Page 45 Review by Stephen
A complete change of place after the cataclysm of CHURCH & STATE, and a completely self-contained read recommended as anyone's starting point so long as it's not your first-ever comic. By now Sim is experimenting in so many ways with storytelling in this particular medium that novices may find the devices disorientating. But it's where I started to read CEREBUS, I was hooked in the space of two or three pages, and for the next twenty years until the arrival of ASTERIOS POLYP and the ALEC OMNIBUS, I considered the series to be the finest work in comics.
Half the book is about quiet domesticity, the dancer Jaka living with her new husband Rick halfway up a mountain next to a few other domiciles and a tavern. The other half is about freedom of artistic expression and a woman's right to choose. But it's not as straightforward as you might think.
has been away. In his absence he's been dethroned, and the Cirinists have taken over. Their belief in motherhood is absolute, but don't imagine they're feminists. A woman only has the right to choose so long as her choice is to become a mother. Dancing, for example, is illegal, whilst men are regarded as second-class citizens and Cerebus as the former religious leader of men is very much on the run. Having materialised by 'coincidence' on Rick and Jaka's doorstep, Cerebus is offered sanctuary there, but given that Cerebus is - or perceives himself to be - in love with Jaka, it's hilariously awkward.
In the meantime Oscar Wilde turns up. He's writing a story - the story within this story about Jaka's childhood. He's also eyeing up Rick. But at least he's open and honest about it (even if Rick's too dim to understand those advances). Far, far more ominous are the constantly revised conversations which tavern owner Pud is having with Jaka in his head. Dancing is illegal and his patrons are few yet Pud still pays her to dance in very revealing outfits. One of the ways I sell JAKA'S STORY on the shop floor goes like this: do you ever try to anticipate conversations in advance? I know I do. If I say this, they may come back to me with that, so I'll counter with
Hmmm. But what if I said that instead, how would it steer things? Call me occasionally premeditated, over-rehearsed or just plain careful in some conversations, but throughout JAKA'S STORY, Pud is obsessing over Jaka and each new strand grows increasingly worrying
Three-quarters of the way through the rug is pulled out from under everyone's feet and the rest is even darker. How could it not be? Margaret Thatcher appears.
Before even commencing this sequence, Gerhard built a three-dimensional model of Jaka's house so that he could envisage exactly how each character moved through it, and how to 'shoot' exterior sequences with consistency. Some superhero artists can't even spell the word 'background' let alone draw it. They replace it instead with nominal silhouettes or speed lines. It's not an artistic decision like Kojima's in some sequences of LONE WOLF & CUB, but sheer laziness.
Gerhard can spell 'laziness' but the very concept to him is an anathema. He's not just thinking about each background, but how different times of the day would affect its lighting.