Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 2: High Society (Issues #26-51)

Published: May, 1981 – May, 1983
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 532 Pages

Review:

The High Society story arc actually ends at issue 50 but I tacked 51 onto this, as it serves as a one-issue bridge between High Society and the first part of Church & State. And it felt more natural to tack it into this big string of issues, as opposed to reading it at the front of Church & State.

Having just come off of reading the first twenty-five issues of Cerebus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from High Society. I’ve read a few issues from this large arc in the past but never have I read it in its entirety or in order, for that matter.

This really takes Cerebus to the next level and I understand that Dave Sim probably grew tired of the series just being a parody of ’70s sword and sorcery comics, as well as Howard the Duck, in some regard, but I personally loved those earlier issues.

But this is more mature, looks at life a bit deeper and Sim starts to ask bigger questions and reveal deeper things about himself.

High Society steps out of the formula of not having a formula. It fine tunes things and thus, gives us a more interesting, more cohesive and more meaningful tale to digest.

I really dug this story, its tone and I’ve got to say, I don’t really disagree with Sim’s commentary on politics and high society. This is a good critique on that stuff and even though it’s done with caricatures and in a somewhat fantastical way, it’s all very real.

The high points of the book for me channel back to the earlier stories though. My favorite bits are where Jaka returns and Cerebus is faced with his love for her while trying to maintain the status he’s achieved since they were last together. Has he changed for the better? Has he changed for the worse? How can his life be different but his love for her is still the same? Has his relationship with Astoria created a love triangle? How does Astoria really see Cerebus? And why the hell can’t Cerebus be nicer to the Elf?

High Society still delves into parody though. The Roach is used pretty heavily in this and we even get to see him take on a new form that is a parody of Marvel Comics’ Moon Knight.

This was a fine followup to Sim’s early Cerebus work and frankly, it’s made me excited to get into the next big epic, Church & State. Plus, Sim’s art really is more detailed and alluring here. This is a fantastic comic to look at and drink in. High Society is a great example of how powerful just black, white and grey can be in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Cerebus story arcs, especially the earlier stuff.

Vids I Dig 043: The Attic Dwellers: ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’ (Comic Book Collection)

From The Attic Dwellers’ YouTube description: Cerebus (aka – Cerebus the Aardvark) is a comic book series created by Dave Sim, which ran from December 1977 until March 2004. The title character of the 300-issue series was an anthropomorphic aardvark who takes on a number of roles throughout the series—barbarian, prime minister and Pope among them.

Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 1 (Issues #1-25)

Published: December, 1977 – April, 1981
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 534 Pages

Review:

Cerebus is the longest running independent comic book of all-time that hasn’t altered its numbering, rebranded or taken any breaks in-between story arcs. It finished in 2004 with its 300th issue but that will be surpassed by Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, later this year. However, Cerebus creator Dave Sim wrote and worked on every single issue of Cerebus where McFarlane often times had other creatives come in to write stories.

Strangely, the first time I read a story with Cerebus in it, was actually in an early issue of Spawn, which was written by Dave Sim. I then remembered that I had an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that also featured Cerebus and then I gave that one a read.

I loved the character but I learned about him when he was about halfway through his series. But from that time on, I picked up Cerebus comics from time to time and gave them a read. I was always pretty amused by the character and his stories but never got to read any of his full story arcs until now.

I wanted to start at the beginning, even though the first 25 issues aren’t one complete arc like everything else would be from issue 26 onward. But these issues featured several short, roughly three issue arcs. Also, these issues presented Cerebus as a parody of the sword and sorcery comics that were big at the time. This mostly pokes fun at the characters created by Robert E. Howard, most notably Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja.

This was a lot of run to read. Even though this collection of Sim’s early Cerebus work was beefy, I got through it rather quickly, as I found it pretty hard to put down. But I’m also a fan of a lot of the things that Sim was parodying and while I hear some people think that a lot of the material seems dated now, I still laughed out loud as if the content was current. But I still read sword and sorcery and superhero comics from that era.

What’s really impressive is that all of the art in this volume is drawn by Sim. His regular artist Gerhard didn’t come on until issue 65, well after this volume of material, as well as its follow up, the beloved High Society.

I really dig Sim’s art though. You can actually see it evolve and get better over the three and a half year span that he spent on these issues. Even Cerebus, the character, evolves and his look gets more refined and consistent.

Additionally, the quality of the writing improves and I found the humor to be better as the book progressed. Some of the jokes and jabs are subtle and most people reading this today might miss them but Sim is pretty clever and his humor is much smarter than just being simple parody.

Cerebus is deeper than what it appears to be and it’s as if, by the end of this, Sim’s creative flow adjusted and he found ways to put his take on things into the book. It’s always got a lighthearted and amusing tone but by the end of these 25 issues, he is already scratching away at something more beneath the surface and that’s probably why he went into the High Society arc right after this.

But all the real groundwork is done here and this is the foundation of everything that came after it. Without this book and Sim’s evolution over the course of these issues, we wouldn’t have gotten something as compelling and rich as the work that follows.

Had Cerebus not evolved into something more, I don’t think it would have lasted as long as it did. But Sim committed to 300 issues, pretty early on in this comic’s history, and that probably couldn’t have even been a thought if he didn’t use these earlier stories to refine and flesh out what exactly Cerebus was.

I don’t agree with many of the things that Sim tries to hammer home in his work but he also doesn’t wreck the series by always letting it drive his creative output. Granted, I haven’t yet read the much later stuff but I plan on it, as I work my way through this series from the beginning.

While this collection feels like a trial, experimental run for the series, it’s still an entertaining and charming read and I dug the hell out of it.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: later Cerebus story arcs and what it parodies: ’70s Conan, Red Sonja and Kull the Conqueror comics.

Vids I Dig 009: Cartoonist Kayfabe: Palmer’s Picks, Wizard 7, ‘Cerebus’ by Dave Sim

The Cartoonist Kayfabe guys (Ed Piskor & Jim Rugg) discuss the Palmer’s Picks feature from Wizard, Issue 7.

Words and analysis about this specific feature from the man, Tom Palmer Jr., himself.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Issue #8 – Team Up with Cerebus

Published: July, 1986
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Dave Sim
Art by: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Dave Sim, Gerhard, Michael Dooney, Steve Lavigne

Mirage Studios, 45 Pages

Review:

Fans of Dave Sim’s long running Cerebus comic series, as well as the original run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, should probably be really happy with the end result of this crossover.

I believe that this was the first crossover for either intellectual property and even though it took place in a single issue, as opposed to some mega event like nowadays, it hit all the right chords and worked really well, as two very different worlds collided and fit snugly and organically in the same shared space for 45 pages.

I think that this story benefited from coming out at the time when both creative teams were at their creative peak. Granted, Cerebus evolved and changed a lot but this was more tied to his earlier stuff, where he was simply an anthropomorphic aardvark that existed in a sword and sorcery world of parody. Pairing him up with a foursome of anthropomorphic turtles made for a natural fit, even if one character was like Conan the Barbarian and the other four were ninjas. Regardless, they’re all still badass warriors that come together to help a damsel in over her head.

Out of all the TMNT crossovers that I have read over the years, this one is probably my favorite. It’s also a solid one for Cerebus but I need to revisit his crossover with Spawn to see which of these I prefer more.

The coolest thing about this story is that we get to see the merging of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s art style with that of Dave Sim and Gerhard. It all meshes really nicely and it looks and feels natural. I especially loved the different styles of lettering sharing the same panels.

For real comic book collectors that have an affinity for either of these franchises, this is definitely something you should have in your comic book library. Plus, it’s aged rather well and is still a very worthwhile read.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: old school black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dave Sim’s Cerebus and other Turtles and Cerebus crossovers.