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
11: Cerebus falls in love with a bar
We left Rick at the end of Jaka's Story
. His marriage to Jaka ended, his thumb got broken, and he was sent back to live with his mother. I'm not entirely certain of the timing after that, but it's at least five years later. But it could be ten or fifteen years; Rick has put on some weight and lost some hair. And maybe a few Sanity Points.
I'm not going to quote the introduction, but Sim intended this book to be a bit like Melmoth
, predominantly focusing on one side character he'd developed an interest in. This time, it was Rick. But it doesn't really stand alone in that regard, because we're also getting some flashes of the stuff that comes in the later
books (and there aren't that many left, and they're thick - fair warning: this is going to be a bit of a slog). Which is probably the more interesting bits, I dunno.
Anyway, Middle-Aged Rick is there in the bar, with Cerebus as bartender. And they're having a good time of it, surprisingly; they've both pretty much given up on Jaka, so it's like an old girlfriend they had in common that they're able to joke about (and do).
And Rick has a book he's been writing. Rick's Story
. Like Jaka's Story
, it's not...exactly the truth. It's a perspective of the truth. And the thing is, Rick isn't entirely there. We start to get some really weird religious imagery - a Saint Rick and a demon Cerebus. But the thing is, Cerebus is still Pope, to Rick. And Rick's book isn't just a read, it sort of morphs into the Gospel According to Rick, centered on the events in the bar. "Thy Rod and thy Stout comfort me, and surely Guinness and mixers shall follow me all of my days." That kind of thing. It's a fairly solid parody
, if it was a parody, right down to the form (based on the King James Bible) and language, sort of showing how these books give a stilted view of actual events.
Also, Rick has a complete fucking trauma concerning Mrs. Thatcher. Which is fair.
I should point out that ever since the hermaphrodite revelation several books ago, Cerebus has been dealing with his sexuality and gender identity. The polite way to put it is that he's maybe a one
on the Kinsey Scale
, but he's so scared of appearing to be gay that it scares the piss out of him when his imagination ever does anything non-hetero. I'm kinda glad Dave Sim got this out of his system before Jersey Shore or dudebros were a popular meme.
As it is, Joanne comes back. And kinda-sorta flirts with Rick. This...uh...kinda screws with Cerebus. It's the typical male BS possessiveness/competition stuff, and even Cerebus knows it at this point. Which is actually a bit interesting, because we're getting more on Cerebus' inner life, even if he is still talking to himself (and talking back).
I'm skipping over a lot, it's...well, it's faux-archaic New Testament stuff with a lot
of religious imagery; lots of panels like medieval stained-glass windows and Renaissance-era frescoes. The actual plot is something like a mostly-inebriated Rick stumbling through life and wanting to go on a date with Joanne (there is a part in here where they're both dressed like 30-year-olds during the 1980s and it is disturbing), but he's really
broken in the head and expressing pretty much everything through religious imagery while maintaining the bare facade of being a functioning human being. Dave Sim said in the introduction that he very explicitly is not Rick, but...you can see why people might mistake that.
Also, just to get the full transition into the next few books, Rick establishes that "His name isn't Tarim. It's God."
In between the weird romance triangle bullshit, my absolute favorite part of this book is a scene that Cerebus might have dreamed - Cirin appears, amid mists and tentacles, bearing a runesword to apparently try and assassinate Cerebus as he's sleeping...and that is a story I would much rather be reading
. I love the idea of Cirin, desperate because of Cerebus' very existence, delves into the magic of the Illusionists to try and get a step on him. It may just be a dream. But it's about the last time we ever see Cirin. And I wish we had more of that.
Anyway, Joanne sleeps with Rick. Which is actually a tremendous relief for Cerebus. He's happy
for them. Now he can leave the bar and go home like he planned, no hard feelings, all the messy relationship bullshit out of the way.
Except when he comes downstairs to the bar in the morning, Rick is there. And he does a kind of spell (or something) with a twig, and...it looks like Cerebus is bound to the bar. Unable to leave. Very weird.
Dave shows up again, though that might just be Cerebus talking to himself. Not clear at all at this point. And he leaves a package with Missy, Jaka's doll. The one Cerebus was carrying for a bit.
Then Jaka comes in.
Now, remember how back in "Minds" Dave told Cerebus that Jaka didn't really love him, and Cerebus doesn't really love Jaka? Well, she's damn happy to see him. And they're both older now and talking about old times and what they've been up to, and it's like watching The Big Chill
or something. They're cool with each other. Jaka spends the night, and in the morning they're all lovely-dove and set to go, Jaka in a fresh outfit...and amazingly, she accidentally breaks whatever binding spell was keeping Cerebus at the bar.
Then Bear and Marty and Ringo Starr from the last book show up. I don't know how long Cerebus has spent as bartender, but they look like they've aged 5-10 years. They're all smoking cigars and doing the masculine thing, they're all on the outs with their wives or girlfriends or whatever, and they've come back to the bar they remember to make sweet love to the beer and whiskey again and play diamondback and basically fuck off. It's like old times, and Cerebus is pouring the drinks and is glad to see his friends again...and Jaka looks at Bear and remembers the time Pope Cerebus had sent him into the Lower City to fetch her away from her husband Rick...she's nonplussed.
Amazingly. Jaka's about to leave. And she looks at Cerebus to see if he's coming. And he says goodbye to the guys and leaves.
I think this is as close to a happy fucking ending as we ever get in a Cerebus book. Sim could have ended the whole series here
, and I would have been fine with it. If you think about it, it's the perfect ending in a lot of ways - a lot of threads have been dropped, but the story and the world have finally been settled down to the point where we're talking about stuff from about six or seven books ago - and this time, Cerebus is changed. He isn't distracted by power any more, and he's not even distracted by the puerile masculine fantasy of getting drunk and gambling and hanging out with his friends all the time. Cerebus is ready to just...be in a relationship with Jaka. It's the thing that he couldn't
do before, because he was literally
tied to that fucking bar. And would maybe have been so forever...until she came along.
But of course, we've got a few more books left.