2: High Society
3: Church & State Volume I
4: Church & State Volume II
5: Jaka's Story
1: Cerebus is an anthromorphic aardvark Conan the Barbarian
2: Cerebus gets into politics
3 & 4: Cerebus becomes pope
5: Cerebus hangs out with Jaka
6: Cerebus is in a state of shock, the death of Oscar Wilde
7: Cerebus, Cirin, and Suenteus Po all work toward the Final Ascenscion
8: " "
9: Suentues Po and Astoria bow out; Cirin and Cerebus Ascend
10: Cerebus meets Dave
If you've been following the titles for the last few volumes, they run together to read "Women Reads Minds Guys," which is fairly close to the sentence "Women read minds, guys" which is one of Sim's conceits of the setting...and hopefully not in real life, but at this point I'm completely unclear how strong Sim's grasp on reality is. Some people think this is deliberate, other people think it's a coincidence...I'd believe either one, honestly.
Anyway, the arc words for this collection are "Never fall in love with a bar." That tells you pretty much what you want to know. We learned over the last couple books that under Cirinist Law, taverns are sacrosanct asylums for unmarried men. Alcohol is free, as well as all the nourishing rice cakes and vegetable soup as you can stand before suffering massive renal failure. A place where they can go and drink and avoid women and responsibility and they won't get arrested for being assholes.
Also, fellow indie-comic character Bacchus guest-stars. Sortof.
I'm not going into this in great depth at this point, because I'm tired. Last book, Cerebus came face-to-face with his creator and discovered that he's an asshole (Cerebus, that is. Jury's still out on Dave.) Faced with this colossal cosmic truth, Cerebus resolves to turn his life around...and spends all 408 pages of this book in a bar, mostly doing the early-morning-melds-into-slow-afternoon thing that guys do at bars. It's macho and weird in that way that a lot of guy things are inexplicable and weird and involve vast amounts of alcohol, like ice fishing or deer hunting. It is, in it's own very strange, slow way, the most light-hearted book in the series. There's some funny moments, great dialogue, terrific facial expressions, and really weird expies.
So, Cirin won, more or less. Or declared herself winner. Doesn't really matter. Cerebus is living in a tavern. Mrs. Thatcher is his parole officer-cum-matchmaker, sortof. George Harrison and Mick Jagger, and Cerebus' old mercenary pal Bear, and Marty Feldman.
We're introduced to the game Five Bar Gate. This is a fictional game like Diamondback, but is somewhere between racketball snogged soccer in a dark alley and the bastard child was raised by tennis. The funniest moment involving it is fairly early on, where a ludicrously drunk Cerebus challenges Bear to a game, which Bear quickly wins, and then shoves the ball up Cerebus' arsehole, using the racket to really ram it in there.
Look, the name of the book is "Guys." This is totally a book for enlightened men-children.
Not-Bacchus shows up, as does Not-Dave, in "The Swilling" - which is like the Dreaming from Neil Gaiman's series, but not under copyright.
It's a meandering book. There's not a lot of plot; it's like watching a Cheers marathon, if everybody on the cast was actually drinking. Characters come and go. There's a lengthy aside by expy of Norman Mailer expounding in very Norman Mailer fashion on how women read minds. A local promiscuous young woman comes to the bar, which is apparently a thing that the unmarried gels do. Cerebus gets into "graphic reads" (i.e. comic books) about a pseudo-Spiderman character called "The Wanker."
I'd like to say that Sim is making an unsubtle point about sexual subtext and stuff, but...fuck, I'm running out of steam on this one. There's not a lot of build up
in this book; there's a lot of isolated images and stuff that are probably telling, but most of it is a situational comedy about guys living in a bar. Women appear sometimes; Bear has a terrible girlfriend or fuckbuddy or something called Ziggy (nickname: "Zigpig.") She's so annoying and domineering that a group of guys that can handle recurrent visits from Mrs. Thatcher decide to ditch the bar for one further south. This provokes a really weird self-reflecting homophobic conversation in Cerebus' head - which pretty much just puts paid to the idea that's been building that Cerebus isn't quite right in the head after his little visit with Dave from last book.
So Cerebus sets up as bartender. That's pretty much as close to character development as we get in this book: Cerebus moves behind the bar. Thatcher tries to pull her usual shrill shit on him, and Cerebus reveals that not only can he do the telepathy thing, but he's better at it than they are. Cerebus meets Joanne - the one that future-Cerebus cheated on future-Jaka with in an alt-future scenario Dave set up - and sort of seduces Cerebus. Which isn't hard; a bit of cleavage will do it. Seriously, for an hermaphrodite, Cerebus is the most stereotypical guy in this book you'd hardly believe it.
I guess I should mention that after several books where Cerebus mostly says jack shit, in this one he has a lot of internal conversations with himself. Not...monologues. Conversations. Voices in his head.
The relationship with Joanne goes okay, except Cerebus is planning to leave...and doesn't tell her until he's almost ready to go. Then this guy shows up. Older, a bit heavyset. But Cerebus knows him from somewhere. So the guy gives him a hint:
. Once told. Me
. That you were in love
with my WIFE
So yeah, it's Rick. Which is fair enough, because the next book is Rick's Story
I'm gonna be honest here, a lot of this book feels like Sim was treading water a bit. I think maybe he had an ending planned, but all the really interesting socio-political-religious stuff you might have been interested in from the prior books is very sub rosa
. Characterization is...well, development for Cerebus is somewhere between nil and marginal
. Art is still great. The expies and guest appearances (Too Much Coffee Man appears at one point on the label of a bottle of Coffee Liquor) feel excessive; I haven't even mentioned several. Norman Mailer's character wanders in and out of the story with his stuff about Cirinist telepathy, and it seems like it's supposed to be important - it's certainly interesting, in that not-Mailer believes most women's telepathy is uncontrolled and intermittent, a bit like trying to steer a ship by flashes of lightning in a storm. Mrs. Thatcher is...less hideously evil than she was in previous books, but is now rather annoying. Cerebus is at least moderately schizophrenic. Which is probably a good way to sum up the whole story: it's like looking back on all the lazy afternoons you've ever had in a bar. People come and go; the bar itself is the only constant. Never fall in love with a bar.