Etc. >> Comics >> Preacher (Ennis/Dillon)

Preacher (Ennis/Dillon)
Post by TheMidnighter on Aug 31st, 2016, 10:45am

Despite owning the first three trades for years now, only recently did I buy the six remaining trades. After reading all nine trades in succession, I have mixed feelings about this book. I feel like the premise and potential were definitely there, but the story shot itself in the foot. At least it did for me.

A spoiler-free synopsis: Jesse Custer, the preacher of a small town, gets possessed by a divine entity. With this body-less creature now sharing his body, Jesse has access to some strange powers. With it, he goes on a quest for God, creator of the universe, to hold him responsible and accountable for all the things happening in the world.

Be warned that I will now go into some minor spoilers.

The Good
What I like most about this book are its premise and the art by Steve Dillon. I really liked the book's direction, getting answers from God. I was really looking forward to the confrontation between Jesse and God throughout the series. I had the feeling that dynamic would really be one of a kind.

Dillon's art looks marvellous, as always. He has a very clean style with the right amount of detail to stop scenes from looking empty or bland. What I especially like is how Dillon adds character to every person he draws. Everyone looks distinct and everyone looks alive, as if they're living their lives in a vibrant world. Characters in both foreground and background have this, and I really appreciate that.

The Bad
Aspects of the book I did not like were some loose ends to the plot. For example, Jesse's relationship with John Wayne/The Duke never seems to be resolved. Was he an imaginary friend, a figment of Jesse's mind? That doesn't explain how he could know things Jesse didn't. But if he is some guardian angel or afterlife projection from the actor, how does that work? Writer Garth Ennis blatantly refuses to explain any aspect of John Wayne's presence.

Additionally, I felt the entire promise of the premise—man confronting God—was a complete misdirection. It never occurs because the Saint of Killers confronts God. We never get to see Creation meet and accuse Creator. Also, we do not ever get to see why Genesis is such a threat to God. We only hear about how terrifying Genesis’ power is, but it gets built up and never delivered.

Furthermore, the series overall has some weak story arcs. No miniseries or one-shot felt like a worthwhile addition to the story to me. For example, I do not think the Saint of Killer's back story needed expanding. His succinct origin from the regular book was fine. The same with Arseface--he really did not need more fleshing out than 'kid who looked up to Kurt Cobain and lived through a similar suicide attempt.' The regular series also has several points where the story slows down. All in all, the flow is inconsistent.

The Ugly
A couple of elements to the book really rubbed me the wrong way. This mostly has to do with characterisation of the main players, some of the books themes, and its unconvincing genre placement.

First, I disliked the macho, testosteron-filled bits by Jesse and, to a lesser extent, Cassidy. I truly despised it. That kind of macho bullshit really does not resonate with me and, in fact, completely goes against my personality. At times I truly felt like putting the book away but wanting to know the ending and resolution, I continued reading.

The book’s cowboy theme fits well with the macho approach and characterisation, but I feel it also contradicts itself. At some points main character Jesse says to feel women and men are equal, and are both capable sexes. Yet twice in the story he sidelines his girlfriend when he goes into conflicts. Yet he has no problem at all risking life and limb of men. I find that very hypocritical of the character but even more so of the writer.

I realise sexism is a loaded, hot and bothersome topic especially in recent years, but at points I really did feel the book was sexist. I just can’t reconcile Jesse not wanting to even risk any aspect of his girlfriend Tulip, but he has no qualms at all about hurting, mutilating and murdering scores of men. The fact that the writer brushes these casualties aside but makes such a point about the safety of a female, annoyed me.

Then we come to the genre placement. I would not have minded some of these above points so much if this was a cowboy-themed book, or satire, or dark comedy. But the writing does not seem to know what it wants to be. Some aspects of the book seem serious to tackle the existence and possible negligence of a Divine Creator, yet other parts parody 90s action movie stars. The story consists of non-matching—and sometimes conflicting—elements.

The Verdict
Its concept and art style drew me in but I feel let down by too many elements to recommend this book. The resolution to the story, pacing problems, weak story arcs, overabundance of machismo, and inconsistent feel to the story diminish the experience.

Re: Preacher (Ennis/Dillon)
Post by Nick on Aug 31st, 2016, 11:30am

This was a series I first became aware of in the 1990s when it was first starting out and immediately caught my attention. For whatever reason I never got round to actually reading it. I made a decision a few years back just to give up on the idea of ever reading it. Considering I really enjoyed Y The Last Man and still never finished that (and need to go back to the start and do it properly), it wouldn't be wise for me to commit to another when I've had things sitting on my shelf for years that really should take priority!

Thanks for the review, you've covered enough of the broad points for me to judge it probably wouldn't actually be my thing, so I don't feel as much like I'm missing out on something I should have read. I have such little free time these days, I have to be a bit more ruthless with what I decide to just pass on entirely rather than keep on the backburner.

One I did enjoy many years ago, perhaps a sort of precursor, was Garth Ennis' True Faith. I haven't read it in probably over fifteen years, but the person I was then found it very funny. As a reasonably short done in one, that could be worth a try at least?
Re: Preacher (Ennis/Dillon)
Post by TheMidnighter on Sep 1st, 2016, 01:05am

Sounds like True Faith might actually be a more structured, to-the-point, and compact story. Since I found Preacher lacked that, I might enjoy True Faith a lot more. If I come across it, I'll have a read.