Sunday, March 20, 2011

CEREBUS by Dave Sim

Cerebus (1987) collects the first twenty-five issues of Dave Sim’s independent comic Cerebus the Aardvark, which were originally published from 1977 to 1981. These comics are, fundamentally, Conan parodies starring a bad-tempered, drunkard, anthropomorphic aardvark mercenary.

Cerebus begins with what are more or less straightforward Conan-type sword and sorcery stories with comic elements thrown in. These silly characters and gags don’t always mix well with the more serious/traditional ones, and the earliest issues are fair to middling.

Yet Sim’s storytelling evolves with impressive speed. By the second half of the volume, he is telling multi-issue stories filled with interesting supporting characters. These stories are not only quite entertaining (mostly), but they also begin to contain some political and social commentary.

Sim’s artwork also changes drastically over the course of these issues, especially his depiction of Cerebus. But these changes are for the better, as Sim finds and becomes comfortable with his own style. His art ends up being pretty solid – his faces and expressions are particularly good. He also does an impressive job with shading and backgrounds given the black and white medium. If there’s a nitpick, it’s with his lettering: his P’s often look confusingly like D’s.

On the whole, Cerebus is worthwhile for anyone into Conan stories, and it’s particularly interesting to watch Sim evolve as a storyteller and artist.