Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Swords of Cerebus #3: Swords Against Imesh, Merchant Of Unshib, The Merchant & The Cockroach, Beduin By Night

After 8 issues Cerebus had added a love interest in Jaka, and had a regular recurring character in Elrod, the world in which the aardvark moved was really starting to take shape, and it was already moving away from it's roots as a Conan parody starring an aardvark.

Swords Against Imesh picked up where the previous issue left off, with Cerebus leading his army of military fanatics against the city of Imesh. It was a city the aardvark knew well, having spent his adolescence there and learned magic under the tutelage of Magus Doran. Dave had realised that having given Cerebus power, he didn't really want him to have it yet, and this story was his way of removing that power. The city was surrounded by a huge wall, Cerebus left his army outside and scaled the wall to investigate what was going on in Imesh. In a huge tower he encountered Imesh's King K'cor; a beefy bearded character who had enslaved the city by addicting it's populace to a drug he called Buz. Cerebus had no intention of being thwarted and tackled K'cor's champion Lord Koghem, having defeated Koghem, Cerebus thinks that he now has control of the city, however K'cor had other ideas and challenged Cerebus himself. Cerebus was unable to get through K'cor's armour, and looked set to lose when the king gave up the fight, informing Cerebus that if he had left his army outside to forage for food and water, then as all the wells in the surrounding area had been poisoned to discourage barbarian attacks, then they were probably dead, and Cerebus was no threat and of no use. A stunned Cerebus watched K'cor's large retreating back and realised that he was back to where he was before he met the Conniptins.

I felt that comparing the artwork in Swords Against Imesh with that of the next issue: Merchant of Unshib, that there was a subtle change. Cerebus began to look less like the long nosed cartoon that he began as and more as the better drawn version that readers came to know and love. Red Sophia returned in Merchant of Unshib. I hoped she wouldn't become a regular recurring character, she was a one joke character to me, and the book had begun to move beyond such a two dimensional character. While trekking through a blizzard Cerebus ran into Red Sophia. His reaction said that he would rather have encountered an avalanche. Sophia told Cerebus that she knew the whereabouts of the Black Blossom Lotus; a priceless magical artifact. Cerebus agreed to help her obtain it and share the proceeds with her when she introduced her partner; Meirgen, a musclebound, brainless barbarian warrior (just Sophia's type), the trio later had a 4th conspirator join them; a treacherous T'Capmin border guard. Cerebus double crossed the other 3, took the Lotus all for himself, and for once walked away a winner.

The Merchant & The Cockroach marked another turning point for the book. The city of Beduin was somewhat more civilized than the barbarian towns we'd been seeing. It was also the introduction to one of the books most important and popular characters; The Cockroach. Dave got the idea from talking to Marshall Rogers about Batman...sorry The Batman to give him his real name, and he started thinking about doing his own version of the character in Cerebus with what was a very 'Dave' twist. In The Batman legend Bruce Wayne and his alter ego are aware of one another. By day The Cockroach is a mild mannered businessman, and by night the crime avenging Cockroach, however the businessman doesn't know what he becomes at night and The Cockroach doesn't know about the existence of his law abiding other side. After selling the Black Blossom Lotus to the businessman and watching him destroy it Cerebus accidentally happened to witness the transformation to The Cockroach. It intrigued him and he followed, as he comes to call the unhinged night time avenger; The Cootie. He observed The Cockroach find, beat up criminals and take their money, he then saw him make his way back to his house, drop the money into a hole in the wall and go to sleep. Cerebus did some exploring and realises that The Cockroach has been doing this for years and doesn't realise that there is 8 feet of gold in between the walls of his house. Cerebus tried to use The Cockroach to take the gold out of the city, but realised that The Cootie was an extremely unreliable assistant, unfortunately this happened too late for Cerebus to keep more than a sack or two of the gold.
This is also the first issue I can remember seeing Cerebus regular wardrobe of black vest and the three medallions.

Beduin by Night followed directly on. Having escaped from the authorities in Beduin, and leaving The Cockroach to their mercies Cerebus holed up in a tavern and proceeded to drink himself through what gold he managed to keep, whilst lamenting all that he had lost. After overhearing that The Cockroach had been taken into custody, he went back to the Cootie's house to check on the rest of the gold only to find that it was gone. I have to admit that seeing Cerebus have a conniption when finding that the gold is gone and referring to it as 'Cerebus gold' amused me greatly and it was so typical of the character and his incredible, overwhelming avarice. Further searching led him to The Cockroach's version of the Batcave, complete with Cockroach and gold. Cerebus told The Cockroach that they had to move the gold because Elrod of Melvinbone planned to steal it. This may have worked except that while moving the gold the two of them actually met Elrod! The fight between Elrod and The Cockroach drew the city watch, and while Cerebus fought them off, he also lost the majority of the gold in the process. Yet again Elrod had managed to ruin Cerebus grand plans simply by being there. You could tell it would not be the last time and I didn't think it would be the last we would see of The Cockroach. As it turns out it was the last time we saw him as The Cockroach, but we would learn that like his namesake The Cockroach could never really be exterminated.

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