Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Form & Void
Form & Void the 14th phone book is actually the 2nd part of Going Home and begins with Cerebus and Jaka travelling north to visit Cerebus’ childhood home of Sand Hills Creek. In keeping with the way the cover of Going Home was presented, the cover of Form & Void is also a colour photograph, this time of a cold looking, rocky coastline.
The fact that the couple are actually going that far north would seem to indicate that Jaka has gotten over her insistence of never wearing the same clothes two days in a row. Maybe this was never true and Jaka only said it so that she wouldn’t have to go north, but the attempt on Cerebus life at the end of Going Home has convinced her that they have to head far north to keep him alive. Possibly it’s a continuity thing, the closer the book moves to the end the less continuity seems to matter. Apparently this far north the only alcohol available is a beer that they refer to as Grizz. A closer inspection of the label shows that the brewer is Lord Julius imbecilc cousin Duke Leonardi. I'm betting Julius pockets the profits, but uses his cousin's likeness to advertise and promote the drink.
They have hooked up with famous writer and adventurer Ham Ernestway. Dave had a new literary obsession, and this time it was Ernest Hemingway. Ernestway and his wife; Mary, agree to guide Cerebus and Jaka in the their trip north. I found it of interest that Cerebus was a huge Ernestway fan. Cerebus has never really been much of a reader, and his efforts at writing his memoirs showed that he wasn’t much of a writer either. In his notes at the back Dave Sim said he thought the idea of turning Cerebus into a Ham Ernestway fanboy was amusing. Oookay.
This is Hemingway late in life and he has regular blackouts due to electroshock treatment. Most of the talking is done by Mary, and the majority of the first 2 3rds of the book is a visual representation of Mary Hemingway’s accounts in her diaries of the African safaris she and the writer went on. It was beautifully drawn and an interesting idea, but I kept wondering why it was in the pages of Cerebus the Aardvark. It could have stood as a graphic novel of it’s own. Having it here is fairly self indulgent and an indication that at this stage Cerebus’ story was of secondary interest to it’s creator.
This particular part of the book and the journey itself comes to end when Jaka informs Cerebus that Mary killed Ham. Whether she did or not is left open to speculation, but it’s probably more likely that Ham took his own life as did the real life Ernest Hemingway. What happened to Mary or the African bearers that were with the couple I don’t know, they simply disappeared out of the story at this point. The setting in terms of clothing and implements seemed to be more mid 20th century than anything. The Ernestways had shotguns and they knew about airships. Cerebus explained his ignorance of these things by claiming that Sand Hills Creek was very off the beaten track. That was another interesting revelation. Part of the reason Cerebus is heading for Sand Hills Creek, quite apart from an apparent desire to see his parents again, is because it’s almost in Isshuria and is not under Cirinist control. This also seems to make it slightly more attractive to Jaka.
With the Ernestways out of the picture Cerebus and Jaka realise that Mary Ernestway has been leading them around in circles. They get caught in a blizzard and are snowed in. There’s a period where they believe that this is it and they will eventually starve to death. Cerebus has a vision involving Rick (the Cirinists killed him, although it’s a dream Rick, so maybe they didn’t really) and is told how to get he and Jaka out. He’s meant to leave everything, including Jaka behind, but he doesn’t and still gets out. In the rush to leave though they forget Missy. By the time Jaka realises this Cerebus claims it’s too late to turn back and he’s not risking his life for a doll.
To say that the relationship between Cerebus and Jaka has been strained ever since the boat trip would be understating it somewhat. They rarely speak and when they do they complain at each other. Cerebus is continually worried that Jaka’s behaviour will embarrass him in front of his parents and the good folk of Sand Hills Creek. When Cerebus started to give a damn what anyone thought of him or who he was with I don’t know. The old Cerebus would have simply beaten up or shouted anyone down. Cerebus’ attachment to his parents was also out. Readers had to wait until Church and State to get any meaningful data about his parents and even then it was in a dream sequence. I didn’t think he’d really given them a second thought after his father left him with Magus Doran as a kid.
Because the Cirinists don’t really want people leaving the lands under their control, especially someone as important as the Princess of Palnu, Cerebus and Jaka have to be careful about when and where they travel. There were flashes of how Cerebus and Jaka envisaged their life being all those years ago, but they’re only brief and fleeting. Sigh. The two uncover some long hidden tunnels, left by the Black Tower Empire, which allow them to get quickly and unseen to Sand Hills Creek. Jaka asks Cerebus to translate the runes in the tunnels for her and his translation is rather amusing, it’s all about how everything in the Black Tower Empire is bigger than anything else anywhere else. This hearkened back to the sort of joke that used to populate the book back in the early days. Cerebus tells Jaka that she can’t let on to anyone she’s been in the tunnels, it’s forbidden for women to be in them.
Sand Hills Creek appears to be deserted, although it soon becomes apparent that everyone is shutting their doors to Cerebus. He eventually reaches his parents house, which is also closed. Peering in, all Jaka and Cerebus can see is one empty chair. Cerebus knows his parents are dead, but wants it confirmed. They see an old man in the field next door and manage to catch him before he can get inside.
He tells Cerebus that his father died not long ago and that the village has shunned him because he couldn’t even come home to be with his father in his dying moments, too busy down south with his ‘harlot’. Cerebus blames Jaka for keeping him down south. She was why he missed his father’s death. This is unfair, but Cerebus often is unfair and irrational. He sends Jaka away from him. She stumbles back, crying, then a carriage appears and an austere gentleman steps out, holding something in his hand. It’s Missy. Jaka accepts it from him and lets him escort her into the carriage which rattles away.
Overcome with grief and rage Cerebus tears his clothes and falls to his knees screaming his pain out. Alone, unmourned and unloved.