Friday, August 28, 2009

Swords of Cerebus #4: Black Magiking

I apologise for the brief absence, the computer wasn't cooperating, now I'm back here we go.

The 4th Swords of Cerebus collection really should have contained just issues #14, #15 & #16. That would have of course left no room for issue #13, and at some point that does become important later on, so the publishers were really between a rock and a hard place there, but Swords of Cerebus #4 is really all about the Palnu Trilogy, in fact it even has the words ‘The Palnu Trilogy’ on the front cover with a picture of Lord Julius, but I’m getting ahead of myself and spoiling the fun for everyone. I'm only going to cover issue #13 in this post. The Palnu Trilogy deserves it's own post.

Issue #13: Black Magiking was what the readers were coming to recognise as a ‘standard’ Cerebus story. Having lost all of his ill gotten gains in Beduin, courtesy of the Cootie’s insanity and Elrod’s meddling, Cerebus is once again somewhere out in the boonies. He is found by a couple of hunters from an isolated village. Curiously enough these two yokels not only recognise that Cerebus is funny looking they think he’s a demon of some sort. It didn’t hit me at the time, but thinking back on it this is the reaction you would expect a 3 foot tall, talking bipedal aardvark to provoke everywhere he went, unless of course he happened to be in the world from Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series.

A nicely drawn fight scene followed, I think the fight scene was there just for the sake of having a fight scene. It was rather apparent that the hunters were hopelessly outmatched, yet when they suggest bringing Cerebus before their priest he appears bound to a chair in the next panel. I don’t know if anyone has ever asked why he went so willingly when he didn’t have to. As priests tend to be in Cerebus, this one was completely deranged, but saw a use for Cerebus beyond drowning him or burning him at the stake, or however the villagers preferred to deal with their demonic monsters. This particular village is at the mercy of a powerful wizard called Necross the Mad. The priest believed that Cerebus may have been able to help them with Necross, possibly he recognised the aardvark’s talent for mayhem. It’s another thing that I don’t believe is totally explained. Cerebus, along with the priest, go to Necross’ castle and Cerebus meets the wizard himself, he is quite undeniably insane, but not dangerously so, at least Cerebus thinks so until Necross shows him Thrunk. Thrunk is a huge stone golem which Necross intends to use to take over his little corner of the world. He was also a parody of The Thing from the Fantastic Four. Necross taunted the priest and this time to the wizard’s surprise he wound up with an arrow through his chest rather than a harmless incantation flung his way. Unfortunately for the priest Necross transported his consciousness into Thrunk. Cerebus took that as his cue to get out of the castle and Necross/Thrunk crushed the priest. Happily for Cerebus the priest threw away the heavy gold religious icon he was carrying when Necross crushed him and it landed where the aardvark was standing outside the castle, so the whole episode wasn’t a complete waste of time.

There were a couple of themes in this that were common throughout the book’s life. One was religion. Religion played a large part in Cerebus. Dave was an atheist for the most of the time he spent writing the book, but he underwent a religious conversion of sorts towards the end of writing it. I’m not sure if he had some less than pleasant experiences with religion earlier in life, this may have been why he tended to portray religion and religious figures in the unflattering manner that he did. The second regular occurrence was the parodying of a character from another comic. We’d already seen The Batman as The Cockroach and now The Thing. It shouldn’t surprise, presumably Dave was a fanboy before he started his own book. I found it interesting that, The Cockroach aside, he tended to use Marvel characters more than DC ones. It’s possible that because I was almost exclusively a Marvel fanboy I didn’t pick up on the DC parodies as easily.

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