Whenever I’m asked to recommend comics outside of DC or Marvel’s runs, I always start with Preacher. A comic series from the 90s created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon stands the test of time as one of the craziest and over-the-top comics ever written. Preacher follows three main protagonists: Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and Cassidy. Jesse Custer is a reverend for the folk of Annville, Texas. He becomes possessed by an entity called Genesis which gives Jesse extraordinary abilities such as making people obey his any command. United with the love of his life Tulip and her mysterious friend Cassidy, Jesse soon finds out that God is missing from heaven. All three of them set out to find God and the adventure begins.
Throughout the series, our characters are on a road trip, moving from town to town through America looking for God. As their journey progresses, we start to see the true personalities of our main characters—we see Jesse and Tulip’s obsession with violence, and Cassidy is revealed to be a 100-year-old vampire. The dark nature of the series starts to unravel through the pages.
Book 1 does a great job of showing the building interaction between the three characters. The dialogue is extremely well-written—creator Garth Ennis does a fantastic job of maintaining tone and making sure the dialogue doesn’t go too far to the point where the reader stop caring. He always pushes the main characters to the edge, showing how terrible they really are, but pulls back just in time to make you feel sympathy for them. For example, Book 1 introduces Jesse’s grandmother, who is easily one of the most creepiest and unsettling antagonists I have ever read in a comic book. As her relationship with Jesse is slowly revealed in flashbacks, it helps create a great deal of sympathy for him because you see the hardships and torture he went through as a child.
As the series progress, you meet the series main antagonist Herr Starr, whom Ennis does a great job of making him both the source of the darkest comedy the series has to offer but also equally intimidating and cunning. The first book also introduces The Saint of Killers, a killing machine released from hell to hunt down the main characters. We find out more about his past throughout the books, and we really start to see how God in this series manipulates everyone to do his bidding and how the Saint of Killers is nothing more than a puppet for him. As we move along in our journey, we meet many disturbing and insane antagonists who get worse and worse as the series progresses. Ennis does a great job of making you feel disgusted at the antics of these characters but also laugh at how over the top they are.
Through the six book run of the series, each book starts to show you more and more of each character’s past and we see the layers and origins of both the main protagonists and the antagonists. The series goes deep into the characters’ psyche and shows their insecurities, making them just a little more human in an over-the-top and violent world.
Between the main plot, we sometimes get short stories of some of our side characters—for example when in Book 4 we see a short story with two minor antagonists from Book 1 going off on a mini adventure. Even though these are not the characters the story is following and the art work is completely different, the side story still manages to maintain Preacher’s tone. The mini story has no relation to the main plot, but it expands the world and offers something fresh and interesting to the reader amidst all the craziness that is the main plot.
Ennis’ writing is fantastic throughout and never falters. The plot gets more and more complicated as the story moves along, yet Ennis never makes the audience feel confused or burdens them with information—he smoothly runs you along the series’ complicated plot without hindering the reading experience. Steve Dillion, the co-creator of Preacher who sadly passed away in 2016, left behind a legacy of amazing art work and Preacher remains his best. His style works wonderfully with the dark tone of the writing. His panels maintain that western feel the writing gives the reader. He draws scenes with a lot of grit and style, which enhances the reading experience. Preacher wouldn’t feel the same without Dillon’s art and collaboration with Garth Ennis.
Overall if you like dark humour, vampires, extreme violence, and love westerns, or just want to take a break from your typical superhero comic books, then I highly recommend the Preacher. A series started in the 90s aged well to this day and still maintains to be a fresh reading experience.