Sunday, 15 June 2014

Cerebus Book 13: Going Home (#232-250)

"I love you so much" - Jaka

"Cerebus loves you too" - Cerebus

When it came time for me to start looking ahead to this book in anticipation of writing about it, I did as I usually did and tried to bring up my memories of my last time reading it.  And I found I could barely remember anything about it except that it has an F.Scott Fitzgerald expy in it and a scene that was incredibly nausea inducing (and even then I wasn't sure if that scene wasn't actually in Form and Void).  Not an auspicious start then.  Flipping through looking for pictures also made me realise this was the first Cerebus book to contain a large amount of appendices, inspired it seems by Alan Moore's scrupulously well researched and interesting ones for From Hell.  Although the major difference is of course Dave Sim using them not to shed much in the way of light on his process, but to continue to bang his drum about being the one special snowflake who is resisting the worldwide feminist conspiracy that rules the world.  Sigh.  Anyway, this books takes us along the journey made by Cerebus and Jaka as they head westward to visit Cerebus's parents.  Interestingly after leaving the pub in the previous book, it seems Cerebus has become so committed to a new life with Jaka that he left behind his last few possessions - his medallions and vest - his final link to past events severed.  The book is not particularly eventful, but has a lot of dialogue as Jaka and Cerebus fall out and make up with each other and generally start to wonder if they really are as suited to each other as they both thought.  The book is split into two parts - "Sudden Moves" and "Fall And The River", with the next book "Form And Void" also being part of the overall "Going Home" arc.
Doesn't Last.
"Sudden Moves" begins with them walking on their way to Cerebus's hometown, as he insists carriages are for old people.  They stop regularly at inns along the way, the first one we see being a place where people can use action figures to communicate with each other.  We also get to see how the Cirinists are keeping a close eye on Jaka and Cerebus as they travel.  While Cerebus pretend to be asleep in the action figure pub, Jaka converses with the owner about their relationship.

Bar Owner: He's the luckiest guy in the whole world.

Jaka: You're very sweet to say that.  Of course this is the 'beginning' part.  The 'beginning' part is easy.  We'll have to see how 'lucky' either of us feels after we've had a chance to really get on each other's nerves.

After tangling with one of Lord Julius's look-a-likes in another pub they carry on with their journey.  Jaka keeps wanting to stop and admire the scenery or shop for clothes and soon Cerebus's inner voice starts to panic that they are falling behind schedule and might at this rate end up stuck in the Conniptin mountains during winter. On this first leg of the journey Jaka drops a small bombshell about what she had been thinking during Cerebus's stay with her and Rick:

Jaka: "Remember when you came to stay with us? And I gave you my little 'I love my husband' speech?
Cerebus: Aye?

Jaka: "After I finished I sat there hoping you would say 'Fine Jaka. You love Rick.  But you belong to Cerebus.  Pack a bag, we're leaving tonight.'  I would have packed my bag, kissed Rick goodbye and left without a backward glance."


Jaka: "Unh huh."

It feels like something of a retcon of Jaka's Story, because I find it hard to believe Jaka would have left the decision to leave Rick in the hands of Cerebus alone. But it can work as a non-retcon, if it is more like something she has come to believe in retrospect because of a combination of being angry at Rick over the end of their marriage and idealising Cerebus the same way he idealises her.
"But I Must Have New Clothes Every Day!"
Their journey on foot continues. Taking a certain route later on sends Jaka into a fit of despair as there aren't enough clothing huts along it for her to be able to change her outfits daily.  While she huddles on the bed in misery, Cerebus mentally thinks the worst will happen and that she will leave him.  She doesn't of course, but they do end up travelling by coach.  When she reminds him of what he said about coach travel he makes light of it with a joke and we are reminded of the advice about Jaka passed on in Rick's Story.

"She's basically and unhappy person...With the unhappy ones you've got to be happy enough for two.  You're a naturally happy person and as long as you stay that way you should do fine. Just be happy every damn minute of your waking life and you've got her for as long as you want her."

As they travel, Jaka keeps getting invited to receptions by local Cirinists, as she is still Palnu royalty.  Curious, Cerebus wants to see what they are like and so Jaka accepts an invitation to a local gathering.  Lots of women, young and old turn out to see her and having seen enough, Cerebus leaves to go for a drink at the local pub while Jaka goes to speak to at the local community centre.  Both have a strange experience, for Cerebus it's an old man mentioning "prophet Ricke" and asking if Jaka is "a scorpion, or a lunatic, or an angel or just a woman?".  While Jaka after leaving the community centre is accosted by a Cirinist who tells her "Cirin is too old.  Too much has changed" and tells her that her local Mothers will swear allegiance to Jaka right now.  Both Jaka and Cerebus run away and bump back into each other.  Both somewhat discombobulated by their respective encounters.

The next day, Cerebus and one of the local Cirinists are examining the hacked up remains of what appears to be the one who tried to speak to Jaka.  The Cirinist makes a veiled threat regarding Jaka, that her Royal status won't protect her from a charge of insurrection.  Cerebus says he "gets the message".  When the remains are tidied away, Jaka is brought to Cerebus in the carriage, she is almost hysterically thankful to see him, thinking that something awful must have happened to him and it was her fault.  Cerebus grips her tightly and tells her she MUST be more careful who she talks to. She gets the message as well.  While Cerebus's inner voice keeps tormenting him, he keeps up his happy facade.  They engage in a bout of vigourous lovemaking in the back of the carriage and we get a wonderful image of Jaka mopping half a pint of aardvark spunk out of her ladygarden.  Bleaurgh, thanks for that Dave, where's my brain bleach?
Their journey continues.  Cerebus tries to talk to Jaka about religion, but for reasons never expanded upon she shuts him down. They carry on, sometimes they are grumpy with each other, other times they laugh and joke and are happy.  At the last inn before the boat the intend to board for the next leg of their journey, Cerebus has a dream that him and Jaka are having a conversation with Alan Moore, who I am sure needs no introduction.  And Rick Veitch who appeared briefly in a Guys dream sequence.  Rick Veitch is a comic book artist and writer who worked closely with Alan Moore on both Swamp Thing and Supreme.  I know Moore was friends with Dave Sim for a good while (though I can't imagine he was after Sim's later bouts of extreme homophobia).  So the parody here has a good natured element of light hearted joshing about it.  When Jaka wakes Cerebus up, they go and board the boat and the first half of the book is finished.
That's One Long Spliff Man
"Falls And The River" turns the intimacy of the Jaka/Cerebus relationship and turns it into a love triangle with the addition of fellow traveller F.Stop Kennedy.  Now I have to admit here that apart from The Great Gatsby which I read back in school, I don't know much about F.Scott Fitzgerald (who Kennedy is based on), so I can't say how accurate a pastiche of his writings the excerpts from his book are in this half of the story.
F.Stop Kennedy
When Jaka spots him she refers to him as a "perfectly dreadful man".  Apparently Kennedy and his wife behaved badly at a party thrown by Lord Julius many years ago.  Jaka insists that they don't ignore him, just treat him very standoffishly, instructing Cerebus to nod and grunt so he'll go take his meals indoors.  Kennedy seems impervious to their rudeness and dines with them anyway.  He keeps taking meals with them and Jaka starts to enjoy his company, he has also started writing Jaka into his book.

Turns out Kennedy's wife is in a sanitorium, or the nuthouse as Cerebus rather insensitively refers to it.  Showing her changing attitude towards Kennedy, Jaka tells Cerebus:

Jaka: "You said to me 'Jaka, be careful who you talk to'.  I never once asked you why I should be more careful about who I talk to...Now why do you suppose that is? It's because I trust you, that's why.  And I trust you because I love you.  So if you trust me and if you love me, you'll go right over there and apologise to Mr. Kennedy for what you said to him."

So Cerebus goes and apologises and returns much later roaring drunk.  Lovingly, Jaka tucks him in as he passes out on the sofa, showing the real tenderness their relationship has at the moment.
D'awwwwww, How Nice.

Later the next day Jaka asks Kennedy if he can read what he has written about her.  He refuses.

Jaka: "Don't you ever tire of invading peoples private lives? Just to feed your noteriety/"

Kennedy responds that what he tires of is wondering which of his writings will result in his wife getting better or worse care from the Cirinists.  And which of his writings will see him either applauded or despised by them. And that he tires of being "judged. Sneered at..snubbed and slighted" especially by people he met once, long ago at a party.  While Jaka tries to prise more information about his book out of Kennedy, Cerebus is fishing and falls asleep.  He dreams of Rick, now looking very Jesus like, baptising people in the river.  He awakens with a start.
Dreaming Of Rick
Later Jaka is withdrawn and distant, pondering the nature of art while Kennedy sits on top of the boat getting drunk and thinking about his wife.  The next day Jaka and Cerebus chat about the future.  Cerebus talks about how when they get to his parents he'll build them a dream home. Jaka is somewhat unethused and goes to speak to Kennedy, who tells her about an artists retreat called Mealc.  Jaka gives him a kiss on the cheek telling him that talking about Mealc makes him seem younger.  The next day, one of the senior Cirinists comes to her room to fix something and heavily implies that when they dock they can kill off Cerebus for her and set her free.  Upset Jaka goes to bed, hugging Missy and a tear rolls down her cheek.

At their next meal together, Cerebus seems to finally cotton on that there is something growing between Jaka and Kennedy.  Jaka ends up running from the table in tears, saying she wants to be left alone.  This causes Cerebus to see the rocky landscape of Juno again.  He goes and gets miserably drunk pondering the advice about staying happy to keep her happy.  Kennedy invites Jaka to come to Mealc as a patroness and drunkenly imagines himself kissing her.  Jaka drags a sulking Cerebus back to their room.
The Artist At Work
Jaka finally tells Cerebus that she doesn't want to see his parents.  She wants to go to the art commune, Mealc to fill the gap for art in her soul that stopping dancing has left her with.

Cerebus: "In that case Jaka, Cerebus guesses this is goodbye.  Cerebus will go to Sandhill Creek and make sure his parents are Okay, and Cerebus will catch first boat south in the spring and meet you at Mealc, before the festival of the summer bonfire.  Cerebus can't live without you Jaka."

Oh Shit
The boat soon arrives at the dock.  The Cirinists aboard start acting strangely, seperating Jaka from Cerebus.  Suddenly Jaka realises what the Cirinists have planed.  They are going to kill Cerebus.  She bellows a farewell to Kennedy and panicking, manages to catch up with the oblivious Cerebus, leading him by the hand through the massed ranks of armed Cirinists, thus saving his life at the cost of her happiness. 
Saving Cerebus
I probably haven't done Going Home proper justice here.  So much of the book is just very long conversations between characters or excerpts from a F.Scott Fitzgerald pastiche that it's proved hard to summarise.  What is interesting is the ups and downs of Jaka and Cerebus's relationship.  We get to see Cerebus as happy as he'll ever be here but also what a fragile basis their relationship has.  As we go into the next book, the relationship will be tested even further, while it was Jaka turn to pull away in this book, the next will see Cerebus having second thoughts as well.  To be frank though, this book is a little dull although a student of F.Scott Fitzgerald might find more to enjoy about it.  There are some interesting plot points that aggravatingly never pay off, like the prospect of a civil war between the Cirinists and why Jaka was so reluctant to discuss religion.  And more information is dropped in regarding Rick's new religion which will pay off later on.  Otherwise this book passes the time easily enough, but apart from some fine artwork never really shines.


  1. Yes, the artwork is very good, especially the drawings of Jaka, which are a real pleasure to look at. She looks fresh, natural and attractive, like a country girl who has been nourished by real butter and fresh milk, and has spent her days wandering the meadows and looking after the cattle. I'm probably reading way too much into her appearance, but that's the vibe I get from her. To me she represents the natural/bucolic/pastoral/peaceful/nurturing/productive, as opposed to Cerebus who is all about aggression, war, slaughter, etc. Basically, she is from Venus (planet of fertility and general feminine loveliness); Cerebus is from Mars (armies, weapons, fighting, etc).

    The fact that she still sleeps with her doll seems to indicate that she subconsciously wants children. Could Cerebus even provide those for her? Would their union be blessed with fruit, and would said fruit be a weird human/aardvark naturalistic/cartoon hybrid? A combination of drawing styles as well as species. Or maybe she cleans herself up after intimate relations because she doesn't want children, but wants to remain in a state of infancy herself (hence the doll). So Cerebus is the father-figure whose job it is to make her happy. He's the strong, commanding masculine, and she's the submissive feminine — the receiver to his provider.

    And why the actual flip is she so obsessed with clothes? I get that that's the stereotype associated with women, but not all of us are like that! I'll happily wear the same outfit for a week if I like it. (Yes, I know, I'm a total slob.) It's like, Cerebus gave up his clothes for her, but she wants to hang onto hers, like they're vital extensions of her personality.

    Still, it's good that she saved his life. I think at that point their relationship could still have worked out somehow. Or maybe it was never meant to be, like Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

  2. I think the clothes thing is just an aspect of her character. She's lived most her life as a free and independant spirit, but she was raised an aristocrat for the first twelve years of her life, and I think that's one aspect of her personality and childhood she's never quite shed.

    The children thing is covered in the last book, atlhough the aardvark Cirin is given as having a human son and Cerebus's parents were human as well. Seems aarvarks are a very, very rare quirk which is why they tend to be so special and mould destiny etc

    Dave Sim really draws lovely and totally un-explotative females. I love that picture of her and Cerebus holding hands. For all her flaws as a character (and flaws aren't a bad thing, nothing more dull than perfect people) her saving his life at the end at the cost of her happiness is a beautiful moment.