Monday, October 31, 2011
Rick's Story is the 12th phone book of the epic Cerebus graphic novel by Dave Sim. I'm really getting there now. I think there are only 3 or 4 phone books to go.
Rick's Story is one of the shorter collections, only comprising from issue 220 - 231 of the comic.
In his introduction Dave Sim is at pains to once again state that Rick is not him, nor is the character based on him. I can see why people may have thought he was at one point. Rick, when he first entered the book, did bear a passing resemblance to the artist/writer, but that's all it was. I don't think it was conscious. Dave can only draw so many characters, and that was just how Rick looked to him. It is kind of interesting that he states this, though. At point in the story the Joanne character actually compares the Rick in it to a writer she knew called Dave, Rick reminds her of Dave, and this Rick is also a writer.
Rick is the only customer in the bar, and while he looks bigger with a beard, he's still Rick. A little older and wiser, but as far as Cerebus is concerned he's the same shiftless wimp that was once married to Jaka. Cerebus still refers to him as 'girly-boy', although he doesn't do this to Rick's face, just when he's having his endless internal conversations.
After the Cirinists took he and Jaka prisoner and then released Rick he became a writer of Reads and to hear him tell it, quite a successful one. This may or may not be true. Rick liked to tell a good story and he's become rather good at embellishing them. He hasn't forgotten what the Cirinists did to him, though. The breaking of his thumb for hitting Jaka is a regular nightmare.
When Cerebus actually banishes Mrs Thatcher from the bar Rick starts to wonder if the Most Holy talk was just that, or whether Cerebus is the real deal and does have some sort of divine wisdom or power. Cerebus has found a way to exploit the Cirinist's mind link, but he doesn't have any special power as such. He wouldn't be still stuck in the bar if he did.
Cerebus is happy when Rick meets and woos Joanne, in fact he prays that Rick won't screw it up. If Rick isn't there in the bar then Cerebus has no reason to be there either and he can leave. Rick comes to believe that Cerebus is something other than just a cranky, alcoholic bartender. He starts writing this biblical collection of Cerebus' wisdom. The artwork during these long slabs of faux archaic text is quite extraordinary; detailed pictures of stained glass frescoes featuring characters and motifs from the book.
Rick does leave, presumably with Joanne, although this isn't spelled out. He places a spell on the bar which prevents Cerebus from leaving. Cerebus can't decide if it's a spell to contain him or expel him. It's highly possible that Rick just got into the aardvark's head. Cerebus himself isn't sure if that's the case. I did find out one thing during that period though, the bar is on the Wall of Tsi, which I think is in the T'Capmin Kingdoms. Readers had heard about this in the early part of the book, but this was the first time we ever actually saw it. Unfortunately it's fairly unremarkable.
While Cerebus wrestles with himself about whether to stay or go and what spell Rick has possibly placed on the bar a new customer enters. His name is Dave. Yes, this is definitely Dave Sim. He has a conversation with Cerebus, which he steers, and then leaves as mysteriously as he showed up. He leaves a package behind on the bar.
Cerebus knows that this was Dave, THE Dave. The one that spoke to him and told him who and what he really was. Cerebus doesn't know what's in the package and he's afraid to open it. What if Dave's boss or his readers got sick of reading about Cerebus tending bar and arguing with himself and wanted him to start having adventures again and doing fun stuff and told Dave to kill off Cerebus, what if all the package has in it is paper reading THE END and then WHAM! Something flattens Cerebus? What if Dave had to kill off Cerebus and retitled the book Rick's Stories and it was all about Rick going off and having adventures and doing all the fun stuff that Cerebus used to do? What if Rick met Elrod and the Roach and they went off and had adventures and did fun stuff instead?
Eventually Cerebus opens the package reciting to himself: Alone 'CHECK' Unmourned 'CHECK' And Unloved 'CHECK'. This bit was both funny and touching. Evidence that even in the dross and the endless arguments and internal monologuing Dave still had the capacity to move readers...well he moved this one. Actually the whole thing about what was in the package was pretty funny at times.
Package open Cerebus stares down at the object in his hands. Missy. Jaka's doll. At that moment the door opens and in steps a beautiful blonde lady. What the fuck? It's Jaka. She takes in Cerebus sitting by the bar, Missy cradled in his hands and runs to him, tears streaming down her flawless cheeks and throws her arms around him.
Cerebus and Jaka spend the rest of the night talking and laughing. This is how they always wanted to be. Maybe this is how they would have been if Cerebus had gone to her when he remembered. We'll never know. There was one very clever bit. One of the jokes was about Missy and how she was a terrible gin soak. Jaka and Cerebus are in bed together. There's a bottle of Uncle Julius' (Lord Julius seems to produce all the alcohol that is served in Cerebus' bar, in fact he probably produces all the alcohol that the Cirinists use to drug the population) Ring Around the Bathtub Gin, complete with a picture of the master bureaucrat in the bath, sitting on the bar. A full glass is next to it, and Missy is propped up face down on the glass, as if she's drinking it. Highly amusing.
Jaka inadvertently breaks the spell of containment (I think Cerebus settled on that) that Rick had placed in the bar, so he and her are free to leave.
The epilog concerns the return of Marty, who looks no different, Bear, somewhat older and balder and wearing only his underwear for some reason, and George Richard, who is much fatter and has not been treated well by time. Bear and Marty have left their respective partners. Initially Cerebus looks to fall back into his old useless life with them, but then he remembers Jaka. He tells Bear to take care of himself and wishes him good luck, then he runs out of the bar and catches up with Jaka.
The final panel is Jaka and Cerebus wandering down the road away from the bar hand in hand.
Dave could have ended it right there. Yeah, I know it's only issue #231, Cerebus has Jaka, Jaka has him. He seems happy. What more is there to say? Oh yeah...alone, unmourned and unloved. Sigh.
Even more than 200 issues since Jaka danced into Cerebus' life and storyline her reintroduction still has the capacity to light up the book. I keep hoping Cerebus won't screw it up this time, even though I know he probably will.
The artwork was, as I'd come to expect solid and accomplished. Dave had grown so much as an artist over the years, and it shows in this book as it has previously, there's also those different styles and the stained glass panels were stunning. The lettering changes a lot in this, barely two letters are the same. That must have been a major pain in the behind, but it was done very well and stands out.
Next: Book 13 Going Home.