The Last Day
by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Cerebus is dead. We all knew this was coming, but it’s real now. A little over a month ago, I picked up issue 300 of the series, and put it away. The last collection, the sixteenth volume in the groundbreaking Cerebus series of graphic novels, The Last Day, is out. Here endeth the story of Dave Sim’s furry grey personification of political, religious and now scientific commentary.
Cerebus has been Pope, and he demanded the people bring him all their gold, or they’d be writhing in flames for all eternity; he had a series of run-ins with the Cirnists, a matriarchal society gone mad; he spoke to his god, Dave, whilst banished to Pluto; in the bad old days, he was a barbarian mercenary, before he met up with the Roach, a chameleon-like superhero-wannabe. All I can hope to do is give you the flavor of the story, there’s been far too much plot to condense into a summary of the series. No doubt Mr. Sim would be please by this, as he shuns interviews for the reason that he would only give a complete answer to a question, not a compact, easily handled factoid.
I’ll not attempt to address the threads of controversy with which the series is laced. Browse the web and you’ll get a barrel of opinions about the work, the creator, and the importance of background artists. But I will say that the religious and scientific questions and attempts at answers that permeate The Last Day tend to blur the intent of the series. As in this book and the volume before it, Latter Days, the plot becomes glimpses of brilliantly executed narrative seen through the brush. The expositional nature of the accompanying material draws attention away from the story.
While textual sections of graphic novels can on occasion work well, as in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, it can be a distraction. Perhaps the authors would have done well to place this material at the end of the book, or write a separate work with it. Sim has a first-class mind, no matter how eccentric he is and how controversial he’d like to be. And he writes very well; I expect we’ll be seeing more of his acerbic essays now that Cerebus is complete.
The Last Day, in keeping with the rest of the Cerebus volumes, raises far more questions than it could hope to answer. And this is not a bad thing. Wrapping up all the numerous plot threads (What happened to Julius? And, what, exactly, happened to Jaka? And when in the world did Cerebus have a son? Was I asleep for that bit?) would take away from the magic. Cerebus, despite all its flaws, is a masterpiece of a work. We can quibble about what should have been, but in the end, ya gotta be there for the end.
Recommended to longtime readers of the series. If you wouldn’t know Cerebus from a poke in the eye, start with High Society.
This was originally written for Neil’s old blog, and has been reproduced here for archival purposes.