Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Reads could possibly be the most challenging book of Cerebus I've ever attempted to review. It's actually a bit of a challenge to read it in the first place. In this case it not being broken up into bite sized issue length chapters is a definite strength. I can't remember reading it as it came out, I know I did, because I was still collecting the comic at this point, but I can't recall it. I know reading Reads issue by issue month by month would have been a deeply unsatisfying and confusing experience. Reads, to me, is designed to be read as a single book. It's another example of Dave pushing the boundaries of the medium he was working in.
Dave actually describes Reads best in his introduction: Reads is a mixture of autobiography, a meditation on the traditional role of the creator in a capitalistic society, the nature of creativity itself, a re-examination of the conclusions reached at the end of Church & State, and a big fight.
He never actually says who the characters of Victor Reid and Viktor Davis are other than to say that they were fascinating and challenging companions.
Reads is 3 stories, that of Reads author Victor Reid, the continuing story of Cerebus and the story of a creator/artist/author called Viktor Davis. I'll try and break it down that way.
First we encounter Victor Reid. Victor is a moderately successful author of the Reads that are the main opiate of the masses in Cirinist controlled Estarcion. When the concept of Reads were first introduced in the book by Weisshaupt I always saw them as trashy romance novels or pulp books, but in this book it is obvious that they are comics. The story of the hapless Victor is largely that of a clueless author who is seduced into selling his creative soul to a heartless publisher in order to make more money and once he's in, he can't get out. It's largely a series of observations on the comics industry at the time in which the book was written.
Sandwiched between, in and around the stories of the two Vic(k)tors is the story of Cerebus. It picks up where Women left off with Po, Astoria and Cerebus confronting Cirin in the cathedral. Po semonises on the nature of the 4 people in the cathedral and the nature of aardvarks in a human dominated society. There's something different about all the aardvarks, but at this stage Cerebus has the ascendancy, mainly because he's a trained warrior, armed with a sword and can kill everyone in the place if he wants to. At times, mainly due to the way he was occasionally drawn I wondered about Po's gender. Cirin is female, Cerebus is male, was Po either or both? I'd discover the answer later.
Po leaves and the other 3 look at each other. Astoria tells Cerebus that it will not be necessary to kill her as she is also leaving soon. Before she does she comes out with some stunning revelations. Cerebus is a hermaphrodite. What bothers Cirin about Cerebus is that she believes he can impregnate himself and possibly produce an entire race of aardvarks. She's had a child and he was human in every respect. Astoria did not fall pregnant when Cerebus raped her, but as she's never carried a child before and no one knows if Cerebus has fathered any, there's no way of telling if either or both of them are infertile or if it was just one of those things. Astoria seems fed up with controlling things and trying to gain power, she tells Cirin and Cerebus to play nice and suggests that maybe Cirin and Cerebus try having sex, then leaves the building.
Enter the Roach. He's now dressed in a robe and referring to himself as Kay Sarah Sarah. I never knew if this was another character or an extension of the Sandman parody. Elrod is still done up as Snuff, so it's possible that this was a continuation of the Sandman parody. Readers discovered the truth of Elrod. How he could keep popping up no matter how definitively he seemed to have been killed. He wasn't actually real, he was only kept alive by belief in his own existence. Upon hearing this he popped out of existence with a loud POIT, leaving the Kay Sarah Sarah incarnation of the Roach standing on a platform floating in space.
Back in the cathedral Cerebus and Cirin fight. Initially, having a sword Cerebus has the upper hand and it looks like he's going to cut the leader of the church into pieces. Cirin fights back and manages to get the sword, she cuts off Cerebus' ear and that's about when the entire cathedral collapses around them and they are both clinging to the throne and the platform it sits on when it lifts off and floats towards, you guessed it...the Moon!
The 3rd part of Reads is extraordinary. The story of the successful Reads author Viktor Davis. Part autobiography, part political treatise, part musing on what is and isn't real. Rambling internal monologue, Talk about the book, it's history, it's present and its possible future. It came across as something like the Ulysses of comics. The character of Viktor Davis as written by Dave Sim, absolutely fucked with the readers heads the entire way through it. I don't know if I totally understood what was being said, it's hard to say if anyone did, but it was an entertaining look into someone's thought process.
Inreresting to see if Dave can pull this all back on track in Minds.