leaving Cerebus to muse that it must be some kind of inside joke for elves.

This chapter was the first appearance of the Roach's new incarnation, which was obviously a parody of Marvel's Moon Knight. I thought Moon Knight was an odd choice. Moon Knight was one of the first titles I started collecting, and I stuck with it until artist and writer Bill Sienkiewicz's penchant for making everything into a basic geometric shape drove me nuts, and I stopped buying it. Moon Knight was never what could be termed a A list hero. He was also one of the truly oddest heroes they ever came up with. He started life as an American mercenary called Marc Spector. He ran up against his own commander; a brutal mercenary who went by the name of the Bushman, when the commander wanted to loot an Egyptian archaeological dig after killing the archaeologist that they had been hired to protect. The Bushman defeated Spector, and left him to die in the near freezing temperatures of the desert night. Some locals carried the mercenary to their temple, where the god Khonshu offered him a second chance at life if he will become the god's avatar on earth. Spector took the cloak that covered the statue of Khonshu, avenged himself against the Bushman, and then decided to go back to America and become the Moon Knight. He invested cleverly and created the wealthy playboy image of Steve Grant, while still keeping in touch with the common man using his other personality; that of cabbie Jake Lockley. Although he seemed to be in control there were times that even Spector wasn't sure who he was supposed to be. Today he'd be diagnosed with multiple people personality disorder. Somehow that makes him an extremely fitting model for the Roach.

Occasionally I used to wonder if the enjoyment of Cerebus was assisted by having a relatively good working knowledge of mainstream comics at the time. It certainly helped me get some of the jokes. The Moon Roach was one such instance, he wasn't really a big name, so unless you had an interest in the character you may not have understood some of the nuances, and as someone who enjoyed Moon Knight, let me tell you Dave really nailed him. I actually think he drew him better than any of the Marvel artists, Sienkiewicz before his Cubist obsession, included. His costume, which was really black and white, worked perfectly for Cerebus.


Cerebus is still hanging out with the Elf discussing his situation, she thinks he should try and track down the statue of the duck. Cerebus asks her how much a statue of a duck can be worth. With typical Elf logic she replies ‘What if it were made of diamonds?’ Two things struck me about the duck. Firstly Cerebus probably should try and find it, after all he only has the unreliable word of the McGrews to believe that it was a statue of a duck. Those two idiots wouldn’t know a valuable piece of art if it jumped up and bit them on the behind, they only understand cold hard cash, or as they might term it: ‘Crownies!’ The second thing was a question: was Dave’s mentioning it again a signal that it was important and going to become prominent later on? That’s how he works, after all.

The discussion about the duck closed Cerebus goes hunting with the Prime Minister of Iest on his private game preserve. I wondered why the Prime Minister kept a game preserve, he’s clearly such a poor shot with a crossbow that he’s never actually hit anything. The Prime Minister is impressed by how businessman Ned Greely leapt to Cerebus’ defence, however he tells Cerebus that whatever ‘leverage’ he used on Greely it was the wrong businessman. The Prime Minister is in debt up to his eyeballs, but Greely is not one of his debtors. However Holland M Hadden of Hadden, Hadden & Dipp is, to the tune of 29,000 crowns. Now if Cerebus were to use some of his ‘leverage’ on Hadden then the matter of the 12,000 crown ransom may very well disappear.

No problem thinks Cerebus, ask the Elf and away we go. However this is when Cerebus discovers the true nature of the Elf. She doesn’t have any malice in her. She genuinely thinks that Ned Greely’s mistress is his wife, she didn’t really understand that Cerebus was blackmailing him, at least that’s how I read her. Beyond his name, his company and that she thinks he’s a nice man the Elf doesn’t know anything about Hadden.

Cerebus invites Hadden to his suite to discuss Hadden’s obsession: gold plated street lamps, he suggests that if Hadden were to forget the 29,000 crowns the Iestan government owes his firm then they may be able to rush through approval for not gold plated street lamps, but solid gold ones! The fact that he suggests this while pouring the better part of a bottle of Boreala’s finest whiskey into Hadden doesn’t hurt either.

Cerebus feeling very pleased with himself is pouring the inebriated Hadden into a cab when a large stone crescent moon falls from above and smashes Hadden flat into the pavement, killing him instantly. A stunned Cerebus looks up to see a familiar figure silhouetted in the fading light, he’s wearing a different costume, he calls himself the Moon Roach, and he’s hissing about ‘unorthodox economic revenge’, but it is most unmistakably the Cootie!

The last two pages of Debt are brilliance. I wasn’t expecting the moon, no one was, All of sudden there it is WHAM! It makes you jump back in your seat. Had Dave ended it with that panel it would have worked, but then to follow it up with shock number 2 the reappearance of the Cootie that just made it perfect and allowed a seamless segue into the next issue.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Cerebus wakes up in his suite at The Regency, he does check to make sure that he really isn’t on a park bench in Beduin. He receives a message from the Iestan Prime Minister demanding that he pay back the 12,000 crowns that they paid as his ransom. Cerebus decides to take a bath, and try to think this through. He’s about to run the bath when a disembodied voice starts talking to him. Initially Cerebus thinks that he’s having a conversation with himself, but then realises that the voice is really there, not just in his head. He turns, and is confronted by a small, glowing, floating woman. She introduces herself as the Regency Elf, although Cerebus can call her Elf if he likes. You get the impression the Elf doesn’t get many visitors. She’s extremely excited to see Cerebus as they haven’t had an aardvark at The Regency for over 800 years. Again it is stated that whilst aardvarks are rare, they’re not completely unknown, it isn’t said, but you get the feeling that whenever they do pop up they’re extremely important figures one way or another.

To say that Cerebus isn’t disconcerted by the Elf’s appearance would be incorrect. It does throw him briefly, and then annoys him when she drinks all his whiskey, but it does not have the same effect on the aardvark that I suspect it would on most others. He does try to tell the clerk about the Elf, but the man refuses to believe him, and the empty flask of Borealan whiskey doesn’t really help his argument.

Despite the fact that she can be annoying, and her penchant for drinking Cerebus’ alcohol, the Elf does know a lot of things. For one she knows that the McGrew brothers were apprehended, and that they’re being held at Hobbsgate prison. As they presumably collected Cerebus’ ransom it’s reasonable to assume that they may know where the money is. Cerebus breaks into the prison, and with the assistance of a stout cudgel finds out that the incompetent Onlian siblings did collect the ransom, but it was a worthless statue of a duck, which they sold to buy saddle sore remedy.

Cerebus finds himself back at The Regency eating raw potatoes (I know…ick! Apparently they help him think and he likes the taste, although you should leave the skin on as that’s the best bit), and mulling things over with the Elf. He decides to send letters to the businessmen who were so eager to see him not so long ago, and see if he can get any more money out of them. The Elf peers over his shoulder as he writes, and muses about the afternoons one of the businessmen; Ned Greely, spends at The Regency with his ‘wife’. You could call it blackmail, but that’s such an ugly word. As I said the Elf knows a lot of things, not all of what she says is totally frivolous. Cerebus pens his poison letter, and waits for Greely to intercede with the Prime Minister on his behalf.

To pass the time he plays wickets (croquet) with the Elf. She’s really not very good at the game, but she’s easy enough to talk to, and you should never get mad at an elf. I quite enjoyed the exchanges between Cerebus and the Elf. He teases her a lot. When she asks him what he’d buy if he made a lot of money he replies: ‘a quiet elf.’

I adored the Elf, she was one of the things that set Cerebus apart from nearly every other book in the market. The Elf was also a contrast to Cerebus, while not exactly innocent, she did give off an illusion of being naive, although she clearly wasn't. She never wanted anything from helping Cerebus other than his friendship. Cerebus on the other hand was a completely amoral creature with very few redeeming characteristics who hardly ever did anything for anyone without expecting some sort of recompense.

I’m not sure where the idea for the Elf came from, it was certainly out of left field, but then Dave tended to do that, you were never quite certain what you’d find every time you opened the pages of a Cerebus book. Going by her appearance she was based on Disney’s Tinkerbell. Years later I read a Tad Williams book called ‘The War of the Flowers’ (can’t recommend it highly enough, if you haven’t read it you really should try and get a copy) that featured an obnoxious faery with the name of Applecore. There were significant differences between the two, and I don’t think the Elf inspired Applecore, but she often made me think of The Regency’s resident elf.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mind Games II

Return to the Seventh Sphere. You can tell Cerebus is in the Seventh Sphere because there’s virtually no background, just a number of indistinct black and grey shapes. I wondered if Dave was going to take Cerebus to the Seventh Sphere every time he lost consciousness. Not that I really minded. When I first read them I didn’t much like the Mind Games stories, with a greater appreciation of how they fit into the whole story, and possibly also because I am now older and better read, I appreciate them far more these days.

In some ways they’re Dave being a bit lazy, he doesn’t have to worry about drawing backgrounds and other characters, just Cerebus in various poses, as he travels through a dreamscape, having a conversation with the mysterious, evasive and maddeningly vague mystic Suenteus Po.

What we do get in Mind Games II, as in Mind Games I, is a detailed description of the socio political landscape of Estarcion. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing as to where Cerebus life is heading.

Cerebus has questions about how the last time this happened to him he was knocked out in Togith and woke up weeks later in Beduin. This is one question Po either can’t, or refuses to, answer. He does however give Cerebus a wealth of information about the Cirinists, the two factions of Tarimites, one is far more liberal than the other, he also throws in some detail about a Cirinist offshoot called the Kevillists. Cerebus begins to talk about his own religious aspirations, although he himself doesn’t realise it at the time. We find out a little more about Cerebus’ past. During his studies with Magus Doran he ran the gauntlet of energy globes in Imesh twice. That struck me as an interesting concept, it’s rather like Han Solo’s boast of having completed the Kessel Spice Run in record time in Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s highly likely that neither George Lucas or Dave Sim could explain exactly what either of these phrases mean, but they do sound impressive. It appears that Cerebus had the makings of a more than competent Magus, but never completed his training, and in fact has done nothing of a magical nature for over 10 years. I wonder if Cerebus' magical training is what made him into such a cynic or whether he was always like that. It also made me wonder how old Cerebus is. He completed 3 years of magical training, but that was over 10 years ago, and somewhere along the line he became a hard bitten mercenary, ranged all over Estarcion, made and lost a few fortunes, and ended up a blademaster as well. It sounds like an eventful decade. In fact there’s more experience than most could fit into a mere 10 years. Po also gives Cerebus the history of the Pigts, which makes it even more curious that they worshiped an aardvark idol, for some reason Cerebus lies to Po about the size of the idol. Po’s reaction to probing about his current whereabouts gives Cerebus the idea that the Illusionist’s physical location is somewhere in Iest, possibly even The Regency.

As with the last time Cerebus and Po lost contact just when things were getting interesting. I wonder where Cerebus will wake up this time?

I gained new respect for Dave as an author and his ability to construct a long reaching, complex story with this chapter. I was almost sad that Cerebus had to leave the Seventh Sphere.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Kidnapping of an Aardvark

It turns out that trying to ditch his security detail wasn't one of Cerebus' brighter ideas. He is confronted by two Onliu desperates; Dirty Fleagle McGrew and his younger brother Dirty Drew McGrew. Judging by their appearance; the brothers sport long hair and impressive drooping moustaches, the manner of speech; they both regularly refer to Cerebus as a varmint, a critter and a long eared galoot, and their apparent lack of intelligence; the brothers are spectacularly stupid, it appears that Dave was a fan of the 40's & 50's Warner Bros cartoons. The McGrew brothers are obviously based on Yosemite Sam. Joss Whedon featured a couple of imbecilic vampire brothers from the Wild West in the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Lyle and Tector Gorch, they bare some similarity to the McGrews. Joss Whedon is a known comic fan, it would not surprise to learn that he was the one who gave Marti Noxon (the writer of the episode) the idea for the Gorch's, and that the idea was inspired by the McGrew brothers.

Fleagle and Drew announce their intention to kidnap Cerebus, and hold him for ransom. Cerebus makes short order of the brothers, tosses their weapons away and takes charge of the kidnapping. The McGrew's have little choice but to go along with their target. Cerebus takes them to a tavern where he has a friendship with the owner, and the three hole up in an upstairs room. Cerebus writes and sends a ransom note demanding a good deal more than the McGrew's had intended.

To pass the time, while Cerebus waits for Lord Julius' administration to arrange the ransom money, the aardvark plays Diamondback with his 'captors', and proceeds to fleece the McGrews of the small share he agreed to cut them in on. Unfortunately Cerebus has underestimated the desperation of the McGrews, and when he attempts to collect the ransom they knock him unconscious with the intention of claiming the money for themselves.