Comics: October 1991
The longest running “independent” comic, Cerebus, continues to appear through 149+ issues. And discriminating readers who haven’t picked up this title should be admonished—this is probably the finest comic book being produced.
This series features the trials and tribulations of Cerebus, a gray anthropomorphic aardvark. However, unlike other “funny animal” books, Cerebus focusses on more than just parody. In the 14+ years the chronicles have so far encompassed, Cerebus the character has gone from being a Conan satire into a statesman to Pope pf a dominant religion, to a shell-shocked survivor of a religious upheaval.
The issues the comic has detailed include the ridiculousness of political campaigns, the role of secret societies on history, the influence of puritanical religions on individual freedom, and more. Cerebus, himself, has been pushed and pulled by everyone so far in a grand design neither the reader nor the character can comprehend.
The current storyline, Melmoth, has Cerebus more of an observer as the declining health of Oscar Wilde (a transplanted supporting character in the fictional world of Estarcion) is depicted.
The sheer drama and power of the story must be experienced in order to be truly appreciated. Writer / artist Dave Sim captures human emotion in a manner no other comics creator can approach. Sim is more than matched by co-artist Gerhard, though. The opulence of the surroundings provide a contrast to physical decline of the Wilde character that is stunning.
No amount of raving can truly describe Cerebus to the uninitiated. Fortunately, past exploits of the gray aardvark are available in bi-weekly reprints and telephone book-sized compilations. While Sim’s personal tirade in his editorials may leave on pissed off and the letters page continues to be a morass of whining wankers, the story pages of Cerebus continue to provide a near mystical experience (B&W $2.25).
In keeping with its recent tradition of reprinting quality British comics creation for an American audience, Dark Horse has launched this four-issue series.
Ripped from the pages of Deadline, Tank Girl details the exploits of the 23-year old title character along with Booga (a kangaroo), Stevie (an aborigine), Camp Koala (a cuddly toy), and occasional cohorts Jet Girl and Sub Girl.
The primary attraction of the series is Tank Girl herself, though. This nearly-bald babe smokes, drinks to excess, swears, scroggs and drives a tank (hence the name)—everything good girls shouldn’t do. Transversing the Australian Outback, the characters maim and ridicule society and its mores.
The stories, written by Alan Martin, are a joyous, if nihilistic, celebration of life, emphasizing the truly important aspects of day-to-day survival. Martin is excited by artist James Hewlett, though. Hewlett’s vibrant drawings convey the humor and happiness with an ease that should leave most comic artist green with envy.
Fans of this character shouldn’t mourn the last issue of this series, though. Tank Girl will be appearing in Dark Horse’s new Deadline U.S.A. anthology as well as occasional cropping up in the aforementioned Deadline (along with the fan-favorite Mike & cheese). (B&W $2.25)
“Doing The Island With Bacchus”
With this three-issue limited series, Dark Horse Comics is reprinting past appearances of Eddie Campbell’s popular character “Bacchus,” all in preparation for a new Deadface series in 1992.
For those unfamiliar with the character, Bacchus is the Greco-Roman deity of pleasure, debauchery and (most importantly) wine. Artist / writer Campbell has brought the character, along with several other Roman Gods, into the current world. It seems these beings weren’t as immortal as they thought—first they exhibit the characteristics “deadface” or gruesomely ages appearance. But while the other gods sought to settle ancient scores, Bacchus is still his laid-back self.
In these tales, Bacchus and his literate chum Simpson tour the Greek islands in their company of young thrill seekers. Along the way, the reader is entertained with Bacchus’ stories of goings-on in Olympus, the true location of Atlantis, etc.
Unfortunately, Campbell’s artwork has gotten progressively sloppier and while it does have a simple charm, the splotchiness is occasionally irritating. Campbell’s co-creator on past Deadface material, Ed (Ilya) Millyer has a far more fluid and expressive style and hopefully, and artist of Millyer’s caliber will illustrate the future material.
Nevertheless, the charm of the series lies in Campbell’s writing which is both educational and entertaining, the entire premise of our date gods existing in the modern world serves to exhibit just how jaded and “sophisticated” society has become.
If any of this sparks an interest, readers are encouraged to hunt down this series, as well as the adventures of Eyeball Kid in Cheval Noir and Dark Horse’s graphic novel compilation of past “Bacchus/deadface” material, Dead face: Immortal Isn’t Forever. (B&W $2.95).
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