Thursday, April 8, 2010

Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to TexasI will forever revere certain comic book series above others, prompting multiple rereads on a more than annual basis.  These are: The Swamp Thing (Alan Moore), The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman), The Authority (Warren Ellis), Planetary (Warren Ellis), and Miracleman (Alan Moore & Neil Gaiman).  Additional to that list is the series Preacher by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon, which I have found the most compelling and addictive of all.

To be frank, I am amazed that this book has not appeared at the top of the "Books That Need To Be Banned and Burned" list that I am positive exists in many parts of the country.  The first issue alone marks it for a kindling candidate.

*MILD SPOILERS-which are all revealed in the first two issues of the regular 66 issue series that has been collected into nine trade paperbacks (including the fourth TPB, which is not part of the series, but expands on other characters outside of the main three.*

The story centers around Jesse Custer a Texan preacher, who has begun to doubt not just the convictions of his own faith, but also the morals of those in his congregation.  He drinks to excess and even finds himself in a drunken brawl with the very same people who end up attending his church the very next day.  Jesse's already fractured life completely becomes upended with the arrival of Genesis.

Genesis is the resulting spawn of the union of a demon and an angel, a union that should have never occurred, and one that has produced an infant entity void of will, that is something never before seen in all of existence.  Genesis might very well have enough power to rival that of God himself.  Being far more powerful than the warlike faction of angels set to guard the entity can handle, and with God having abandoned heaven, Genesis escapes imprisonment and heads directly towards earth, straight for Jesse Custer's church.

Custer, preparing to deliver a sermon on forgiveness, is invaded by Genesis and merges with the being, becoming the most powerful person on the planet.  From the ashes and rubble of the destroyed church and that of the annihilated congregation, Jesse is pulled free by Tulip, the girlfriend he had mysteriously abandoned a few years prior and by the hard-drinking Irishman, Cassidy, who also happens to be a vampire.  Jesse and Cassidy immediately hit it off -- after a sorting out of the vampire issue of course -- but Tulip will not accept Jesse's silence in regard to his long absence from their passionate and supposedly mutual love, and Tulip refuses to explain why she now carries a gun.

Jesse quickly determines that because his mortal frame has been inhabited by Genesis, that he has "The Word of God," which forces all that hear and understand his voice to do as he commands, which he promptly uses on the local law enforcement pursuing him for the murder of the members of his congregation.  Unknown to Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy, the middle-management faction of the angels of heaven have released the Saint of Killers, an indestructible and unstoppable being dressed in the hat and duster of an old cowboy and armed with twin six-shooters that never run out of ammunition and never miss their mark, from his resting place.  The Saint promptly kills the angel sent to awaken him and begins his journey to locate the missing Genesis and kill the host that houses him, Jesse Custer.

Jesse is also receiving bits and pieces of Genesis' memories, and has gained the knowledge that God has abandoned heaven and roams the earth.  He sets his mind to finding God and having him answer for the horrors, pain and suffering that occur in the world and Tulip and Cassidy agree to join him in his search for other reasons.  Tulip wishes to know where Jesse has been and Cassidy finds the turn of events fascinating and possibly fun.

I initially bought Preacher in monthly issue form and I fondly remember every week going to the comic store and praying the newest issue had been released.  Garth Ennis' brilliant character development and deliberate cliffhanger pacing made each issue so damned addictive that I was filled with painful anticipation for each subsequent release.  I could never get enough and often reread individual issues repeatedly, eagerly awaiting the continuation of the story.  Steve Dillon's artwork and storytelling through each panel perfectly set the mood and the pacing and although some of the extra characters in the series look quite similar, all of the main characters are unique and well designed.

All of the above is from the Preacher: Gone to Texas graphic novel, and tension levels are guaranteed to rise with the followup Preacher: Until the End of the World, with major plot reveals and the introduction of two of the creepiest psychotic characters I have ever read: T.C. and Jody.

Through the years, there have been rumors of Preacher movies and a Preacher HBO series, all of which unfortunately fell apart (bad...bad...bad move HBO), but there is still a possibility of some day seeing Preacher hit the screen in some form or another.   With comics becoming increasingly more prevalent in movie theaters and increasingly of better quality (Catwoman, Ghost Rider, Daredevil...yuck -- Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man 1 & 2...hells yes), I would not yet count Preacher out.  Now that The Walking Dead has been picked up by AMC for a six episode series, with the potential to go much longer, I still have high hopes and would love nothing more than to see my one of my favorite comics brought to life, also hopefully on AMC.

Preacher might offend some of the less openminded, but perhaps that is part of the point.  The fact is that this is an incredibly well told -- through both word and pictures -- piece of fiction that must be read by all comic fans who appreciate the super natural, crime dramas, love stories, war stories, and westerns.  This series is one of my most highly recommended comics.

Preacher is released under the DC Comics imprint Vertigo Comics.

Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to TexasPreacher Vol. 2: Until the End of the World

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