Thursday, October 6, 2011
The revelations in Minds were going to be a pretty hard act to follow and for me there was interest to see if Dave could do so in Guys. Unfortunately he couldn’t. I think this was about where the book lost me. I did keep buying it for some time following Guys, but much of the interest and enjoyment had gone. The reread hasn’t actually proven to enhance the experience.
Guys is mostly set in one of those bars that the Cirinists set up to keep the male population happy, sedated and out of their way. Their existence had been spoken about in Minds, when Cerebus found out the truth about Cirin/Serna. The bar itself, and a good many of the conversations in the narrative are based on a local establishment Dave frequented during a period of near alcoholism in between relationships. It does have that feel about it, and the conversations that float around a regularly drink sodden Cerebus, are of the type that you can hear in places with heavy regular drinkers.
Dave took the opportunity to reintroduce a number of characters from previous adventures. Mick (he seemed to have dropped the Prince title) was a regular, Keef also popped in at one stage, but his role was little more than a cameo. Bear was there, resuming his relationship with Cerebus. In Cerebus’ head at least, the two seemed much closer than I’d ever realised. Cerebus is almost dependent on the big bearded mercenary. Boobah also shows up, sporting some extremely impressive facial hair. The Roach has a cameo as ‘fanroach’, there’s a reference to a writer of ‘graphic reads’ visiting the bar, and that’s what fanroach turns up for. Elrod doesn’t appear, but he and Sophia are mentioned at one point. They seem to live together as man and wife. Mrs Thatcher comes back, she appears to administer the bar, she’s far less terrifying and her authority seems to have greatly diminished (I’m not sure of the dates when the book was written, but her real life counterpart may have been voted out of power by this time). Some new characters were introduced; bartender Harrison Starkey, the name is a mixture of George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and he did have a very Beatleish look about him, he also spoke with a heavy accent which was meant to represent the Liverpudlian accent of the Fab Four. A bug eyed, hunch backed character called Marty also played a part. He was very obviously based on the pop eyed comedic actor Marty Feldman. His character was one of the funniest things about Guys, although I’m not really sure why Dave felt the need to use Marty Feldman in the book.
Cerebus spends the first half of the book in an alcoholic stupor, listening to the nonsensical chatter in the bar, and slipping in and out of consciousness after drinking copious amounts of ‘scodge’. There were a few dream sequences, but they were a little different to the ones in earlier books, often being influenced by what was going on around Cerebus at the time. From the conversations in the bar readers gleaned some information about what had happened while Cerebus was floating around in space. Mind you the conversations were damned hard to follow due to the speech patterns the characters employed. Both Mick and Harrison spoke with heavy accents, and were at times unintelligible. Bear is hardly capable of stringing more than three words together without inserting ‘whadyacallit’, and when Cerebus spoke, his speech was so badly slurred from the alcohol that it was also hard to decipher. Cerebus seemed to have been out of the picture for a number of years. Cirin returned, and due to lack of opposition cemented her control even more firmly.
Eventually the other patrons leave the bar, and Cerebus takes over as bartender. No one actually ever frequents the bar after this, until a lady called Joanne comes calling. Joanne was one of the women Cerebus met in one of Dave’s futures for him. This was really confusing, because Cerebus knew her, only she didn’t know him. I’m not sure how Dave kept it straight in his own head, because it was really throwing me out. I understood it, but it was just such an odd concept. Cerebus started a relationship with her, while knowing that it was all going to end in tears, because unless Bear returned to the bar by a certain date Cerebus had determined that he was heading south, without Joanne. Joanne was the person who mentioned Elrod and Sophia, they were apparently her neighbours. When she first appeared in Minds, Joanne reminded me of someone, and it dawned on me in Guys, who that was. She looks a lot like an older version of the young waitress Doris, who Cerebus met in Melmoth.
Joanne finds out about Cerebus’ plans to leave, and walks out on him. The epilogue introduces a new patron of the bar. A big, bluff bearded blonde chap, who seems to be very confident and competent. No one knows who he is until he leans across the bar, and tells Cerebus that the aardvark once told him that he was in love with his wife. Rick?!
Rick’s surprising reappearance aside, there seems to be little reason for the existence of Guys. It doesn’t advance the story, it doesn’t tell readers anything they don’t already know. Cerebus is barely sane, he hates himself, he drinks heavily, all his relationships with women end in disaster, he’s not going to stay around. We’ve seen all this. We didn’t need it explained again and again. There are a lot of words in Guys used to say very little. To be totally honest I felt that it was spinning it’s wheels, and longed for the book’s earlier days when stuff used to happen. Maybe Rick’s Story will be a return to form, at least hearing about Rick changing from the skinny idler to this big confident bloke would provide some new information about a character.
The artwork throughout was competent, without ever doing anything astonishing. Most of Dave’s ‘people’, not Cerebus; he always looks like a cartoon, look very real and you can see the developments in inking and shading since the early days of the book. For what was at one time a very funny book, both in it’s visuals and words, there’s not much to laugh about in Guys, although I did find the labels on the alcohol served in the bar rather amusing, Lord Julius’ company seemed to produce most of them. Nice to see that no matter how bad things get in Estarcion the master bureaucrat always lands on his feet.