After three years of slow paced storylines exploring character without a tremendous amount of action, Flight virtually explodes off the page. For a short book there is an awful lot going on here. Cerebus’ bloody retribution from the Melmoth epilogue inspires a short lived uprising. The Roach becomes Punisherroach and mows down Cirinists until Elrod turns up and spoils everything. We see far more of the inner workings of Cirinism than we have before, and we learn just how obsessed Cirin herself is with planning her Ascension. Cerebus himself disappears out of the world and returns to the abstraction of Mind Game. Throughout it all the voices of anonymous townsfolk offer commentary and confusion. Cerebus’s reawakening has consequences far beyond his own person, a magnifying effect that we will learn more about in the rest of Mothers & Daughters. His return to action is mirrored in many tiny ways across Estarcion, all building the huge sense of rising action that runs through this one, until it finishes poised on the confrontation between Cirin and Astoria that slingshots us into the second part, Women.
Being only the first part of Mothers & Daughters, there’s no narrative resolution here, which makes it a bit harder to write about themes and subtext and so on, but there are a couple of things worth talking about. I’m pretty sure that part of the idea behind splitting M&D into four books was a conscious attempt to mirror the first four Cerebus storylines. It’s most explicit here in the parade of characters and settings from the first volume that reappear, but also in mood – this is the closest the series ever comes to the sword and sorcery adventures of the first book. Comparing the two shows just how far Dave’s talent has developed. The panelling is absolutely miles ahead of the first volume, and plays no small part in the freneticism of the story, and as I seem to say about every book, the art and character observation just gets better all the time. There are other little nods, like the return of the text captions narrating the action in the Pigt sections. (For the record, I reckon Women reflects High Society’s depiction of political intrigue and squabbling, Reads is an attempt at an origin story of the universe like Church & State and Minds is a sustained interrogation of one character as was Jaka’s Story. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read them…we shall see.)
My patented random observations:
This is the second time we’ve seen a depiction of Cerebus lose an ear. Hmm, I wonder if that’ll pay off in later books?
The Cirinist suppression of Cerebus’s reappearance is heartbreaking and chilling. And speaking of heartbreaking…poor Bishop Posey. At least he died happy, proving to us that the Oscar in Jaka’s Story was not the same Oscar in Melmoth.
As I said about Melmoth, this was when I was buying Cerebus issue by issue, and I can still vividly remember the thrill of realising exactly who and what Suenteus Po was. Just superb storytelling.