Thousand Faced-Preacher

Written by: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon
Covers by: Glen Fabry
Publisher: DC/Vertigo

In a month of Halloween tinged articles on comics, I would be woefully remiss if I didn’t cover at least one of the Vertigo titles. To me and my weird-ass friends, Preacher is king shit of edgy supernatural stories containing serious philosophical implications bordering on the downright heretical. Oh how this book dances a Vatican rag.

Oh my…Jesse fucking Custer. If the collateral damage wouldn’t be so horrific, I would love to meet this character just to shake his hand. I’d also love to do that on the floor of Congress while it’s packed to the rafters with politicos and lobbyists. Oh to witness the havoc wreaked by “the word of God” unfolding. My heart races with malevolent glee just thinking about it, Whoo-Hoo!

I stumbled upon Preacher entirely by accident. Until that moment in 1997 I had never heard of the title. I was going through one of my many financially insolvent periods and trying real hard to stay out of my favorite literary playground, the midtown Clint’s Comics. Hard to do since I have been spending on books and such there since the mid-70s. I got a job, got paid and was bumbling around a chain store in Overlord Park and found the second collection (issues 8-15). The Glen Fabry cover drew me in but I didn’t want to start in the middle of a series. Crap! Looks like there’s gonna be more delayed gratification for Billy. I opened it anyway. I just wanted a little tasty taste. Holy shit! Two rednecks are murdering a boy’s daddy right in front of the kid’s horrified eyes. They blow their own brother’s brains out in front of their nephew on the orders of their very twisted mother. Even for Texas that is one major dysfunctional family. Wow. You never see that kind of stuff in the Texas tourism brochures. You also never see the likes of Jesse’s best friend, a boy so inbred in the heart of rural splendor that he has only one eye in the center of his face. It gets beautifully uglier from there. Oh boy! Billy has hisself a new reading obsession. In the next few weeks I bought all three collections. It provided one of the biggest payoffs I ever gleaned from my comics reading experience; one not duplicated until I found the subject of this month’s
final column. Wait for it!

Preacher. From the beginning it roars out psychopathic spiritual gravitas ablazing. It starts with the minister from Anneville Texas trying to tell his wayward flock at the local seedy bar that raping girls and coming to church the next Sunday is not how the forgiveness of The Lord works. He gets the crapped kicked out of him for his trouble. Jesse has had a bellyful of his congregations ethical failings and just can’t remain silent about it anymore. I’m pretty sure if I ran into a preacher like this I’d be a solid rock Christian by now. Problem is, those kind of guys keep getting the crap kicked out of them. Some men of God get their heads stove in with cinder blocks. Truly. After his beating Jesse shows up at his church for the sermon, the whole town turns out because they hear he’s mad with honesty and they’ve come for the freak show. At that moment an archangel and a demoness are getting it on, creating a spawn which bursts out of mama’s womb and hurtles Earthward searching for a truthful soul. It finds Jesse and as it flings itself into him the church and the entire congregation blows up leaving only the unconscious Jesse in the wreckage. You know how destructive Biblical power can be.
From that moment Jesse Custer has the power of “the Word of God”. So if Jesse tells a redneck sheriff to stick his beloved revolver up his ass it will take five hours for the local ER to remove said firearm from said sheriff’s ass. Sweet.

God has been missing since Genesis leaving officious prick archangels to run the establishment in a ham handed way. Tulip, Jesse’s true love, is a bungling hit woman. Kevin, his best friend is an unrepentant asshole Irish vampire born at the turn of the 20th century and turned during the 1916 uprising. A dick he may be but a hoot to have around nonetheless. They sent The Saint of All Killers after Jesse and this guy is the ultimate last thing you will ever want to see. He makes hard ass cowboys crap themselves in terror and never ever misses with those two six shooters. There’s also Arseface, a young man who imploded his face with a shotgun the day Kurt Cobain died. (Remember when he meant something?). This is a phenomenal cast of characters created by one of the best writers in this medium and has proven it time and time again. Garth fucking Ennis. The body of work is snarky and impressive as Hell and malicious fun to boot: Hit Man, The Punisher, Battlefields to name but a few. Steve Dillon is a pretty fair artist. After about fifty issues or so I start to notice that facial expressions are kinda getting to be the same and I start getting bored. Hey, it took me fifty issues though to notice. It’s passable and that shows you just how far really excellent writing will take you. I have yet to weary of Garth Ennis when he’s in top form. I’m not discussing The Boys okay? Let’s just say all of us feel the need to dump our contempt on The X-Men by now.

Preacher finished it’s run a few years back but it is still out there to be ordered or bought off the shelves. It set the high water mark for Vertigo Comics that some have come close to but never caught. Sandman might be the one exception. Hellblazer even got made into Constantine with ‘Canoe Raves’ as it’s lead. He wasn’t that hard to digest. Nobody but nobody in Hollywood has had the nuts to take on Preacher as a film project. You can have a lot less grief than taking on the most powerful religious organization in the world as a way of making entertainment. Depp would make a fine Jesse; any friend of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would likely give it a good whack. Humperdoo! If you knew the meaning of that you would know just how far you would have to go to get there. Da Vinci Code my ass!

by Bill Hilburn

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