Preacher: Book One

August 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

preacherPreacher: Book One by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

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This isn’t my first dance with Preacher. The first issue came out when I was still into comics (lawn: off), and since I was a Vertigo fan-boy, and they were still flying high with SandmanInvisibles, and Transmetropolitan, to name just a few, I figured this was going to be my kind of book. So imagine my disappointment when I straight-up didn’t like it.

Novel-wise, I was reading horror almost exclusively at that time, so I was surprised to find that it was too violent for me. Then again, I wasn’t into splatterpunk writers like Edward Lee or John Shirley, either, and if there’s a comic that veers into splatterpunk territory, Preacher is it. In this title, it’s not enough to suggest that someone’s been shot in the head; instead, we have to see the close-up of the trigger being pulled, all the way down to the cratered emptiness of the back of the head. Twice.

Preacher is still too violent for me. I have nothing against violence in service to a story (Game of Thrones, anyone?), but here it seems like it’s done just for the sake of shocking its readers. This fits the general theme of the story — it is, after all, about a preacher who was raised in the most profane way possible to worship God, who is now possessed by an entity named Genesis, who is the spawn of a demon and an angel mating, which came to be shortly after God abandoned his post — but it’s not something I care to see. It’s one thing to have violence in a written story; it’s another to see it in full-color on the page (or on the screen). Plus, like most shock-horror stories, the shock happens so often and so graphically that it eventually fails to shock and becomes boring. Give me something a little more restrained, like the story “24 Hours” in Sandman, and which will haunt your memory for years to come, over this any day.

So why did I decide to read this collection? Well, there are two reasons: one is that I had a coupon to use in the Google Books store, and this was one of the few titles on which I could use it; the other is that a lot of my reader friends like the title, and I figured it was worth revisiting. I won’t lie to you: the story isn’t all bad. I like the development of the characters, even if they’re not the easiest to relate to or sympathize with, and it feels like Ennis was setting up a huge panoramic story, featuring a few characters in the beginning, and then veering the story in another direction. If these characters don’t feature in future stories, then what’s the point of making them as distinctive and pivotal as they are?

The collection contains two story arcs spanning twelve issues, and the first six are there to set us up with the three main characters, their antagonists, and give us a little background into everyone. It’s very busy, and a bit muddled, but the broader strokes of the story are established in that arc. The second arc takes its time, giving us more background into Jesse, the preacher, and there’s an odd nuance to the story, odd because it’s so violent, so degraded, so profane. But it gives such a clear picture into his development that it’s hard not to be affected by it. That’s where the story starts to show some moments of brilliance, and why I can’t dismiss the entire title as splatterpunk claptrap.

I’m not sure if this is a title I’ll finish, but now I can see why people like it. At least, I hope that’s why people like it; if they’re just responding to the ultraviolence, then maybe I don’t want to know about it. If I do decide to finish it out, I’ll see if I can’t find them through the library instead of buying them, though; I don’t see this as a title I’d want on my shelves.

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