Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Latter Days - Prologue

I decided to give the prologue of Latter Days (phone book #15 of Cerebus the Aardvark) it's own post, because it deserves one. It's a fairly complete story in it's own right, and in many ways I thought it was a return to form of what Cerebus used to be like before Dave Sim lost focus.

I'll mention the cover, because it too is in colour. It's not a photograph this time, it's all artwork. Cerebus is standing with his back to the reader examining a poster on a wall which has reviews of the book, they're all bogus and are from Dave Sim and Gerhard's press junket. This was the sort of humour readers hadn't seen since for quite some time. The top of the cover has TV screens showing Cerebus in a number of situations and costumes. For some reason he's wearing a Charlie Brown t-shirt in a few of them.

The prologue picks up where Form & Void left off. Cerebus is still in the clothes he tore and is pressing ever northward. He finds that Isshuria, which I get the impression is based on Canada, isn't really that different from the Cirinist controlled areas of Estarcion. In some ways it's worse. The bars have a 3 drink maximum and you have to actually pay for them!

Following a rather unpleasant experience in a bar Cerebus 'blanks out' and comes to 3 years later herding sheep. He looks after the sheep, reads what he can find and lust after his employer's younger wife. His employer; Mr Gurzky, comes after him with an axe, for peeping on his wife while she's bathing.

Cerebus 'blanks out' again and heads further north. Eventually he runs out of north and goes east. He seems to want to get himself killed. He lands up at a tavern in Northern Isshuria, it's called McBee's. Cerebus works at various jobs for his keep until they find out that he's really good at a game called 5 Bar Gate.

5 Bar Gate is a 2 player game where each player has a racquet and tries to put a ball through the other player's goal. I think Bear taught the game to Cerebus and he is a gun at it. The rules are totally different, but the following and the passion seems to be based on Canada's love of ice hockey. To the Isshurian's 5 Bar Gate isn't just a game, it's like a religion.

McBee's promote Cerebus as their champion and he goes to the city of Moosehat to compete at Moosehat Gardens (I wondered if this was a take on Madison Square Gardens) to play for the championship. Cerebus is using his old alias of Fred and he's chosen Hammer as his surname. He plays the legendary 5 Bar Gate champion Paul 'Coffee' Annan. Exactly why Dave Sim decided to make his champion's name very similar to that of the former UN Secretary General I don't know, but it was funny.

The problem for Cerebus is that he can beat anyone at 5 Bar Gate, anyone except Annan. Year after year after year Cerebus loses the championship to Annan. The bar even takes to paying him money to represent another tavern in the championship so they won't be associated with Fred 'The Loser' Hammer. Eventually Cerebus does beat Annan, largely because the unbeatable champion dies of old age on the court.

No one wants to accept him as champion, but he is and he's rich. Just before he 'blanks out' again Cerebus decides that if he wants to get killed the only way to make it happen is to have the Cirinists do it for him.

The story was funny and well told. It had the feel of one of those old sports stories that get made into films like The Legend of Bagger Vance. It was probably the most I've enjoyed a single issue since Jaka's Story.

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