Everyone has that one comic book, that shows them the medium can be more than capes and tights action. For me, that particular series will always be Preacher, a sacrilegiously entertaining romp through America and the afterlife.
Released in the mid 1990s, Preacher followed Jesse Custer, a former reverend imbued with the power to command anyone who listened to his word. Discovering that heaven had been abandoned by God, Custer sets out to not only literally find the almighty, but to hold him accountable for his actions as well.
Joined by an Irish vampire called Cassidy, and Custer’s former girlfriend Tulip, what starts out as road-trip searching for the divine soon becomes an epic quest involving shadowy organisations, the patron saint of murderers, a tortured past and a revelation or two along the way.
Preacher isn’t for everybody, least of all anyone who may be easily offended when it comes to religion. The series pulls no punches, with a characterisation of gods, demons and angels that show that just about anyone is flawed, no matter how powerful they may be.
Thanks to a supporting cast of misfits, miscreants and maniacs however, this was a run of comics that was more than just shock value on a printed page. Custer, Tulip and Cassidy form the unholy trinity of the series, but back-up performances from the Saint of Killers, Arseface and various others make every storyline memorable.
And as far as villains go, Herr Starr has yet to be topped. A former German police officer who serves the mysterious Grail and is in charge of various secrets, governments and armies, Starr steals every scene that he happens to be in.
Whether it’s his quest for power, his slow descent into madness as his body is mutilated, scarred and damaged beyond conventional repair or his otherwise pragmatic outlook on life, Starr stands out amongst the numerous lunatics present in Preacher.
But at the core of the series, one thing remains clear: This is a western. Preacher is just dripping with influences from that genre of film, whether it be a pair of heavenly forged Colt pistols that belonged to a certain nameless wanderer, or various references to great wars and battles from American history. And even beyond that, Preacher is more than it lets on.
It’s a magnificent love story, a tale of brothers, heartache and standing up for what’s right. Jesse Custer has to be one of my favourite characters in comics, not because he can kick ass and take names, but because of his sense of responsibility.
There’s a massive drive in Custer, to walk tall and stand by his friends, gods be damned. It’s an admirable trait, making him more than just a paint by numbers hero, for as flawed as he happens to be, he’s the kind of guy that you’d drop everything for to help out.
Garth Ennis and his frequent artistic collaborateur also help give the world of Preacher a sense of realism, with art that always feels right and a script filled with zingers and moments that can still shock and surprise to this day. Unlike other classic comics, Preacher has yet to feel it’s age, a fact that is most likely helping the show finally reach TV screens.
If there is one complaint to be had about Preacher though, it’s that this was a series with an end in mind. Everything that was printed, leads up to one final issue that settles scores and closes the book. There are a few mini-series dotted around Preacher, detailing the origins of Herr Starr and Arseface, a prequel starring Jesse and the gang and a look back at what turned a simple soldier into an unstoppable force that became known as the Saint of Killers.
But once you’re done reading Preacher, that’s it. Still, it’ll leave an impression on you that few other comic books can ever match.
Last Updated: April 2, 2014
Johan du Preez
April 2, 2014 at 18:21
Personally I think its the comic book series. Its very gritty finally got the entire hard copy collection but would not recommend it for the faint of heart.
Thanks for the great review Darryn 🙂
If you are in Cape Town Readers Den in claremont are selling all the novels.