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1: Church & State Volume I (Cerebus, Book 3) Paperback – June 1, 1987
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Church and State is volume three of the Cerebus the Aardvark series and picks up right where High Society leaves off. To compound matters further, this reprint volume is part one of a two-part story that is self-contained within the larger framework.
A face from Cerebus's past returns with an offer he can't refuse. But the gray one has learned a few lessons from the powers that be and turns the tables on the would-be puppet masters. This volume also marks the addition of Gerhard as a background artist, and the artwork begins to create a visual impact equal to the creative impact of the comic book's ideas and stories. The storytelling also becomes subtler, the beginning of a stylistic trademark in Cerebus that leads the reader to believe more action is taking place peripherally than in the actual pages. High points include a two-part dream sequence, which is visually unparalleled in the history of comic art; a pee-break which is unrivaled in length in the history of comic art; the return of Jaka; and "the baby incident." Don't forget to pick up Church and State, Volume Two , as volume one ends with the cruelest of cliffhangers. This is the Ivan the Terrible of graphic novels, both in terms of its subject matter and the creative peak it represents for the author.
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"High Society" saw Cerebus rise to the highest office in the city-state of Iest, and then fall back to his former status through an ill-advised war of conquest (as Cerebus grouches in an hilarious excerpt from his memoir show to the reader, one should be careful to invade only rich countries). He retires to a bar to write his book, and then, after a brief side-trip, he finds himself rather forcibly recruited by Mr. Weishaupt, the leader of the new 'United Feldwar States', to take up his old office as Prime Minister of Iest. He does not long remain there, however, due to the continuing conflict between Weishaupt and Bishop Powers of the Church of Tarim. So Cerebus is plucked from his secular office and elevated to the Papacy of the Western Church. Cerebus being Cerebus, he wastes no time in abusing his position for his own enrichment. Whereas "High Society" satirizes the political process and the manipulation of ordinary peole by politicians, "Church and State" is all about how clerics manipulate believers for perosnal gain (in this case, Cerebus telling the gullible multitude that Tarim will destroy the world unless they give him (in the person of Cerebus) enough gold coins).
On the personal side, Cerebus finds himself married to Red Sonja-takeoff Sophia after a night of drunken carousing, and proceeds to handle the situation with the maturity and sensitivity that readers will have come to expect from him. Sophia (globular cleavage ensconced in a chainmail bra) and her mother (who despises Cerebus) follow Cerebus from place to place, perhaps his primary supporting cast in this story. There is a brief appearance by Jaka, where, for perhaps the only point in the story, Cerebus demonstrates both genuine empathy and a willingness to put quieter pleasures ahead of love of money. Given the views that later made Sim a pariah in the comics industry, one always pays particular attention to his handling of female characters in his older stories. The sensitivity with which Jaka is depicted belies his later opinions.