My Year With Cerebus: Issue 6

[Reposted from my blog 72 Pins]

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A couple of longer than usual shifts at work this weekend left me too tired to write or think much about anything other than eating and sleeping. So having burned a few more of the 65 “buffer” days in my year of posting aboutCerebus, I considered doubling up and doing issues 6 and 7 today. However, for reasons that will become clear, it seemed wrong to skim over issue 6.Depending on your taste for the hopelessly romantic,Cerebus #6 can be quite good. Some will find it sickeningly cute, but as a standalone story, it lets us see a different (if drug-induced) side of Cerebus in which his usual gruffness and violence is replaced with fawning love-sickness. More importantly, though, this issue introduces one of the series’s main supporting characters, Jaka, who will serve as Cerebus’s unattainable love interest from here on.

Jaka is only the second female character to appear in Cerebus, and the first sympathetic one. She works as an erotic dancer, and clearly has ties to the seedier elements who frequent her tavern. That she falls so quickly for anyone, even an aardvark, who seems to show her genuine affection suggests that her life has not been a happy one. Red Sophia had pretensions of worldliness, but sounded like she picked up her knowledge secondhand from the sort of magazines you find in supermarket checkout lines; Jaka is the real deal, with all the baggage that entails. But she’s the one that we feel Dave Sim is holding up as the better person.

That dichotomy doesn’t justify the sexist caricature that is Red Sophia, but it does hint at Sim turning the “virgin-whore” complex on its ear in an interesting, maybe even admirable, way. Whatever Jaka’s sexual past may be, it’s clear that she’s become as comfortable in her position as one could be without losing one’s humanity. The running gag of the Red Sophia character is that she (and her father) accuse others of besmirching her honor at the slightest hint of offense. But we can safely assume that Jaka’s honor has had to endure far greater blows than Sophia’s ever has.

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At one point, it seems that Jaka may simply be manipulating Cerebus to get her out of trouble with the thugs E’lass and Turg, but Sim quickly makes it clear that that’s not the case. Too quickly, I think. Keeping Jaka’s motivations hidden for longer would have added some tension to what is otherwise a fairly light issue. It would also have made the last page much more powerful. When Jaka has already said that she wants to escape with Cerebus, her pledge to wait for his return is just sentimental. If we weren’t already sure that she had fallen for him, it would be a far more potent revelation.

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Aside from introducing Jaka, issue 6 also starts to hint at more continuity from issue to issue. The shadowy priests lurking in the corners of this story are the focus of issue 7, and it looks like the events of that book will play a more important role in what follows. While the sprawling story arcs that eventually became Cerebus‘s trademark are still a ways away, I’m keen on anything that will make these early issues easier to write about on a (semi-) daily basis.