As nice as it sometimes is to fix a slow contemptuous stare on my own work habits, I'm not sure that's what's been bugging me the last few days. Actually, I have very little idea what it is that's been putting me in an irritable mood a lot of the time; occasionally I'll get an idea and fixate on it for a few hours ("I'm doing all the organizational work for all sorts of things, and nobody else ever organizes some kind of enormous enterprise and then asks me if I might take a walk-on part in it!"), then realize that either it isn't true or it isn't important, and that it's probably not what's actually getting on my nerves anyway. Lisa took me out to Gantry Park and Roosevelt Island this afternoon and took a bunch of photos of me, and it was nice to lose myself in the necessity of holding very still for a few minutes at a time, but other than that I've been distractingly moody. It'll pass, I know.
Warning: lengthy comics discussion ahead; those of you who grow impatient with such things should just skip the rest of the current entry. Paul O'Brien's review of the new Cerebus, #279 (in The X-Axis), curses Dave Sim for the sin of inconsistency--specifically, for producing an issue so good, after months of coasting, that it's necessary to sit up and pay attention to him again. I think it's more a matter of Sim playing rope-a-dope--this issue takes advantage of lots of ideas he's spent months (tedious months, more often than not) setting up. There are bits where I realize that Sim's thought himself into a corner--the first half of the issue is a gripping very very slight fictionalization of the declining years of the Three Stooges (!), but it relies for a lot of its dramatic tension on veiled legalisms being exchanged between a couple of characters, which would make more sense if Sim hadn't explicitly gotten rid of lawyers and the rule of law in general in his world a few issues ago.
But the issue's also full of things that nobody handles better than Sim: a five-page sequence that's a perfectly tuned parody of '30s-'60s Superman comics, Preacher, The Comics Journal and the world of comics collecting in general, and takes care of some long-developing plot and psychological points (and is even funnier now that I've finally read Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay); a few games with pacing using blank white panels; a throwaway line that lets us know by implication that a major character in the series has died off-panel, and actually has been dead for a long time; a trick he's pulled before where years and years go by between panels, and it takes you a few minutes to catch up and realize what's happened. As far as I can tell, something like fifty years pass in the course of this issue (and another 18 or so last issue, and another 30 in one that came out about a year ago). The upshot is that we can figure that the entire supporting cast of Cerebus to date is now dead, aside from possibly Suenteus Po--and there are 21 issues, or 420 pages, left to go. In one personal sense, that's a pity--I was really hoping to see Astoria one more time. On the other hand, she walked out of the story around #180, immediately before things got weird and nasty; I'd sort of hate to see how she'd be portrayed now. And the slate is clear for Sim to spend the next year-and-three-quarters cramming in the massively complicated denouement he seems to have had in mind for decades. I have no idea what's going to happen next, except that somebody on Yahoo's Cerebus discussion list has made a fairly strong case that next issue will feature a thinly disguised Woody Allen. Hmm.