Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 3: Church & State I (Issues #52-80)

Published: July, 1983 – November, 1985
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim, Gerhard

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 592 Pages


I can’t exactly peg what it is about Cerebus I love so much, at least up to this point. I think that it comes down to it being so different than any other comic series I’ve ever read, my love of anthropomorphic animal characters, the humorous side of Dave Sim’s writing, as well as the look of the book. And that look is actually greatly enhanced in this giant story arc, as this is where Gerhard was brought in to focus on the art half of the series.

The story picks up after the previous one: High Society. Here, Cerebus starts out on the outside of the high society he was once the focal point of, as prime minister. In this tale, he is appointed to the position of pope and given power once again.

While the story focuses on the abuse of power, which carries over from the themes of High Society, the personal Cerebus stuff is actually what I found to be the most engaging. I’m not big on romance and whatnot but the way Sim writes the subject within the pages of Cerebus is really damn good. Cerebus is a selfish bastard and his own worst enemy.

At this point, it is hard to see Cerebus as a likable character but that’s fine. He’s sort of just the main passenger in a comic book series that explores ideas and themes that are larger than any one character, even the series’ star.

This story is where things start to get more controversial. I was warned about how controversial some of Sim’s ideas and moments within the comic became over time but there was nothing in this tale that I found to be offensive or off putting. I think it’s written with great care and I don’t find any of Sim’s allusions to be in any way preachy. I feel as if his ideas and philosophies on life aren’t yet fully developed.

One thing that people had a problem with was a page where Cerebus, as pope, picks up a screaming baby and throws it. I saw it as more of a comedic moment than anything serious that would imply that Dave Sim condones throwing babies. I think it was just snark and I can’t fault the guy for wanting to throw a baby in an artistic sense. Anyone that’s been on a long flight full of infants and shitty parents has probably felt the same way at least once. I’m a fan of context, unlike most people today. And within the context of the scene, I didn’t find it to be anything too serious. I mean, his a fucking anthropomorphic aardvark playing a pope.

Anyway, up to this point, this is my favorite Cerebus book so far. It’s maturing nicely, it has a lot of layers to it and frankly, it’s hard to explain what this comic book is other than Dave Sim’s cartoonish and comedic vehicle to search for his own answers to life’s mysteries. While no one has to like what the man’s philosophy may become, it doesn’t mean that the ride to discovering it isn’t interesting and entertaining.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other Cerebus story arcs, especially the earlier stuff.

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