First up, giving you all a language warning. Not much but still…
The next series I decided to reread was Preacher (minus Ancient History which collects stories on the Saint of Killers, Arseface, and two asshole characters I don’t have any interest in whatsover) by writer Garth Ennis, artist Steve Dillon with help from several others. The series is one of the first vertigo titles I read and I was a fan of the series as a young adult into my early twenties. I was not picking these up in comic shops but rather when the trades were issued. Its been at least a decade since I’ve read them again and, as stated in my previous reread Gunsmith Cats, I’m a different person now then I was than.
Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a Preacher who has bonded with the entity Genesis. An entity born of an angel and demon that was trapped in heaven until it escaped. Jesse Custer, shortly after gaining this power, seeks to understand it and in the process learns God has left Heaven. Joined by his ex-girlfriend recently turned hitwoman Tulip and the Irish vampire Cassidy they go looking for God to pretty much kick his ass. Thus started one of the most acclaimed Vertigo titles of all time. A favorite of so many people that has been in development hell from studio to studio and may get its adaptation in the form of a new TV series.
When I first read this book I was all about it. Big violence, crazy and disgusting scenes, and that very profane language. I was a teenager reading a very mature rated book. A teenager getting into hard rock and industrial music, wearing all black, getting beat up in parks as a backyard wrestler, and liking weird movies and what have you. I’m still a number of those things but as a reader, definitely more mature with a more diverse taste in art and entertainment. So going back and looking at it-I don’t know, I feel mostly the same. Sure some of it I laughed at as a younger person feels a bit childish or silly, but for the most part, I still dig the hell out of this series.
To be honest, starting out the series a bit rough. Not in that it took me time but in that the first trade Gone to Texas did not appeal to me as much now and the first part of Until The End of the World trade features a few characters I loathe and portions depress me greatly. The ending to that arc is great but its a hard read and then after that its a bit more smooth sailing. First though, let me rewind and say that Gone to Texas might be the least interesting in the lot. How all the characters meet up is coincidental (I even thought so as a stupid teenager) and while there is some high points in the opening arc like the Saint of Killers I’m not as fascinated with the Sheriff spouting off about Martian Niggers. I know some people find it funny, I find it rather eye rolling. Yet this is all set up and we hit up the second arc in the first trade as the group hit up New York and we get the characters involved with some serial killer action.
Things pick up with Until the End of the World which is arguably the best arc depending on how well you can get through the very depressing back story behind Jesse Custer. Custer’s dad was a Marine from Nam and his mom was a woman running from her past. Which of course catches up to them in the form of the two before mentioned assholes in Jody and TC. I hate these two soooooooooooooooo much. About as much as Custers grandmom who I hate slightly more. The Custers are taken to Angelville to live and young Jesse is being groomed to take his place in Gods army if you will. The men are Preachers, the women are breeders. Grandma L’Angelle plans on keeping the tradition alive. Its a depressing story, done mostly in flashbacks, about how Jesse lost his family and friend, the horror and abuse, his escape, him being brought back and in the ‘now’ him and Tulip are captives. Despite Herr Starr and the Grail or God, these are the truest villains of the series to me. I mean, God shows up being a jerk in this arc and he’s still not as bad in my reading. You really root for Jesse and Tulip to kill these people in violent ways.
After this they get Cassidy back and run into some misadventures and the Grail all on their quest to find God. The Grail are interesting. A secret society who control most the world and also control the bloodline of Christ by making all his ancestors breed with each other. Did not run out right. Between that and the Allfighter, a lot of disgusting stuff goes down. Herr Starr, while shown at times to be a vicious and ruthless, smart, killer is also quite an idiot and a whole lot of bad crap happens to him along the way. Its like he’s some 80s cartoon villain filtered through Vertigo. You know he’s suppose to be dangerous but you really can not see him winning the day no matter what.
In between the first major Grail stories are a pair of one and done stories that stand out the best. Both flashback stories, the first is of Jesse meeting a Nam buddy of his fathers and the second one of the Cassidy flashbacks. Both incredible stories that really stand out. Halfway through the series Cassidy starts to really come to light as an utter asshole who is more trouble than he is worth. Building to a major conflict between himself and Tulip as well as a bigger conflict with Jesse himself. Those big face downs are a bit down the line and before then there is my personal favorite arc, Salvation. While Tulip and Cassidy think Jesse is dead and our main hero is lost believing they left him behind, he ends up in the town of salvation where he takes over being Sheriff and with his deputy Cindy take on a racist industrialist who wants to control the town. I love that arc.
First off, Jesse rolling into town and beating up bad guys is pure fun. Him and chemistry with Cindy is on point. There is some good news for people who braved through the bitter and depressing Until the End of the World arc. Also, our racist industrialist Odin Quincannon looks like Dr. Sivana form those classic Captain Marvel comics (Shazam, not the one Marvel uses). I just totally dig this arc because, while it gets dark and serious at times, is more of a fun breezy read. There is a few points that really interest me. Dealing with a Klans leader Jesse and Cindy dump him into the black part of town. I liked that. I also thought it was weird when Quincannons lawyer, Miss Oatlish, who is either a Nazi or Nazi fetishist dismisses the common (and I would say true) statement that Hitler was a racist after explaining to Quincannon she finds his associate with the Klan troubling. Quincannon seems dismissive of her Nazism (or maybe just her fetish nature that also involves using S&M).
The penultimate trade gives Tulip more back story (and gives more time to her friend Amy who I liked and felt a little sad for in her final page, not that anything bad happened to her but in two lines Ennis conveyed a loneliness that other writers would need chapters or books to properly produce) and another Cassidy flashback that builds the case for him being scum. All leading to the big finale including the Grail, Saint of Killers, God, and Cassidy making a deal with God and fighting off against his once best mate.
Moving away from story and talk about the bond of the three main characters. At the heart of Preacher is really love and friendship. Jesse and Tulips love story is a turbulent thing and more effective then most romance stories I’ve read or seen. This really caps off in a beautiful series ending. While the friendship with Cassidy goes to shit its still important. These are two guys who are still friends. Cassidy views Custer as a brother he screwed over and he’s sorry. Jesse wants Cassidy to essentially clean up and take responsibility for his own bullshit. Had these relationships not worked this series would just be grindhouse violence and sickness that would probably get boring sometime quick.
Let me get into the art quick. I’m not exactly a fan of Steve Dillon. I do not think I could really enjoy him on anything outside of Preacher to be truthfully. He does a fine job with this series, tells it all effectively but I don’t know if I’d have really tried this book if I had seen it first. Unlike some artists who my opinion changed in the process mine remains that I’m mostly indifferent to him. I think I started these through the Sci-Fi and Fantasy book club based purely on the summary and the reputation. My opinion is about the same with cover artist Glenn Fabry.
Overall, good to go back and while there were some very cool stories and one of the best endings you could get, this might be the last time I read this book.
Previous reread: Gunsmith Cats.