Digital High Society review

Cerebus High Society (digital audio/video)

Aardvark-Vanaheim

2012

60+ pages each .99 cents

This was a long time coming.  The build up for the digital versions of Cerebus has been a hot topic for some time now, and I have finally absorbed enough to decide.  This is, for those not in the know, issues 26 through 50 of Dave Sim’s massive 300 issue series that ran for 26 years ending in 2004.  While there was more than a little attention on the creator of the book in the later years, the series itself continued to become a forum to watch a master of the medium at work, and that is the important thing here.  When the controversy over Sim himself finally fades into the background, the work will remain.

The series digital presentation starts with the second book, and the first complete graphic novel High Society.  The first 25 issues having been a somewhat looser more episodic style largely parodying the comics that were Sim’s main influence early on.  With this collection of digital stories the series launched into a clever, witty and very detailed look at both the comics industry and at the political process of elections.  Sim was quoted many years ago in The Masters of Comic Book Art documentary describing Cerebus in this book as a cross between Richard Nixon and Chauncey Gardner.  I’m not sure how accurate that is in hindsight, but the story is a rich and relevant today as it was decades ago.

The digital presentation is everything a fan of the story would hope.  The regular digital comic is fine; with sharp clean scans of the black and white art.  There are a few panels where the lettering in white on a black background is a little hard to read, but from a visual standpoint, that is my ONLY gripe.  The real discussion point here is the audio portion and extras.  This entire collection, of which there are currently 3 issues available for download here, is recorded with Sim doing all the characters voices and narration himself, with music and sound effects.  While not 100% successful, the presentation works well.  I can’t say Sim is a great performer, but he makes it work.  These are his creations and this mostly works well.  You know that this is how it sounds in his head.  These characters are now as close to what Dave envisioned as possible, and that is a neat feeling.  There is an odd novelty to the whole thing that may wear off, but this is cool.  The music is far from perfect as it sometimes is a bit much, but it quickly becomes a more seamless and enjoyable part of the book.  The guided viewing experience is dynamic and extremely effective.  You move with the characters at times and the feeling of being taken through the story rather than reading like normal can be a bit trippy, but very fun.

The extras are exhaustive and amazing.  It is clear that the DVD extras concept is what they are going for here and there is most everything you could have ever hoped to see, turning a 20 page comic into a 60+ page digital DL for .99 cents.  Every page, letter, note, sketchbook or notebook page even business correspondence is included.  Some of it is just an odd curiosity, but most of it is really interesting, and out of print since the original issues or never seen at all.  Having completely forgotten the experience of reading the individual issues years ago (I now have all the phone books and sold my originals ages ago) this was all an unexpected treat.

For the new reader to Cerebus, this is the perfect intro and offers up everything you would need to enter the story.  As a long time reader the new digital presentation is something even more special.  There is so much more here in the per issue package than in any other modern comic DL , that I would be hard pressed to believe that the big boys will even try to step up, putting this in a class by itself.

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