After the glacial pacing of Melmoth, the "Mothers and Daughters" arc kicks off with a chaotic rush, quick cutting to events and characters dating back to the very earliest issues of the first book in the series all while Cerebus tries to raise an rebellion against the Cirinists chasing him. Then it evolves into an extended "Mind Game" dialogue between Cerebus and much mentioned, but still mysterious, Suentus Po, who finally explains who's been behind all the strange things that happened in Church and State II. As Cerebus rises through a dream space called The Eighth Sphere, Po imparts a stupendous amount of information and back-story before Cerebus arrives at a huge chess game, and his role as one of the pieces in the larger chess game of local politics is revealed as is the role of other pieces both in play and off the board.
What's only noticable in retrospect is how this book is the start of the reordering of the main storyline from one concerned with the satire of politics and ideology to one focused on just the personal life of Cerebus which is how the post "Mother's and Daughters" books play out. So most characters and locations familair to us thus far are get their last appearences over the next couple of books, and post issue #200, the only main character left will be Jaka although some very minor characters are still about. The first part of the book then shows Cerebus immediately after the end of Melmoth where he cut down two Cirnist soldiers being chased by more whom he also kills before climbing to a balcony and as the men chant his name while the Cirnist's telepathically screem for his death he tries to foment a revolution.
There's something thrillingly rousing about the sight of Cerebus, covered in blood, sword raised high, a doll clutched incongrously in his other hand, calling for a rebellion against the hated Cirinists. Because while I may be a feminist, I am not misandrist and yes Dave Sim their IS a difference, I want this dreadful administration to topple, the same way I'd cheer the end of patriarchy when it finally happens. And yet... there is something kind of awesome about the sheer power being wielded by these muscular, well armed, sinisterly robed women. The men take up arms and charge them, fired up by Cerebus and they are crushed. Completely and utterly, the Cirinists don't even break a sweat. An army of badass women, and as we find out later, led by the baddest ass of them all, is a pretty cool idea, and it's especially refereshing to see larger, more physical imposing women, not ones that are all boobs and butt and clad in just in skimpy, revealing armour.
|Down With Wimmin!|
Cerebus: "Anytime Cerebus decides to do something, someone comes along and gets Cerebus to do something else. The more people Cerebus is in charge of, the more distractions there are and the less Cerebus does what he wants to do and the more Cerebus does what someone else wants to do. Well Cerebus isn't in charge of anyone anymore, so Cerebus is going to do what Cerebus set out to do."
|A Rapist Ascends|
The Roach has a sudden, overwhelming return of memories and prior identities, before being reborn as Punisher Roach. He arms himself with a pair of semi-automatic crossbows and goes to joins the men's rebellion. Alas for him:
Punisher Roach: "Something has gone terribly wrong, the second cousin of all battles has already taken place and it seems the men have come a distant runner-up. There is no sign of the Pope and judging by the looks on their hoods, the occupying force of Cirinists is not altogether likely to accept that my reference to 'stinking lesbos' was a whimsical and light hearted malpropism!."
But he decides to stand and fight and unleashes the power of his semi-automatic crossbows and does
Meanwhile Cirin is shown not having the iron grip on her troops that you would expect. Her orders to keep Cerebus alive are ignored. We find out she is having all the captured gold melted down and built into a huge golden sphere to assist in the "True Final Ascension" and when another Cirnist changes the dimensions of it she completely loses her shit. Finally when she orders Astoria to be brought before her, Astoria refuses to come, leaving the messenger the uncomfortable task of relaying what she said:
Messenger: " She said 'Tell the old battle axe that if she's uh coming crawling to me, that she must have uh both uh tits uh caught uh caught in the uh wringer."
Ah, never stop being sassy and cool Astoria. Reluctantly Cirin orders her to be cleaned up and allowed to buy new clothes before they meet, another thread to be continued in the next couple of books.
|Under Construction: One Giant Gold Sphere for Use In Nebulous Religous Ceremony|
Finally the Cerebus portions of the second half of the book have him reaching the Eighth Sphere and playing a huge game of chess with the celestial presence of Suentus Po. Po explains why he appeared to them during Cerebus' trial of Astoria. The trial was an echo of a trial a previous incarnation of his had endured, before being burned as a heretic. Po gives us some insight into Cerebus' history as well as his own. He tells us about the times Cerebus felt pure joy in his life; as a child after eating a stolen pie, beheading his first enemy, standing on the Great Wall of Tsi and the first time he met Jaka:
Suentus Po: "The first night you spent with Jaka, when she agreed without question to accompany you, to be your lifes companion. You had dozed briefly, drained by the excitment of that most enchanted days events. And then you awoke to find her looking at you. Without a word she had taken you in her arms...For the first time in your concious memory; for the first time in fact since you were a baby; a single tear, full and warm rolled down your cheek and you fell into a very deep and dreamless sleep."
Finally Po talks about his life as someone who tried to influence events as a great man of history. And how disenchanted he grew with seeing the same events "echo" through his various lives. Now he lives a simple life in Iest, his only luxury a hand carved chess set. And he makes an observation about the nature of power that will prove important to another characters story arc resolution.
Suentus Po: "My experience taught me, there is no benefit and little wisdom in attempting to influence the minds and wills of massess of people. In both my lives I described to you I sought that kind of influence and effect. I was a Reformer. I have seen the long range effects that profound change always brings about. Each great movement is sown with the seeds of its own destruction, it's corruption and decay as inevitable as Death itself."
Which is really the very cynical, key quote that can be applied to the series as a whole's treatment of power and it's effects on the people involved in wielding it or desiring it. The pursuit of power for it's own sake is, in the end a futile business as both inside and outside forces conspire to bring down those currently in power everytime, before being brought down in turn. By refusing power willingly, Po, unlike Cerebus who had his power forcibly taken, he has achieved a kind of enlightment while Cerebus is still a tortured soul. Their chess game over, and Po having said everything he needs to for now, Cerebus is transported back to the physical plain. And the book ends.