Cerebus: Jaka's Story
Buy this book:
Cerebus 5: Jaka's StoryThis fifth book in the collected Cerebus series is a change from the norm in that Cerebus plays a secondary role in the proceedings. Instead we're left reading the story of Jaka, princess by birth, dancer by profession and, as we meet her, living in poverty in a tiny enclave on the side of the mountain featured so heavily in the last volume.
Jaka's story is stunningly told. The main plot is confined to a limited number of locations and people, creating an enclosed and sometimes claustrophobic confinement of characters who, on the whole, have little interest in broadening their horizons. Each is passionate about different things, all of which find a release in one of the others, creating a bizarre circle of human relationships you might be more familiar with from intense theatrical works.
The sub-plot relates to Jaka's history, told by interspersing pages of flashback prose throughout the graphic story, illustrated by single panel pictures of an event discussed in the accompanying passage. This is a brave device, itself interwoven into the dynamic of the plot, that some might rally against - after all, when does a graphic novel start to become an illustrated book? Treated like this though, the history is cleverly divorced from the main thrust of the book, creating an exceptional narrative structure.
If we wanted to pick holes, there are occasions when Sim's characters look a little shaky, though Gerhard's backgrounds remain architecturally perfect throughout. But frankly it's hardly necessary. This is a marvellous story, intertwining past and present; utilising enough literary genres to make any concept of pigeonholing a waste of time. High Society and Church & State are often put forward as Sim's great works. We think this tale, focusing as it does on the minutiae of a handful of characters, is intrinsically more powerful and certainly more accessible.
Originally published as
Previous in series
Cerebus 4: Church & State volume 2
Next in series
Cerebus 6: Melmoth