It’s taken me a while to get to writing this one up, maybe because it’s the first volume of this reread that I’ve come away from with a slight feeling of disappointment. In memory it was really exciting, as the four main characters (Cerebus, Cirin, Astoria and Po) embark on individual courses that finally bring them to the great throne room, and the promise of confrontation and the Final Ascension. That does all happen, and the convergence in the final pages is expertly handled, but it’s only about the final twenty per cent or so of the book. Most of the rest is taken up with lengthy dream sequences. While this fits well with the Roach’s latest incarnation as a Sandman parody, such sequences have never been my favourite part of Cerebus. Of course, without the dreams we wouldn’t have as many wanking jokes – the bit where dream Cirin is chastising Swoon / the Roach is laugh out loud funny – so I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice.
As befits a book called Women, the main focus characters here are Astoria and Cirin. This is where Dave really expounds on their political movements. Throughout the book there are facing text pages from each’s manifesto, spelling out the Cirinist and Kevillist viewpoints on all kinds of subjects. Up to now we’ve seen Astoria as a very clever arch manipulator, but we’ve never really known what such manipulation was in aid of. It’s interesting to learn in and of itself, but it also indicates just how much effort Dave had put into the building of Estarcion, and how much work lies under the surface of the story, like an iceberg of fictional history and politics.
While it’s still brilliantly done (really, at this point I’m taking the fantastic art, lettering, dialogue, page construction, etc as a given, which is probably unfair), I don’t think there’s enough differentiation from Flight to merit it being a separate volume. The next two parts of Mothers & Daughters have very individual and distinct feel and this just doesn’t. Furthermore, it doesn’t do enough to advance the storyline – by the end, essentially all that’s happened is that some characters already in Iest have gone somewhere else in Iest. I wouldn’t be complaining if this had been substantially trimmed and rolled into Flight at the planning stage (although that would break the nice correspondence of the four volumes of M&D to the first four storylines).
So, as I say, a slight disappointment. It’s in no way bad, I just don’t think it sustains the achievements of the previous books as well as it could. Oh well, onwards to Reads. That’ll put the cat amongst the pigeons.
The usual random observations:
Astoria’s “go away” is exactly what Cerebus did to her in C&S, likewise just before an ascension. More recurrences and echoes.
I was also sure that this book had the reveal of exactly who the old woman in the cottage that Cerebus crashes into is, but I was wrong about that as well. Trust me, it’s worth waiting for. A comment of hers (“Trust me, all women read minds, with very few exceptions”) also contributes to the title – I just don’t think Dave could resist the idea of four consecutive spines spelling out Women Read(s) Minds(,) Guys(!).