My Year With Cerebus: Issue 2

[Reposted from my blog 72 Pins]

In 1981′s Swords of Cerebus collection, Dave Sim wrote this about the creative process behind Cerebus #2:

The Writer panicked when he realized he was going to have to come up with some more ha-ha. The Writer wasn’t really enthusiastic about getting stuck with a job that entailed making up twenty-two pages of ha-ha every other month. His was a neat solution. Drop the ha-ha for the last thirteen pages of the second issue.

Really, though, Sim dropped the “ha-ha” from more of the issue than that. Outside of a couple of sight gags as Cerebus squares off in a traditional knife duel with a barbarian, this is far less of a parody than the first issue. It opens with the group Cerebus is traveling with being attacked and slaughtered by a gang of Borealan marauders. While in the first issue Sim traded on the absurdity of an aardvark mercenary for comic effect, here Cerebus comes off as truly amoral for the first time, saving himself by selling his services to the group who just slaughtered his companions.

From that point forward, though, this is more or less a repeat of the first issue’s plot. During a battle, Cerebus is isolated and soon finds himself traversing a cavern which he becomes convinced holds a great treasure. He eventually finds the treasure, and with it a powerful magical enemy. Cerebus bests this new foe (though it’s not clear how), but in the end discovers that the treasure for which he fought is actually a worthless object. The only substantial difference from issue #1 is that this time it’s Cerebus getting fooled rather than the thieves who hired him for protection.

There is something of a revelation here, though I’m not sure whether it will ever come up again. The creature Cerebus faces in the issue’s climactic battle attempts to steal his soul, but is unable to find it. I have no idea if this becomes important later, but in light of Cerebus’s “selling out” earlier in the issue, it’s a nice way to tie-up another self-contained story while giving readers something to speculate about going forward.

Cerebus #2 is probably better than its predecessor, but it’s hard to say since it’s essentially the same story with less humor and slightly more polished art. It feels like a do-over, with Sim working out a version of Cerebus he’ll feel comfortable writing in the long term. That’s understandable given that Sim was kind of blazing a trail for DIY comics publishing here, but it still leaves me looking forward to next issue, which introduces another of the series’s regular characters, Red Sophia.

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