Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Preacher You Wouldn't Confess To

Two friends gave me their opinions on the Preacher graphic novels before I decided to take the plunge. The one who loaned them to me said I would like them because there are vampires, angels, demons, and tons of action. The other said that they were messed up and he couldn't finish them. To be honest, I can see where both friends are coming from. On the one hand, the Preacher graphic novels have all the elements I like in an epic, gritty story. On the other hand, there were times when it was becoming too much for even me. With most large graphic novel collections, I found the Preacher books to have high points and low. Yesterday I finished the third collection, which I found to be the best by far. I'll warn you right now– this series is not for faint of heart or the easily disgusted. It's horrifically violent, sarcastic, and completely bizarre. But damn it all if it isn't interesting.

The Saint of Killers has one expression, and it always terrifies me.

Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher in the small Texas town of Annville. Custer was accidentally possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis in an incident which killed his entire congregation and flattened his church. Genesis, the product of the unauthorized, unnatural coupling of an angel and a demon, is an infant with no sense of individual will. However, as it is composed of both pure goodness and pure evil, it might have enough power to rival that of God Himself. In other words, Jesse Custer, bonded to Genesis, may have become the most powerful being in the whole of living existence. 

Custer, driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, goes on a journey across the United States attempting to (literally) find God, who abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was born. He also begins to discover the truth about his new powers. They allow him, when he wills it, to command the obedience of those who hear and comprehend his words. He is joined by his old girlfriend Tulip O'Hare, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy.

During the course of their journeys, the three encounter enemies and obstacles both sacred and profane, including: the Saint of Killers, an invincible, quick-drawing, perfect-aiming, a disfigured suicide attempt survivor turned rock-star named Arseface, the Grail, a secret organization controlling the governments of the world and protecting the bloodline of Jesus, and Herr Starr, ostensible Allfather of the Grail, a megalomaniac with a penchant for prostitutes, who wishes to use Custer for his own ends; several fallen angels.

That's the series as a whole, since let's face it, it's difficult to narrow down the exact content of a particular book. Preacher isn't a new graphic novel (first released in 1995), so I'll stick to the elements of book 3 that I liked the most.

The third novel opens with the back story of the Saint of Killers, the literally indestructible gunslinger who hunted Jesse until a deal was made to sort out his past. The Saint of Killers terrifies me, but the series has always had strong character backgrounds, and his was the most powerful. It was amazing to watch a ruthless bounty hunter turn into one of the most terrifying beings known to walk the planet, and even more interesting to see how Heaven and Hell played their roles in his story.

Following the Saint of Killers was a story about Irish vampire bad boy Cassidy as he encounters a vampire who's trying a little too hard to be Dracula. It was hilarious to watch Cassidy wander with this other vampire, and know that he was the polar opposite of what traditional vampires are supposed to be.

While I loathe reading about him, we were also faced with the return of Arseface. Yes, he actually goes by that name. Yes, he got it because of the way he looks. Yes, his return to Jesse's life was actually kind of moving.

The pinnacle of the book was near the end when Jesse learns the secret Genesis is holding in his head, and the danger it could pose to the world. Definitely increased the pace of the whole story and set the stage for Jesse and the elusive Almighty.

As far as characters, Jesse is a great lead. I wouldn't call him a good man– the collar is more for deception and show than anything else, if you ask me– but deep down he has a good heart and cares deeply for those around him. He's also determined to bring God back to the fold for the good of mankind, though how that showdown will end is something I can only faintly guess at. Secondary characters Tulip and Cassidy are great– Tulip is one of the toughest females in the comic book world, and Cassidy causes as much trouble as he gets into– but I have to admit the sudden love angle between them surprised me. There didn't seem to be much of a romantic angle between them before, given Tulip's utter devotion to Jesse. I'm not sure where it's going for the series, since it seems kind of unnecessary, but I have to admit that it makes me curious about how it will end.

The series is famed for its violence and depravity, but that being said, I didn't find that much of it in this book as I did in the others. That's not to say it doesn't get twisted at some points, but after some of the sick things I read in the previous books, this was a nice little breather. I'm sure the final books will be more deranged, but at least I've passed the warm up round.

So can I recommend Preacher? Yes... To the right crowd. I hesitate to suggest it to the devoutly religious (See the title of the post) as they'd probably be righteously offended, but I have to say that I'm hooked. I've never read anything like this, literally not knowing what kind of twist or turn will be thrown at me next as I go forward. I can't even begin to guess what the end will look like, which is why I keep turning the pages. I suppose I would recommend Preacher to graphic novel enthusiasts looking for a bold story. Once you wrap your head around its insanity, there's depth to the series. It might not be to everyone's tastes (I won't be sure if I like it until I get to the end), but I have to say that it's earned its accolades. The time, dedication, and visuals put into the book are incredible, and it deserves to be read by those who like their stories with a healthy dose of grit. Just don't read it in church before the sermon starts.


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