Saturday, January 22, 2011
Women is the 2nd book in Cerebus' Mothers & Daughters story arc, which was begun in Flight.
I tend to fly blind a bit here. I did read Women when it first came out, but I only read it as the issues, never cracked open the phone book until I read it for this and consequently can remember very little of it. Stylistically Women is about as far from what a standard comic was thought of at the time as you could get. There are pages of writing from two fictional treatises, normal comic book panels, full page pictures, other pages where one picture takes up the bulk of the space with the writing on one side and there are also large pages with one picture dominating and partial faces around it talking. It's not the easiest of things to read, but then Cerebus never followed any of the rules for writing graphic novels. I tend to think Dave made up most of these as he went.
Women follows a few storylines. There's Cirn, Astoria, the Roach, Cerebus, the lives of the people in the conquered city of Iest. The stories are broken up by written quotes from two manifestoes: Astoria's Kevillist Origins and Cirin's The New Matriarchy. In his introduction to the book Dave Sim explains his idea behind the theories of Kevillism as opposed to Cirinism and this is also in part why the 4 smaller books that make up the whole of Mothers & Daughters is called that. Cirinists are Mothers and believe that only women who are mothers have the right to rule, where as Kevillists are Daughters and believe that power should belong to ALL women, not just mothers. At least that's what Dave, Cirin and Astoria seem to be saying to me.
After being rejected by Blossom the Roach develops a new persona known as Swoon, this is a parody of Neil Gaiman's Dream from his ground breaking graphic novel The Sandman. As a result of this persona, the Roaches regular sidekick; Elrod becomes Swoon's transvestite 'sister' Snuff (a based on Dream's sister Death from The Sandman. I haven't read all of The Sandman, so I don't know know if Death was actually a transvestite or not. I assume not, but Dave had to do it to make Elrod; a male character, fit as Death; s female character). The Roach appears as 2 versions of Swoon, one is the black eyed version and the other is clad in the helmet and hose that Death wore in the early days of The Sandman, I assume this was because the version with the helmet and breathing hose just looks funnier. After having some truly bizarre dreams Swoonroach eventually breaks out towards the end of the book parodying all sorts of Roach characters including: Pittroach, Maxxroach, Spawnroach, Sabretoothroach, Laytonroach, Marvel U.K Roach and others. Some referenced characters, others were authors, publishers or concepts, you really had to be into comics to get 90% of the jokes. They were extraordinarily panels to draw, total chaos and unbridled insanity. I have no idea where the Roach will go from this.
Cirin's story mostly concerned her trying to assert her control over the city, obsess about Astoria and Cerebus and try to create a giant golden globe to attempt her own ascension. I found it rather amusing that her generals were called Greer, Steinem and Dworkin after 3 prominent feminists. Cirin survives an assassination attempt, but loses all semblance of mercy and quite possibly the people. This will affect her chances of ascension severely.
Astoria breaks her arm while being taken to Cirin, and the injury in fact mirrors one that Cirin herself suffered during the course of the book's events. She is on her way to the church where Cirin is, possibly flirting with capture and death by doing so when the people start to gather around her and refer to her as a messiah or saviour.
Cerebus finds his way to an inn, the same one where the McGrew brothers have been and holes himself up there. His intentions aren't clear, but judging by his alcohol intake he seems to want to drink himself to death. He emerges from the alcohol induced haze twice, once in a trancelike state, where he causes a section of the mountain above the city to rise up and smash through Cirin's headquarters (that's how she broke her arm) by lifting and lowering his sword. While's asleep he has dreams, he has one of being lectured by a young Cerebus and I can't help but think that child Cerebus is extraordinarily cute, the old Cerebus that lectures him in another dream is less cute. He also dreams about The Elf. In the dream she claims that she's the fake Elf, the real one looks totally different and was nowhere near as much fun and couldn't exist outside the Ambassador Suite of The Regency, she disappeared. The Elf also says that Cerebus created her from his mind, so in some weird way that makes Cerebus' her Daddy. Cerebus has huge problems with this concept, made ickier by the fact that the Elf said he created her to make her be his perfect daughter, she's the girl next door to him when he was growing up that he had a crush on, she's Jaka, she's Katrina, she's Doris, all these girls that Cerebus has had in his life. Cerebus does deny it, but it's probably true. Sigh. The second time Cerebus emerges from his alchoholic haze he starts flying. Flying above the city and knocking out the spikes on the mountain top. He touches down in front of Astoria and draws his sword back to kill her.
While much of this has been going on Death (not the one from The Sandman, who is now Elrod and called Snuff) has been stalking the streets of Iest. Before Cerebus can deliver the killing blow to Astoria Death appears in between the two and removed his hood. Death is Suenteus Po! Po found it necessary to adopt a disguise. I thought Po was long dead, but apparently not. With the appearance of Po three messiahs have appeared to the people of Iest. The thing that surprised me about Po was his size. He's a white haired, lanky old aardvark, but he's really tall. Because Cerebus is 3 feet tall it's always really hard to guage height around him, because next to him everyone is tall, but Po towers over Astoria. I'd put him at a similar height to the Roach and he's always been taller ever since Weisshaupt put him in the platform boots back in the Captain Cockroach days. Po puts his arms around Cerebus and Astoria and leads them into the cathedral to meet their 'hostess'. I was unsure if he was referring to Terim or Cirin.