Seems everyone, most recently colleague Brian Doherty in The American Spectator, is offering muted congratulations to Dave Sim on the publication of the final, 300th issue of Cerebus, completing a comic book story that began some two years before I was born. Many of the comments are in the same vein as those of (the very talented) Warren Ellis:
A testament to utter determination and vision. I mean, it pretty clearly drove the guy insane, but it’s an astonishing achievement.
And there’s the rub. Looking at the final years of Cerebus, longtime fans must feel a bit like the audience at the Homer Simpson/Mel Gibson remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which the ending is changed to a standard Hollywood action flick bloodbath. The early story arcs—High Society, Church and State I and II, Jaka’s Story—are some of the best comic book storytelling you’ll ever find on paper; alternately poignant and hilariously satirical. The Mothers and Daughters arc (split over four smaller compilation books) is still astonishingly good, though in retrospect it marks the beginning of the book’s transformation into a soapbox for the ham-handed exposition of Sim’s religious and political views—perhaps ironic when one considers that the previous arc, Melmoth, was a fictionalized retelling of Oscar Wilde’s final days. Most people seem to object to this turn on the grounds that Sim’s views are regarded as misogynistic. And they are, but the real problem is that they made the book increasingly uninteresting. Instead of a triumphant climax to a long and brilliant run, the last couple of years of Cerebus provided something akin to the unseemly spectacle of an aging rocker squeezing himself into leather pants that had long since ceased to fit. In issue 300, which I’ve not yet read (I suppose, mostly out of nostalgia, I will), Cerebus finally dies. It’s sad to think that, at this point, it’s a mercy killing.