Monday, January 10, 2011

Pogrom's Progress

The opening chapter of Jaka's Story is called Pogrom's Progress.

It appears that Jaka and Rick are living halfway up the mountain from the cinematic widescreen shot Dave gives readers it looks like there are about 3 houses clustered close together. The general store combination pub is owned by a mild mannered middle aged chap called Pud Withers. Pud never seems to appear without his apron and it’s obvious that he lusts after Jaka, but is too shy and scared to do anything about it. He often rehearses the short conversations he has with Jaka over and over in his mind, what he actually says and what he desperately wants to say. Jaka dances for him in the pub, even though no one ever shows up to see her, and in return Pud pays her and allows her and Rick to rent out a nearby house that he also owns. The lack of customers baffles Jaka, she doesn’t understand, as she’s always drawn a crowd before. Possibly Pud doesn’t want others to see her, so discourages custom, although a more likely reason is that the Cirinists probably regard what Jaka does as immoral and illegal.

Somehow Cerebus finds his way to this place. I can’t remember him being aware that Jaka was working there, in fact I don’t think she was prior to the Cirinist takeover, and it seems rather improbable that of all the places in Iest Jaka could be that Cerebus just happens to find his way there. Pud probably knows who he is, after all how many aardvarks can there be in Iest, but agrees to let him stay with Jaka and Rick and even have an occasional ale just so long as he doesn’t overdo it.

I thought some of the moments in this first chapter belonged to Rick. He’s just so clueless. He’s really happy to meet Cerebus, but doesn’t twig that he’s the former pope until he overhears a conversation between Jaka and Cerebus. Rick, he’s a 3 foot tall aardvark, he doesn’t try to disguise this. Who else could he be? Cerebus is up front with Rick about how he feels about Jaka, he tells him right from the start: ‘Kid, Cerebus is in love with your wife.’ Rick’s response is: ‘I know. Isn’t she great?’ How he’s survived this long I do not know. It is in fact Rick who comes up with the idea of giving Cerebus an alias, he calls him Fred. No, no one will ever suspect who he really is. There’s also a very funny exchange between Rick and Jaka when the dancer scolds him for embarrassing Cerebus by asking him to create a pillar of fire over dinner one night. Rick’s defence is a furious: ‘IF! I asked him IF he could create a pillar of fire!’

In one heart felt conversation Cerebus goes over all the times he’s wronged Jaka, analyses who was in the wrong (mostly him) and apologises for it. Jaka accepts the apology, but says that she also knows that they just don’t work together. She confesses to Cerebus that she lost the baby. Cerebus is sorry for her and she accepts that as well. The person that seems most hurt by the loss of the child is Rick.
Cerebus agonises over Jaka’s relationship with Rick, it’s not helped by the fact that he can hear everything they say and do while in bed at night from his room. The walls in the house seem to be paper thin and everyone knows everyone else’s business and can overhear everything said in the place. The presence of Cerebus also puts a strain on Jaka and Rick’s marriage and things are often tense between the 3 cohabitants.

Readers still don’t know a lot about the invasion. Jaka does tell Cerebus that it was chaotic in the city with men having their hands cut off and their tongues cut out (I winced when I read that). There is one other person living up there with Pud, Jaka and Rick, his name is Oscar. Rick’s the only one who mentions Oscar and he’s not present in this chapter, but he may turn up later on.

The story of the now is broken up by the continuing story of Jaka’s youth, she was a desperately lonely child, with only Nurse and Missy for company and Nurse wasn’t exactly pleasant company. It’s really not surprising that she ran away. The story of Jaka as a child is told with one large drawing to illustrate the event and well written passages heavy on description.

Very little happens so Dave relies heavily on his words and his sheer brilliance at conveying expressions and small movements with his art. You wouldn’t think that a comic so light on action would be able to hold a readers interest, but it does and it does so easily.

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