Preacher: Book One [Review]

Preacher is not like anything I have ever read before. It is truly unique, especially for the time of its original publication, way back in 1995. The cover itself gives the reader a foreboding first impression, as it appropriately suggests the macabre nature of the story held within the pages of this book. This harrowing tale begins, like so many bizarre things, in Texas. The small-town preacher Jesse Custer, his tenacious ex-girlfriend Tulip, and the sharp-tongued Irish vampire, Cassidy, are discussing the events that have lead up to their current goal; The trio are searching for God.

Jesse, after experiencing some crises of faith, receives a great and terrible gift in the form of Genesis. This celestial being, borne of the forbidden love between an angel and a demon, devastates the small town of Annville upon arrival. It turns the preacher’s life inside out, and reveals to him many secrets of Heaven. The Heavenly Host are in a panic over the escape of Genesis, and so they resurrect the Saint of Killers, the primary antagonist of the series, to pursue Jesse and capture Genesis by any means necessary. Jesse quickly becomes Heaven and Earth’s most wanted.

During a run in with their Earthy pursuers, the gift of Genesis is revealed to Jesse as he makes commands with the power of God behind them. This allows the trio to escape. As Genesis continues to bond with Jesse’s soul, a divine mystery is revealed, giving the preacher cause to seek out answers. He sees his opportunity amidst another encounter with the Saint and the sheriff of Annville. He is familiarizing himself with the power Genesis gives him. He commands that the Saint summon those who sent him. At which point, one of the lesser angels of Heaven appears before them and drops a massive truth bomb: God has quit and left Heaven behind.

It is this event that sends Jesse and Company on their mission to find God, and hold Him responsible for His creation. At this point, Jesse uses Genesis to command the sheriff of Annville to “go fuck himself” essentially setting the tone for the rest of the story. To say that this book is dark is far too simple. Garth Ennis spins a yarn that gets progressively more grisly and sensational chapter by chapter. Particularly in regard to Jesse’s origin and upbringing.

 

“He’s got a soul so damn cold an’ rattlesnake mean, Satan himself threw him back outta Hell.”

 

The storytelling in Preacher is just incredible. This tale jolts the reader from zero to one hundred within the first few pages, and manages to keep that pace throughout. They layout does not follow the typical order one might see in most comics. The panels are not set into neat, straight-lined tiers. However, they still flow nicely from one to the next. There is no point at which the eye stumbles to find the next correct panel in the story. There are also many instances in which the art breaks through the panel borders, adding more dimension and drama to the page.

The writing and the art blend together perfectly to set the mood for each portion of the story. Ennis writes simply but in such detail, that he familiarizes the reader with the characters easily. For the most part, characters feel fleshed-out and familiar. Particularly Jessie and Cassidy, but even supporting characters feel very well developed. I do hope, however, that both the characters of Tulip and the Saint are expanded upon as the series continues, as they both felt a little flat compared to other characters.

At first glance the art seems to be a little dated. The colors look a somewhat dull, consisting of many shades of blue and gray. However, as the story progresses it becomes clear that the subtle palate was completely intentional and only serves to add drama to the moments of action. In those instances, vivid shades of yellow and orange leap off of the page. Preacher is rife with violent moments which artist Steve Dillon, and colorists Matt Hollingsworth and Pamela Rambo portray beautifully.

Every aspect of this novel is genuinely entertaining from start to finish. In my opinion, it stands in a category of its own. It is dark and violent and crosses borders without feeling like it’s trying too hard. I have yet to read anything else like it. It has managed to retain its quality even after so many years since its original publication. However, I do think that some readers may miss out on an unforgettable read because the content is so different from traditional comic books, where heroes are heroes and villains are villains and the gray areas don’t dominate the narrative.

 

“There’s worse to come, I’m afraid.”

 

I first heard about this series when AMC released season one of Preacher. I watched and very much enjoyed the show, but I can see now that the plot is dramatically different from the original story. However, I believe that these differences only serve to complement one another. The show is good in its own right, it is smart and funny and even a little campy at times, but perfectly so. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes in both book two and season two. If I were to make up a scale on which to rate this volume, I would give it a solid 10 traumatic childhood events out of 10.

Anyone looking to get their hands on a copy of this masterpiece can easily find it on Amazon in digital format, paperback or hardcover for $10-$30. I picked up my copy at a local comic shop for $20, and conclude that these twelve chapters are memorable and well worth the investment.