Sunday, November 20, 2011

Latter Days

To be perfectly honest I’m not entirely sure how to review the rest of Latter Days because I don’t understand it. I’ll do what I can, though.

Cerebus’ plan to be killed by the Cirinists is to open a bar that flies in the face of everything they believe, given the nature of the establishment it probably would have worked, except for one…well three things or people. Three characters looking suspiciously like the original Moe, Larry and Curly of Three Stooges fame enter the story. They call themselves Mosher (Moe), Losher (Larry) and Kosher (Curly). They become known later in the story as the Three Wise Men. In his notes at the back of the book, Dave Sim said he’d been planning to have the Stooges enter the story for some time. I’m really not sure how far he thought ahead. They’re devotees of Rick’s (we find out later in the story that Rick was actually martyred by the Cirinist, they crucified him, another Jesus parallel), they read regularly from the Bookee of Rickee. Kosher recognises Cerebus as the same one in the Bookee, and the three kidnap him and hold him prisoner in the cathedral they’re building. I never understood exactly why.

Resigning himself to the fact that he’s their captive and that they’re mad Cerebus believes he has turned into the popular Reads hero; Rabbi (a Jewish representation of Superman. Yeah, it just kept getting weirder and weirder), eventually he manipulates the trio into attacking the Cirinists. Once they’ve massacred the forces of the Three ‘Wise’ Men, the Cirinists will track it back to Cerebus and kill him. Only it doesn’t work out that way. Forces loyal to Cerebus massacre the Cirinists.

A lot of the victory is due to an insanely brave commander who goes by the name of Todd Farlane McSpahn (this is a parody of popular artist and writer; Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, and at one time a friend of Dave Sim’s). Farlane, whose speech is almost unintelligible (I don’t know if the real McFarlane spoke like this, I’ve never heard him talk, but I doubt it), leads a breakaway sect of Cerebites loyal to him. Cerebus takes on the persona of Spore (a parody of McFarlane’s Spawn) to regain his forces and control. This works to a point and Cerebus becomes the head of a religious movement.

This eventually gives him a lot of time to do whatever he wants and he devotes it to completing his Rabbi Reads collection and even publishes a Journal about it. I have the feeling that this had something to do with a long running feud Dave Sim had with Gary Groth of Fantagraphics, which published it’s own Comics Journal, but it may have just been coincidence, and was inspired by the inevitable feeling that many collectors feel when they complete the collection that maybe it wasn’t really worth it, and what do they now do?

Cerebus begins a reading of the Torah, and this is where it totally lost me. The pages became long screeds of philosophy about religion, women, relationships, politics, the bible, you name it, it was in there. It may have been Sim writing Cerebus reaction to what he was reading, or it may have been Dave using his creation to put his own thoughts down. During this the writing was accompanied by a largely pictorial history of a film maker called Konigsberg, who was in fact Woody Allen. Why? Probably because Dave felt like it. It’s as much reason as why Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway appeared in the pages of the books.

At the end of this one Cerebus is powerful and wealthy. He can have or buy anything he wants, but he’s still not really happy. He finishes it by seducing a female reporter who looks remarkably like Jaka, but obviously isn’t.

There were a couple of things I noticed in this collection. One was Cerebus’ age. Dave’s always been vague about the passage of time, but Cerebus never seems to age. He’s packed a fair bit into his life, more than anyone who is the age he appears could possibly do. There’s another whack of years in between him arriving in Isshuria and finally beating Annan at 5 Bar Gate, Annan died of old age, and he was in his prime when he first faced Cerebus. The Wise Men all died in between kidnapping him and the end of the book (this was done as a representation of The Three Stooges real break up, decline and ended with the death of Moe), and Konigsberg started out as a young man and ended up as an old one. Cerebus does age in Latter Days, the first time I ever noticed it. The tuft of hair between his ears turned white, and while he was imprisoned by Mosher, Losher and Kosher he was either bald or wearing a yarmulke, it was hard to tell. By the end of Latter Days Cerebus is actually looking like an old man…uhhhhh…aardvark.

The other thing was that what made this particular book a hard one to understand and read wasn’t the fact that it was no longer funny or that it was filled with endless philosophising, there was no support cast and readers didn’t even really know what had happened to them. The Three Stooges are pretty funny on screen, but they didn’t work for me in Latter Days, maybe it’s because their humour is largely physical. Part of the reason Dave never used Harpo Marx was because he never spoke and it doesn’t translate well to the comics medium, which has visuals, but no sound. Readers didn’t know what happened to everyone else. It’s a safe bet to assume that Lord Julius was in Palnu and Jaka went back there, and they both died of old age, but what about Elrod, Sophia, the Roach, The Elf, Astoria and Po? One of the Joanne’s said that she lived next to an Elrod and a Sophia, but it was never made clear who they were. We hadn’t seen the Roach since a cameo in Guys and The Elf may have disappeared in the destruction of Iest, as may have Astoria and possibly, but less likely Po. Dave makes the argument that they died of old age, but weren’t Elrod, the Roach and The Elf all meant to be figments of Cerebus’ imagination? As such could they even die or age? Po, was like Cerebus, a largely ageless aardvark. It was frustrating, and continually took me out of the book to wonder as to their fate.

I’m going to read on to The Last Day to see how it all turns out, but I have the unsettling feeling that Cerebus was on the money with his owun abrupt unexplained theory of the end in Rick’s Story.

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