Bryan Talbot is a difficult man to pin down. Is he the creator of the touching Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes? The introspective man who wrote and illustrated Tale of One bad Rat? Or is he the guy who put together the irreverent and mightily tongue in cheek comic that it Cherubs? Because, honestly , it is difficult to believe it is the same guy.
Falsely accused of heaven’s first homicide, five churlish cherubim escape to New York in pursuit of the renegade archangel Abbadon on the eve of the Apocalypse! Befriended by exotic-dancer Mary and chased by unstoppable Seraphim terminators, the Cherubs alone stand against hell’s hordes as Satan prepares to make war, not love!
Cherubs is a lot of fun, and definitely offensive to people who take their Christianity seriously. It is a religious comedy in the same way that Kevin Smith’s Dogma is a religious comedy. That isto say that it takes the idea of religion and pokes it, prods it, and holds it up as something at once beautiful and difficult to take seriously.
Christianity has long been the subject of speculation and literary fancy. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape & Wormwood: Mere Christianity were all attempts to explore the ins and outs of elements of Christianity in literary form. And most of them met with some sort of resistance. Some people do not enjoy having their religion novelized and monetized. Bryan Talbot’s Cherubs is not quite at the same level as these other, seminal works, but he does treat much of the religious pieces of Cherubs seriously.
Cherubs explores the role of God, Satan, and the the role of religion in our modern life. But it is the last one which becomes the focal point of the latter half of the book. Sure the whole thing revolves around religious figures an dogma, but the real satire comes out when the normal human beings are confronted with the end of days.
In most books and movies, when mortals become aware that the forces of Hell are amassing and are ready to take over, they freak out. But in Cherubs it becomes a celebrations and carnival event covered by the media in much the same way that they pay attention to the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve. There are the interviews with people on the street, performances by questionable musical acts, and the inevitable filling of time as really nothing much is happening. This party atmosphere and welcoming of the Devil himself by the citizens of New York was probably one of the most real things in the book.
Along the way there are cameos by thinly veiled pop-culture icons such as the Ghostbusters, Alan Moore, and Ozzy Ozbourne. The book can be read once for the story and then once again to catch all the cultural references which are dropped in left and right.
The art by Mark Stafford has an 80′s indie feel. All of the characters are grotesques, parodies and twisted versions of themselves. The cherubs, who are supposed to be cute creatures of angelic innocence, look like they are the offspring of 70′s troll dolls and garbage pail kids which works in the context of the story since they are all about shattering the image of being baby angels. So, while the art is indie cool, it also serves a point in the story.
Cherubs was an enjoyable enough read until the very last pages when a literal Deus Ex Machina arrives and throws everything out the window. It is an anti-climactic end to what could have been an epic adventure.