Friday, 6 June 2014

Cerebus Book 12: Rick's Story (#220-231)

"Listen, Cerebus can't just sit around all day listening to Cerebus go crazy" - Cerebus

This is a tough one to write about.  It's absolutely masterful from an art point of view with some amazing splash pages made up of broken frames and highly charged, symbolic imagery.  If you want an example of Dave Sim's art at it's absolute best, this is the book to check out.  Unfortunately married to it is a somewhat leaden framing device of the book Rick (Jaka's ex-husband) is writing which is made up of cod-biblical prose and done in a font that's hard to read.  The rest of the book is made up almost solely of Rick, Cerebus and Joanne's interactions with each other and how this gets incorporated into Rick's book.  In the intro, Dave Sim says the book was an attempt to explore what would happen to Rick - the type of person who mates for life - after his marriage broke up.  The answer appears to be that he had a major psychotic break, went mad and started his own religion out of whole cloth.  Which does actually pay off three books down the line.

The book starts with Rick bitching about Jaka and his relationship with her.  This includes an encounter with a misogynistic guy called Viktor (most likely Viktor Davies from the first half of Reads) who prompted Jaka to throw a drink over him.  When Rick found Viktor the next day he actually gives him relevant advice about her.

Viktor: "She's basically an unhappy person - with the unhappy ones you've got to be happy for two.  You're a naturally happy person and as long as you stay that way you'll be fine."

Interestingly this is advice Cerebus will take to heart in the next two books.  Rick then talks about the book he is writing called "Rick's Story" and how he will only put in true stuff so the Cirinists can't object.  As Rick gets drunker he starts having visions, including partial frames of Cerebus as a flaming devil. For unknown reasons he tries to bait Cerebus into beating him up then passes out.
Manly Dude.
Next day he apologises and tells Cerebus that he'll be staying and that Cerebus should cut off his drinking at a set point.  Cerebus is already imagining a cage around himself though.  They play Five Bar gate together which gets somewhat tense and Cerebus ends up injuring Rick's arm.  Meanwhile Joanne watches from the bushes.  Later in the day, Cerebus's inner monologue is distressed that Rick - who he calls "girly boy" - is staying with him. He hopes that Bear will return and they can "beat girly-boy to death".

Rick has more demonic visions but says they won't distract him from writing his book.  He sees his old style self as a shining angel, seeing off the demons.  He also thinks Tarim has replaced Pope Cerebus with him as the Chosen One.  Thatcher arrives and delivers the potato's, Rick sees her as a grotesque demon.  Cerebus chastises him for being afraid of her and says that to women like that he should say "G'wan, beat it, SCRAM".  Rick then sees his angelic self surrounded by the same words.

Later Joanne enters the bar and when it becomes apparent she's not asking to get back together with Cerebus he furiously serves her.  Joanne and Rick flirt and Cerebus is not pleased, thinking to himself:

Cerebus: "That, that BASTARD. Movin' in on Cerebus's...on Cerebus's what? SHUT! UP!  And that, that SLUT.  Sitting there staring at Cerebus as if..hh.. "As if" Cerebus was standing here staring at her? Twitching? And grinding his teeth?"

He angrily throws himself into cleaning the bar.  Rick sees Joanne as an angel, while Cerebus silently rages at them.  Then Joanne leaves inviting Rick to the local bonfire as she goes.  Cerebus, his masculinity under threat, tries to think of ways he can show Joanne what a loser "girly-boy" is.  His possessiveness taking over, even though he and Joanne split up at the end of the previous book.  While he's been plotting Rick had gone to the bonfire to meet Joanne there, but he returns with a severe headwound (that never gets explained) and says that Joanne wasn't there.
Rick's Screwed Up Perceptions.
Things from Ricks point of view get even weirder and detached from reality.  Joanne arrives, shocked at Ricks injury and starts to clean it, explaining that she wasn't at the bonfire because her mother had a fever. Rick see more monsters and demons. Cerebus sees an opening to strike.

Cerebus: "Rick if you let her get away with that, next time it'll be 'My grandmother had ringworm' then 'My uncle had gout'.  And pretty soon her whole family will have one foot in the grave - and she'll NEVER SHOW UP!"

A confused Rick doesn't know what to think and Joanne leaves upset.  Rick gets drunk and has angelic visions of Cerebus.  Next morning Rick's Story has changed from a dull account of his life post-Jaka to something more biblical.  Here's a sample of the prose, which is written in an olde worlde font and style:

Rick's Story: "1. After that Cerebvs had given Vnto mee the morninge cuppe of the full measure, Cerebvs placed it before mee then rose Vp within the sanctvarie and moued a little apart from me.  2. In seeing what Cerebvs had done, so too did I rise Vp within the sanctvarie (from the third stoole vpon his left hande) and made myself follow Cerebvs".
The Framing Device In Action

This continues in the same vein across several pages, with admittedly gorgeous artwork.  Joanne comes back in, with Rick seeing her as monstrous.  She says she wants to try again with Rick, and Cerebus, now desperate to be rid of Rick by any means, prays they get together.  She kisses Rick and leaves, then Rick says "Most Holy must forgive him for being tempted". Told via Rick's Story, Cerebus says he should go out with her as his only other option would be "to lie with men."  After this Rick goes out into the dark for a walk.  Here in the forest he hears a voice which tells him to keep writing his book about Cerebus and Joanne but (and this assumes great importance in the final two books) he must:

Voice: "From this day forward thou shalt no longer use the word Tarim, for Tarim is a heathen and pagan name, and the name of deuills and vipers and scorpions and of the first Angel who is cast out and who has in his dwelling place within and in the midst of these.  Henceforth thous shall speak the name of God only, for God is the name of me whom all men seek in wisdom and truth. There is one God, indivisible having one Name and one Apsect which is God."

After this revelation Rick returns to the bar.  The next day, shaved and bright and cheerful he goes to his date with Joanne.  He returns, still cheerful saying Joanne was there with another man and they had a drink together then he left.  Joanne arrives, angry and she and Rick have an arguement, while Cerebus gets very, very drunk and passes out.  When he awaks in the night he hears the sound of Rick and Joanne having sex and is relieved thinking Rick will now go and Cerebus himself can leave.
Joanne As Monster
Then in the morning, Rick is alone with Cerebus in the bar.  Withdrawn he quietly starts casting what Cerebus believes to be a "binding spell".

Rick: "Lies wound the truth. Truth will bind lies.  The truth said but once.  The lie thrice denies."

Rick then says that Cerebus told Joanne that Cerebus was married to Jaka.  Shamefaced Cerebus tries to explain, but Rick continues the spell.  He finishes and makes to leave.  Cerebus tries to wish him well.

Rick: "I'm going to tell you exactly what I told Joanne.  Go to hell."

Then he departs the storyline in person, (Joanne has gone as well) but both of them will have a strong influence over events in the final two books of the series.
Put A Spell On You.
Cerebus first celebrates Rick's departure, then he worries about the binding spell.  He gets dressed in his vest and medallions and oscillates between leaving and staying, before getting miserable about how he's just going to end up "alone, unmourned and unloved" whereever he ends up.  He returns to the bar, only to find a man there, it's "Dave" although this isn't made clear to Cerebus.  They chat about the bar Dave Sim mentioned in the Guys intro and Cerebus vents about all the time he's spent alone here in one place, going crazy with his thoughts.  Dave smiles and says:

Dave: "You might be surprised at who you're driving crazy. Staying this long in one place."
Meet Dave Sim
Which is obviously a meta reference to the readership of the monthly comic, guess this storyline wasn't so popular.  As Cerebus turns to get him a drink, Dave disappears, leaving a package for Cerebus on the bar.  Cerebus goes through several pages of agonising, before opening it.  It's Missy.  And as Cerebus looks at her, Jaka comes into the bar and when she sees him, flings her arms around him.  They have a warm and relaxed conversation, ending with them going to bed together.  Cerebus couldn't be happier.
The Long Awaited Reunion
The epilogue sees all the par patrons from Guys returning.  Jaka isn't happy about this and leaves.  Cerebus makes a decision.

Cerebus: "Hey Bear"

Bear: "Yo"

Cerebus: "You whatatayacall take care of yourself alright?"

Bear: "Hahaha, yeah and you too and uh... Good fuckin' luck pal"
Cerebus: "Thanks"

He leaves the bar and catches up with Jaka, taking her hand they practically dance away together in an total unambigous happy end.
Happily Ever After?  No Of Course Not.
This is a strange, strange book.  When I read it in sequence, not knowing what lay ahead I wrote it off as just another character dead end.  When I read Latter Days, sadly the book became more meaningful.  I say sadly, because Latter Days is where the wheels of the Cerebus plot go flying off with gusto.  But I have to respect the fact Dave Sim had planned some of it in advance with Rick's conversion to a new God based on real Christianity, rather than the parody version of it as Tarim worship that's been part of the storyline so far.  The fact that Rick is obviously mentally disturbed, seeing demons and angels and hearing voices does make his revelation as a basis of a new religion a strange one, especially when you know that Dave Sim wanted it to be a postive force for good in the later books.  Having it established by a madman throws some serious doubt on the future stability of his new religion which will play out towards the end of the series.

The other big event of the book is of course the return of Jaka, and the religion plot goes on hold for the next two books, which will explore the Cerebus and Jaka relationship and test it to destruction.  The appearance of "Dave" returning Missy and therefore Jaka to Cerebus feels like Dave Sim giving his creation another chance, to put into practice the lessons he learned in Minds and tried to live by in Guys and Rick's Story.  Whether he can do this or not, is explored in some depth.  For now though, if you were the type of person who wants Cerebus to have a good ending to his story, now would be the time to stop reading.


  1. Yes, happy endings always depend on where you stop the story. In the end, of course, everybody dies. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Some people pack in a heck of a lot of fun before they die. There's this one guy at the hospital where I volunteer who's the life and soul, and he's 94. He can hardly walk and he can't cook for himself or anything, but he has a wicked sense of humour and always cheers me up.

    I secretly think that all religions were founded by mentally, um, unusual people. I mean, the Prophet Mohammed reckoned he was visited by an angel, so his grip on reality was clearly tenuous at best, and Jesus thought that he was the Son of God, a claim which'd get you sectioned nowadays. I don't get how if people say weird things today they're mentally ill, but if they say them 2000 years ago they're holy. Isn't having visions just another way of saying you're experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations? And good Catholics are supposed to pay no attention to "charms, omens, dreams and suchlike fooleries" (like horoscopes) but loads of people in the Bible were visited by angels in dreams, and all the foreshadowing of the New Testament in the Old (e.g. Isaac getting ready to be sacrificed foreshadows Jesus) is just omens by another name.

    The Bible is a good read though (I don't know about the Koran, as I've never read it, but it probably has more cohesion and stuff than the Bible, because one man (Mohammed) wrote it all), and I'm afraid Rick's prose can't match up. All that faux-archaic diction and dodgy spelling doesn't cut the English mustard (what, you prefer French mustard! Traitor!) in my opinion. The angel inspiring him must have been from the lower ranks of the celestial hierarchy, rather than being a Throne, Dominion or Power.

    Oh, and I'm glad to see that Cerebus' eye is better.

    I can totally tell which pages you scanned in because they're shaded grey along one edge. I guess you didn't want to crease the spine of the book you were scanning from too much. I, however, have no such qualms.

    I saw the printer you bought in the window of Ryman yesterday. Looks a neat little model, like mine.

  2. Heh, yes the pages I scanned do stand out abit, because the books are so thick it's impossible to flatten them fully like I can do with say an individual issue. The amount of images online for the last few books is miniscule, so you'll have to put up with my scans :p

    Yes, Rick's prose is not veru poetical, and that's why when I first read the book I totally missed the part with the voice talking to him as I was skimming it. So the change from Tarim to God in the last two books seemed to come from nowhere. I guess doing biblical style prose must be like doing cod-Shakespearean, looks like it should be easy but actually it isn't.

    I have read some of the bible, mostly the Book Of Revelation I have to say. If that isn't Saint John tripping balls massively I'll eat my hat. Great story though!

  3. Oh, I see. I'm not criticising your scans, honest! I just thought you didn't want to break the books' spines. Didn't realise they were thicker than a BNP member.

    You are totally right — cod-Biblical and cod-Shakespearean prose aren't as easy as they look. And Alan Moore isn't nearly as good at cod-Victorian/Edwardian as he thinks he is, which always annoys me when I'm reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It just sounds wrong, like a song played out of tune, or a photo that's had the colour levels messed with so it's tinted green, or coffee with salt in instead of sugar. I think he should drop it.

    You seriously need to read The Song of Songs. It's well sexy, and quite short.

  4. Oh don't worry about it, I'm figuring out better ways to scan anyway, the next ones should be a little better, though if I want a full page I'll still suffer fading no matter how hard I press the books down. They are bloody thick books though.

    You'll probably enjoy the later League adventures as they move through the 20th century. The Fifties set Black Dossier has some good cod-Orwell 1984 speak in it. I still need to pick up Centuries 60 and 09 though.