Reads is a book of two parts. In one part, the story of Cerebus inches fowards, as three ardvarks and a human meet, one of them warns the others that they're all stupid and greedy, and two of them get into a fight. The fight is epic - a slow-motion mix of pummelling and blood letting that wouldn't look out of place in a Quentin Tarrantino movie. Unfortunaltely, we've performed a scientific experiment and discovered that only 35 per cent of Reads is taken up by the further adventures of Cerebus that most people will purchase the volume for.
The other part is prose. It starts off as a diatribe against the comic industry, with Sim using thinly disguised names to take digs at the industry he, by self-publishing Cerebus, has managed to stay on the outskirts of. Shortly after that, Sim drops the pretence of everyone except his own alter-ego and describes meetings, discussions and stories with other comics professionals like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Then, eventually, he starts preaching his world view.
Sim's outlook, as is widely discussed on the web and elsewhere, is misogynist, rather sad and deeply misguided. Sim looks back to a simpler age where women weren't involved in decision making, in creative processes or in politics, and considers these better times. More was done, he argues. Men weren't held back. Frankly, it's a preposterous and offensive outburst.
It's a shame because the Cerebus story remains so interesting and promising. But Sim argues that he is the story, that auteur and creation are so tightly knitted together that, one supposes, we must know the man to know his characters. Of course, this is artistic pretension to the extreme. Some artists may successfully use their fame to talk about the bigger picture - Bob Geldolf springs to mind - but this is rare and is generally preferable if the cause is widely considered to be 'good'. Sim's arguments about the tyranny of the 'Female Void' ring eerily hollow in this regard.
So what to do about Cerebus? Well, if it weren't for the diatribe we'd be rating this really highly. The parts that feature Cerebus are tense, exciting and interesting. The prose section couldn't be more different - highly irrelevant and barely worthy of your time. What a shame. Anyone interested in buying half a book?
Comment on this graphic novel review