After his adventures in outer space, Cerebus has come down to Earth and to a bar by the Wall Of Tsi. Shaken up, and sporting a bandaged eye after Dave's surgery on it, he celebrates his return by getting roaringly and miserably drunk. The book itself has no real driving narrative. It's like an episode of the old sitcom Cheers, in which men hang out, drink, argue and generally chat in a way they wouldn't do in the presence of women. Much of what little forward momentum it has involves Cerebus struggling with the lessons he learned while stuck on Juno and his overwhelming fear of finding himself stuck there metaphorically again. The relaxed nature of the book is a welcome break after the preceding epic storyline with an array of fun characters and incidents keeping the slow paced story interesting as it wends it way along. The front and back covers are especially symbolic of where Cerebus's head is at the start of the book. On the front he sits alone, moody, nursing a drink. On the back all the other characters are laughing and joking, their backs to him and standing some way off. As the story moves along we get insight into how Cerebus both craves greater intimacy and close friendship and yet seems to resist it as well. To the point that his internal "voice" is completely schizophrenic on the matter and he nearly drives himself to madness over it.
|Having Fun Without Cerebus|
|Still Suffering A Sore Eye From Minds.|
Roarin' Rick: "Hey! No need for embarrassment little buddy. This is your dream. If you want to have a dream about a middle aged man dressed in full-length black tights (The exclamation mark over the pubic area is a nice touch) then... whoa! [Rick changes clothes into suspenders, bra and frilly knickers] Look what you've got the Roarin' One wearing now! You see? An unconcious mind is a virtual playground for repressed desires."
After more dream shenaningans, we cut to a pitch black sequence of panels where Bear is reproaching Cerebus for something. Then Cerebus wakes up, has a horrifying vision in the mirror of having lost his other ear, wakes up properly and goes down to the bar to tell everyone about it, but Bear starts reproaching him with the same words as before. When Cerebus get's all excited that he said this before, Bear punches him very hard. Much to Cerebus's bewilderment. Harrison Starkey, who is tending bar starts making comments that you wouldn't think to look at Bear that he enjoyed sexual liasons with local boys youth groups and suchlike, much to Cerebus's mounting rage:
Cerebus: "WHO TOLD YOU THAT FOUL PACK OF LIES ABOUT BEAR?"
Harrison: "Y-Y-You did"
Cerebus: "Cerebus did?"
Harrison; "Aye, aye. Las' night whan yooz was droonk".
Cerebus; "...Who!? who heard?
Harrison: "Oh er.. ehm.. everywoon.."
Cerebus: ".. How do you know that?! HOW!?"
Harrison: "You wooz standin' on a table showtin' it at th' top uv' y'lungs".
Embarrassed and shamefaced Cerebus gets a telling off from Harrison about it being a shitty thing to do to a friend, and Cerebus resolves never to drink again. Which is a promise he singularly fails to keep. Life goes on in the bar. People come and go, Cerebus gets drunk a lot, there is a lot of good natured drunken conversation and not much actually happens beside that. Until one day when Cerebus and Bear are outside playing a game called "Five Bar Gate" (A cross between tennis and football) a man comes along promoting a new type of Read. This time one in which the pictures and text are combined like our comics are today. This one is a Spiderman parody called "The Wanker" (hee hee).
|Yes It's Immature. Yes It Still Makes Me Laugh!|
Bear: "WILL. YOU. SHUT UP! An' whatayacall FUCKING LISTEN! FOR ONCE IN YOUR FUCKING LIFE! It just wasn't enough for you to like that whatayacall "graphic read". It's NEVER enough for YOU that YOU whatayacall like ANYthing. Well I didn't like it. I thought it was fuckin' stoopid. Izzat whatayacall O-Kay with you? SEE?! It isn't! It's NEVER fuckin'whatayacall "O-kay with you". It's like, it's like you're part chick 'r somethin'. Everything's fine an' then sumbuddy Fuckin' says somethin' 'r sumbuddy does somethin', an' yer hurt, an' yer mad, an' yer unhappy, an'yer offended, ALL AT THE SAME FUCKIN' TIME!"
And the chewing out doesn't end there, Bear rants for several more pages about Cerebus's selfishness before finally concluding that the main reason Cerebus is behaving like a little bitch is because Bear was beating him at Five Bar Gate. They have a very vicious game that ends when Bear makes a brilliant save and instead of protesting it, Cerebus catches himself and instead congratulates Bear. And they return to the bar, the air cleared between them and ready for a drink. I like this section, Bear's rage at Cerebus really does feel like Dave The Creator getting annoyed that Cerebus is not learning his "Juno" lessons properly and is speaking through Bear to try and get through to him again. Which of course on a meta level he is!
Time passes, seasons come and go. Bear and Cerebus relax together, fishing on a nearby stream, sunbathing on the tavern roof and just generally enjoying the time they have to hang out. They outright laugh at the idea they might want jobs. Funny how "The Alchohol Sanction" enacted by a matriarchy as a way of controlling single men seems to be many mens idea of a great existence according to Dave Sim. He might want us to be angry about the aimlessness their lives have been reduced to, but he makes it look like such jovial fun it's hard to see it as a bad thing. But one day it all comes to an end when Bear's on-off girlfriend shows up atthe Inn. The dreaded Ziggy.
|Only Ziggy Can Tame The Mighty Bear|
Joanne was the woman briefly seen in Minds in the scenario Dave created for Cerebus, in which he cheated on Jaka with Joanne. This time Joanne feels like a tentative offering from Dave, to see how a relationship with her might play out without Jaka being involved. Interestingly, Joanna seems to have a vague memory of the scenario she was involved in as she and Cerebus start chatting (told at first via text with added descriptions of their feelings).
Cerebus: (as if from a great distance) "Joanne"
Joanne: "So we have met before, I knew it" (an awkward pause) "So how have you been?"
Cerebus: (from deep inside the memory) "Jaka killed herself"
Joanne: (immediately)Oh, how awful! Jaka was.." (assessing his expression) "your.." (uncertainly) "...your wife?"
Cerebus: "(still dislocated) "Aye" (rediscovering Joanne) "Don't you remember?"
|All Women Have Trick Breasts, Fact.|
|Cerebus's Brain In Revolt.|
Cerebus: "Give Cerebus a hint."
Man: "A hint?"
Man: "A hint. Mmmm. What would be a good.. oh! I know. You once told me. Heh. You once told me that you were in love with my wife."
It's Rick! And you can tell Dave Sim's character drawing has got more realistic over the years because this Rick bears very little resemblance to the spindly, goofy guy as seen in Jaka's Story. And thus the stage is set for the next book, Rick's Story.
Guys is an enjoyable read. It's aimiable, languidly paced and tinged with more than a little melancholy for the nature of long term bar patronage and the interactions of the regulars. It's the final time there'll be sustained comdey in the series. Also a book that has hardly any women in it for most of it's page count and a lot of drunk men might have been a ghastly hotbed of sexism and yet that is avoided once again. Cerebus is shown to be his own worst enemy. Thanks to his experiences in Minds he now knows what he needs to do to change himself and yet finds it so hard to do so. Loneliness and boredom almost driving him crazy at certain points of the narrative as he argues with and second and even third guesses himself to an insane degree. While some might miss the grand political backdrop of the first two hundred issues, Dave Sim firmly lays out that the rest of the series is going to be all about Cerebus on a personal, intimate level. Destroying Iest off-stage as it were, the place most of the prior books took place being his final word on the matter. "Never fall in love with a bar" says Dave Sim in the intro, but at it's best Guys makes it look like a long term relationship with a bar can be an enjoyable experience. Good stuff.