The Alpha Review
By Andrew Uys
I’ve heard that trade paperbacks – a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel – are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades – at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.
Preacher is a “love it” or “leave it” comic. Both elegant in the simplicity of its story and completely over the top in its depiction, Preacher is the type of comic that appeals to non-superhero readers. Published by DC Comics, the series is already finished, but instead of being relegated to discount bins, new readers continue to discover the title, and then race through the nine volumes. Preacher is definitely for mature readers because of both the themes woven into the comic, and the gruesome and explicit subject matter on the page. Preacher works so well, not because of its plot, its art, or its dialogue, though these are all excellent, but due to the characters in the series. Though you might recoil from their actions, Garth Ennis holds a mirror to our darker aspects and then explores these emotions and drives carefully as the story moves along.
The premise of Preacher is relatively simple, if not “normal.” A disillusioned minister, Reverend Jesse Custer, is imbued with the word of God, which allows him to command anyone that he speaks to. He is accompanied by his ex-lover Tulip, who is trying to escape her past, and the Irish vampire Cassidy. They are hunted by the Saint of Killers and The Grail, a secret organization that seeks to protect the bloodline of Jesus. As the volumes progress, a number of other characters join the cast, and more is revealed about Jesse’s power and the conflict in Heaven. While the world of Preacher is inhabited by angels, vampires, and other supernatural beings, what makes the comic so interesting is how human and flawed the characters are. The reader can connect to and be invested in characters that in any other comic or medium would be reviled and dismissed. Garth Ennis makes you believe that his characters could be real people, eking out their lives in the midst of a heavenly power struggle. Steve Dillon’s art completes Ennis’ realistic approach – his characters are not buffed heroes out of uniforms, but ordinary people that you might see on any street corner. Don’t let this fool you though, Dillon delivers all the gore and carnage that Ennis has in his scripts, and Preacher is quite explicit in its violence.
As Preacher was originally started in 1995, and the first TPB collected in 1996, most long-time readers were familiar with its creative team before they moved on to later titles, such as The Punisher MAX series. Not so in my case. I discovered Garth Ennis through his writing on The Boys, and have moved backwards through his material. I have enjoyed all of Garth Ennis’ work so far encountered, and if you are either a fan of The Boys or Preacher, you should certainly take a glance at the other title, as they share many similarities without being a copy of the other. On the other hand, while I enjoy Steve Dillon’s art on more “natural” or “ordinary” characters, I find his work leaves me cold when he depicts superheroes, as in Wolverine: Origins. All creators have their strengths and weaknesses, and while Dillon’s work sells me on the characters in Preacher, adding realism to what could be a purely horror-supernatural comic (which it is not), it is that same realism that keeps me from enjoying his art on more mainstream superhero comics.
Preacher: Gone to Texas is a fantastic TPB, drawing the reader into its character’s lives, while smacking you in the face with its action and violence. Not for the faint hearted, this is the perfect read if you want to escape from the world of Super-Spider-Iron-Always-Good heroes.