So I’ve started reading Cerebus with the phone book, because I can’t find my single issues right now. This is the 16th printing from July of 2014, which included some remastered art, but not as much as the more recent 17th printing. I read the first 6 issues in one go, but obviously I’m not talking about all of them today, just Cerebus 1. Also, we’re having image issues with the site, so I’ll be updating this post once that’s worked out.
This is a 40 year old comic now. It’s older now than Action 1 was at the time this came out. That’s weird to me.
Anyway, let’s talk about the first issue of Cerebus. This is done completely by Dave Sim, writing art and lettering. The story was originally untitled, but it is referred to as “The Flame Jewel” now. The earth-pig born rides into a new town, with a subtle joke with his description by the melodramatic narrator, “in short”. He strides into a tavern, and slices off the hand of a harasser, quickly establishing that he’s a badass. He’s recruited by two thieves to steal the Flame Jewel, a jewel held by a sorcerer. After various trials, including fighting his own ensorcelled shadow as well as a reanimated skeleton, and being dosed by hallucinogenic flowers, he faces off against the monster from time’s dawning, a lizard creature reminiscent of Simonson’s art for the Midgard Serpent. This monster is guarding the sorcerer, but for Cerebus, the ways of sorcery are not unknown, so he defeats the sorcerer. There is a twist to the ending that shows the mercenary outlook of Cerebus nicely.
The artwork is rough looking, but not completely terrible. The representational art, particularly the humans, is that of a beginner, but even early on, Dave Sim had a strong command of the language of comics. His layouts are varied but not confusing, and he plays with lighting effects well. There’s a neat effect when he fights the skeleton, and it’s vaguely called back years and years later (stay tuned months from now!). His linework on Cerebus himself evokes the look of Charles Schulz’s work on Peanuts, or some of Don Martin’s work, to my eye. I know that the effect he was going for, in story and art, was the Barry Windsor-Smith run on Conan, but I’m not familiar enough with that to say.
We’re also introduced to some world-building stuff that comes up later on, when the wizard refers to Terim in his spell, and uses Tarim like “damn”, basically. These names come up later…
All in all, while roughly hewn, the first issue of Cerebus actually sets up the world of the series quite well and makes you want more.