Ennis, Garth – Preacher Book 1: Gone to Texas
It should say something about how much I love this series when you stop to think that I could have reread any series first for review purposes, and I chose this one. Cerebus, Sandman, Love and Rockets, the Big Books, Concrete, Hate, Sin City… I’m looking forward to rereading each and every one of them (some more than others… Cerebus, for example, I haven’t read since I reread the whole thing when it hit 200. That was five years ago), but this one is just the most fun that you can get out of a comic series. I said in my first half-assed review for the second book that you should start with that one, going back to this one when you get into the series. Let me take this opportunity to say that I was completely wrong. True, he wasn’t completely on his game yet. The series starts, for example, with the three main characters (Jesse Custer (Preacher), Tulip and Cassidy) sitting in a diner, talking about how they got there. They go to flashbacks for a little while, then I guess the story just took on a life of its own because he abandoned the “flashback” idea completely. This books introduces Saint of Killers, Arseface, and mention pretty much everybody you need to know for the rest of the series… except Starr.
What’s this book about? Well, Jesse is preaching to an unusually full church (the reason for that is funny enough that you should read it for yourself) when the entity known as Genesis enters the church and his body, and the resulting explosion kills everybody else there. The rest of the book is spent establishing who everyone is, with plenty of secrets being left out. It’s established right away that he’s looking for God, and not in the spiritual sense. It’s great to read this whole thing already knowing what happens too. I’m not going to ruin a damned thing, don’t worry, but even the things that didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense in the end really do. The characters were leading down that path every step of the way. Joe R. Lansdale says in his introduction that the book is intelligent without being intellectual, and that can be taken in a good or a bad way. It’s accessible to everybody, and I believe it was one of the better selling Vertigo books when it was out. It’s hard to believe and it rarely ever happens, but a book can sell really well and still be fantastic. I think a lot of people bought this book for the shock value, and there is a little bit of that. There’s usually at least a panel or two per issue that some dorks probably look for to point at as being the coolest thing about it. They’re missing the point, but their money probably means that Garth Ennis has his pick of projects from now on, so it wasn’t all bad.
The rest of the book is tough to review, because I remember how great it was for me to discover all this stuff. OK, how about this. A secret is discovered about Cassidy that you can actually read on the back of the book (which is one of the main reasons I try not to read the back of any book), not that the secret is all that surprising. Tulip was a hired killer at the start of the book, but we still don’t know why. Why was Jesse a Preacher at all, and why did he leave Tulip 5 years ago? Who is his Granma, and why is he so scared of her? How was it that he saw his Dad killed in front of him when he was a child? What role is Arseface going to play in this, if any? And can Jesse hope to find God when Saint of Killers has been sent to kill him? If any of this intrigues you, read the series. It really is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Not the most intellectual, and I’m sure I’m not going to be able to walk into a coffee shop and talk about this in the same way that I would talk about, say, Jimmy Corrigan, and that’s fine, because the books shouldn’t be compared. They’re both seminal works in their own right. I’m just afraid that people are going to try to copy this series in the same way that they tried to copy Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, and they’re going to miss the point completely just like they did back then.