Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its seventy-ninth choice, Preacher Deluxe Edition Volume One, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and reviewed by Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman…
Preacher Deluxe Edition Volume One
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon
Colourist: Matt Hollingsworth, Pamela Rambo
Ennis and Dillon’s post-Hellblazer tour de force from the 1990s starts as it means to go on, in a hellbound landscape brimming with venal, salty, misshapen players, apocalyptic tropes and the blackest of black (if not gross-out) humour – one of Ennis’s key calling cards of course. Jesse Custer’s preacher ends up being imbued, mid-sermon natch, with the soul of Genesis, the offspring of an angel and a demon, which possesses enough power to challenge God himself. And that is just for openers. Custer’s benighted world, even when he is abroad from his Texan dark lands in New York with vampiric chum and comic relief Cassidy and girlfriend Tulip, is ugly, mean-spirited and perpetually on the verge of bursting into flames.
It takes a while to get going, the story’s rock ‘n’ roll, cooler-than-thou attitude at times wearing, while every lead or secondary character is hiding an expansive backstory or grim secret. For such a feted and celebrated work (the television spin-off ran for four series) one would expect it to carry a reasonable bite upon rereading it, which needless to say it does – but with so much plot to get through, it takes a while to coalesce into the gripping, compulsive gem we all remember. The first few chapters introduce us to the Adephi, Seraphim and of course, the Saint of Killers – all interesting ideations that have yet to gel in this volume – indeed, Custer’s relationship with God is merely the MacGuffin for the meat of the matter. And once things come to a head in New York City, everything kicks into gear.
And they go up considerably more when Jesse and Tulip get reacquainted with his “family”, which is as good a story arc as Ennis and Dillon ever conceived – a cinematic journey through the most brutal recesses of Southern Gothic, which, rather like the rest of this book, certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Preacher Volume 1, which reprints the first twelve issues of the title, is a rollicking, picaresque, irreverent ride through the seedy underbelly of America that pushed the envelope further than Ennis and Dillon’s previous, equally-lauded efforts. The particularly graphic imagery, Fellini-esque hijinks and spaghetti-western milieu mean it lacks the weight of Hellblazer, even if Jesse Custer does come across like an Americanised John Constantine.
Garth Ennis must have had a movie version in mind when he began the series, and with Steve Dillon’s excellent filmic pencils (very few artists could tell a story as well as the much-missed maestro) it’s easy to see what an obvious choice it was to make the transfer. Yes, it is a title that at times betrays its age, and is wilfully, unabashedly cynical, but there is heart in there eventually, and it’s a cracking, unputdownable read that is still very much preferable to the AMC iteration. One of the best titles of the 90s.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far