Saturday, August 07, 2004

Comic: Hell and Farewell

Cerebus: The Last Day, compiling issues 286-300, Dave Sim and Gerhard, Aardvark-Vanaheim Press

Dave Sim is a feminist.

Now, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, go to the 16 February entry on the previous volume: Later Days, (Chasing Yahweh (With a Stick)) to catch up with a previous review of Cerebus and its rather quirky creator. Then come back.

Back? OK, lets proceed with the exciting finale.

The Cerebus saga finally wraps up with the last phone book, the final attempt for the book's creator to synch up his political, social and religious views with that of his creation. As I've noted before, there is a definite schism between what the author is telling you (in various forewords, afterwords, footnotes, and the like) and what the story-teller is presenting. This is because Cerebus is, according to his own creator, is a feminist. So is the Gerhard, who does wonderful backgrounds that carry the emotional weight of the series. So are Sim's parents, Sim's friends, Sim's readership, and everyone else on the planet. So are you, though he has never met you.

And so is Sim. But first lets hit the book.

The book opens with Sim retelling the origin of the universe from his current viewpoint. This is the third time that Sim has done so in the series, and this time he does it by rewriting the Book of Genesis entirely to fit his worldview and, oddly enough, bring it in line with an oddly mangled version of modern physics. The entire universe, under Sim's current theory, are merely the result of an argument God is having with himself. Everything, from the atoms to the number of the fingers on your hand, are lessons from the Greater God of the Male Void to show the feminized part of himself, the Lesser God of Female Light, who's boss.

Yes, its slow going.

Then we open on Cerebus the Aardvark in his dotage. He's OLD. Real, Real, OLD. Moving Real, Real, SLOW. The bulk of the book is Cerebus shuffling around his room, complaining about his aches, talking to himself, talking to God, talking with an unseen guard, and trying to arrange for his son to visit him. Big yuks.

(Cerebus is trapped in the room because the rest of the world has swung back to being dominated by Feminists, who have ruined everything. Because Cerebus ended up marrying the chick-who-looks-like-his-first-love at the end of the last book. Because you always have to be on your guard with those gol-durned feminists).

So Cerebus's son visits. the son proves to be in cahoots with his mom and the whole feminist thing. They argue. Cerebus, aged and wrinkled, rises from his bed, pulls his old sword, and . . .

Falls out of bed and dies. Roll the tombstone reel. His life flashes before the reader's eyes. The light appears and in it the spirits of old friends and characters that you liked from 299 earlier issues. Cerebus goes to the light. But remember, the light is not the force of Good in the Sim-verse.

And that's it. Three hundred issues. Falls out of bed. Snagged by the evil, female light.

And if everything is a symbol for something else, what point does all this make? That life is a bunch of missed opportunities and frustrated goals, followed by death? Gee, thanks for 26 years.

So after all this, I'm going pass judgement: Dave Sim is a feminist. He's a feminist by his own definition of feminism - evil, mortal, flawed. A sinner. If he had used any of those words, he probably wouldn't get the attention and consternation he has demanded (which may be why he chooses feminist). Sims lives in a gnostic universe which is inherently evil/feminist in the first place, and all parts of it - friends, co-workers, family, creations are fallen, evil, and feminist as well.

Including him.

Lemme just give you one extreme example - in his revision of Genesis, he claims that the problem between women and men is really the problem between women and the male sexual organ (I am SO not making this up). The man himself is an innocent in this conflict. Honest, officer, I was just standing here!

That's right - in order to absolve man and show male goodness and purity, Sim castrates the man. With this he has not only moved past the (real-world) definition of feminist into the loopy scare-the-children version, he has then embraced and embodied it, in the name of his beliefs.

So after 300 issues, what's the verdict on the series?

All in all, its been an interesting trip. Parts of it have been brilliant. Various components - the backgrounds, dialogue, characters as are well-worth their praise. The theme, though, is foggy, the point muddled, and the resolution frustrating. I wouldn't say that it was Citizen Kane. Kane holds together, though it demands you pay attention, and has a ending, coming full circle. Cerebus's life is more of a random walk through a fallen world that does not provide a clear alternative.

And it is thought-provoking, and I recommend the story based upon your personal level of interest. If you like story, read through the end of High Society. If you like character development, stop at the end of Jaka's Story. If you have the stomach for "contratemporary" thought, go the distance. But don't blame me if you end up feeling a little empty at end.

Because after all, Sim is feminist (fallen, mortal, sinning) artist in a feminist (fallen, mortal, sinning) world.

More later,