In Cerebus' world, the battle of the sexes has been fought and won - by the women. The government is a matriarchal dictatorship, run by an all-seeing psychic called Cirin. Her rule is totalitarian with, bizarrely, a bias towards motherhood. And her biggest threat comes not from Cerebus, a mere male; but from Astoria, the old consort of Cerebus' who started him on the road to power. Astoria is a libertarian, believing that women shouldn't be tied to their domestic responsibilities - in stark contrast to Cirin's fascism of the family.
Women focuses on the differences between Cirin and Astoria, as Cirin's prepares to follow Cerebus' attempt to ascend and become a god. Cerebus himself continues to muddle through, a sad alcoholic barely capable of lifting himself from his stupor. Sparks of the old Cerebus fly occasionally but he's more likely to be seen drinking and sleeping than rabble rousing, especially since he's found an establishment where he can get free drink thanks to his previous reputation.
The plot progresses slowly, with Cirin and Astoria circling around each other: Astoria trying to avoid Cirin's wrath; Cirin trying to complete the necessary preparations for her ascension. It's a tense game of cat and mouse that builds to a satisfying crescendo though, like the previous volume, there's something of a cliff-hanger ending. The most irritating part of the story is probably the comic relief, as the comic parody roller coaster trundles on to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.
The artwork is as well crafted as ever, with Sim's characters sitting perfectly on Gerhard's backdrops. Sequences of panels are used effortlessly to control the speed of the flow and, as is becoming the norm in the series, there are entire pages of text with barely a picture to be seen, usually to flesh out a bit of background information.
Despite everything though, there's a pedestrian feel to the book. Sim doesn't appear to be lost in his epic but there's a certain question in our minds of whether this and the last volume are simply too well fleshed out, leaving a wealth of detail but little of consequence actually happening that would seem to merit the time spent on the journey.
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