Cerebus Part X — Issues #23 to 25
(see also: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part V I-and-a-half, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX)
This will probably be my last Cerebus post for a while, because I’ve got a lot of research to do on the historiography of the New Left + the connection between 19th century sentimentalism and the rise of the ASPCA…also, I have to figure out where I’m going to live and how I’m going to be earning money this summer! But I wanted to reach the doorstep of High Society before withdrawing further into the academic cocoon.
There’s a lot going in these issues…let’s start with a couple of letters, from #23:
Mr. Summers’ qualms are positively O’Neilian! (I’ve written at length on this subject elsewhere–so I’ll try not to belabor the point…) And I love the way that Bannon–the master letterhack–enters the narrative in full possession of his spastic persona .
We begin with “The Beguiling” (a name to conjure with, in comic book circles!),
which sets the stage for all kinds of shenanigans by maneuvering the earthpig into a convalescent stupor on a cot in the attic of “Madame Dufort’s School for Gifted Debutants”–which turns out to be a front for the universe-destroying aspirations of one Charles X. Claremont (who spends most the first two issues in drag). As Madame Dufort, Chuck comes across as a distaff Yoda–schooling Cerebus in the virtues of patience, making sure that her young ladies (one of whom just happens to be Jaka’s sister) observe the proper etiquette (and keep their crossbows in fine fettle) and exuding a cosmic certainty which convinces us that this homey little group will easily resist the incursions of marauding Sepran soldiers (who all speak perfect ChicoMarxese).
Cerebus makes some interesting speeches–whilst taking the young women for everything they’ve got in a profoundly moronic card game–on the subject of “heroism”
On one level, it’s a pretty standard cynical expose of chivalry–i.e. he muses upon the usefulness of the code to the undeceived adventurer (“did Cerebus ever tell you about the time that he used a woman as a human shield?”), and he puts the kibosh on Theresa’s romantic account of Prince Rashazar’s escape from Eshnosopur (where the aristocracy enjoy playing “poison your in-laws”) by adding the detail that her idol was wearing the garb of a slave girl as he slipped through the enemy’s cordon. Sure, sure–there are no “white chargers” in Cerebus’ world. However–when the ladies begin to regurgitate his own exploits, in garbled form (Lord Julius–looking very Nick Furyish!–saves the Festival of Petunias; Elrod takes on an army), Cerebus keeps mum… Isn’t this because he does buy into his own legend? And doesn’t Cerebus (the narrative) ask us to join him?
The aardvark may not look terribly prepossessing, but make no mistake, he is the hero of his own life, and he is becoming more and more conscious of this fact. How could he not–what with all of the scene-stealers that Sim forces him to contend with? Why else would he spend so many pages wondering how to protect everyone from the strange “mystical” squooshes in the night that disturb his delirium? Fear is not the motive–he’s concerned about being upstaged by the old woman and her crossbow wielding debutantes. Of course–that whole line of thought takes on a new meaning when he discovers that “Madame Dufort” is the real locus of danger in the piece–thanks to his “Woman Thing” (I’m not too excited by the parodic aspect here–although I am in awe of the way that Sim managed to work Claremont’s favourite dictum–“is there any reason why this couldn’t be a woman?”–into the proceedings)
Basically, Claremont is Necross the Mad, redux. I love the way that Sim’s loons always take Cerebus into their confidence… There’s no need for them to fight. Cerebus knows that these fools are going to doom themselves somehow–gnosticism is its own (final) reward… But he is compelled to watch them go down in flames–just as we find it hard to resist the suicidal buffet served up by Sin City… And so, as it must to all madmen–death comes to Charles X. Claremont (at the slime-encrusted hands of his own weapon of mass destruction).
There’s a lot more that I could say about these issues–
here’s your innovative lettering of the month:
and here’s Sim’s Infantino tribute (everyone does one–sooner or later…and it’s only right! Infantino is a genius!):
….but maybe I’d better stop now, hunh?
I’ll be back over the weekend to discuss Deni Loubert’s interesting editorial concerning the “Canadian-ness” of Cerebus, because I think that’s an interesting question…but High Society will have to wait until May, sadly…
Good night friends!
Interesting review as usual. I was a little confused by the line “Cerebus keeps mum… Isn’t this because he does buy into his own legend?”
If he believed his own legend, wouldn’t he speak up and correct the girls? Instead, he keeps silent, as it’s all so much nonsense anyway, and Cerebus role is perhaps left unclear to maintain some level of secrecy.
Also, you assume Katrina is Jaka’s sister. This is still up for debate. Her true relation to Jaka is unknown, but “sister” seems unlikely.
thanks Jeff–guess I jumped the gun on Katrina!
and you’re right–Cerebus’ silence could be interpreted in a few
ways… my thinking was that it would be odd–coming so quickly on
the heels of his attack upon the Prince’s legend–for Cerebus to
allow the Elrod and Julius tales to stand, unless he had some
investment in the (misattributed) “heroism” under discussion… I
agree that he wouldn’t want to waste any energy wresting the role of
protagonist away (in the girls’ minds) from E or LJ, but I think that
the romanticized images of these figures actually say something about
the way Cerebus sees his own role during the episodes recounted… in
other words, he’s nodding, patronizingly, thinking to himself: “sure,
there WAS some heroism on display during the festival of Petunias–
you’ve just got it all mixed up” (which is different from his
treatment of Rashazar’s flight, which denies both the personality of
the hero and the heroic act itself)