I quit comics around the time the now-famous writers started working: Mark Waid, Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Brian Vaughn, Matt Fraction… People say I should read this guy’s Batman or this other guy’s Superman is something I’ve never seen before. I’m not interested. Even when my Assistant to the Traveling Secretary (we have the same taste) recommended an X-Men arc (who I normally love) written by Joss Whedon (who is – by all accounts – a terrific writer), I didn’t spend more than about 10 seconds before I said, “They really needed an ‘Astonishing X-Men’?”
I then heard that Garth Ennis has the same viewpoint. The best of the genre (practically-naked men looking angry) has been written. So I decided to give Preacher a shot.
I gotta say, I think if I had read this when it came out, I might have stuck with comics a little longer. It’s a fun amalgamation of comic genres – western, sci-fi, horror, humor, romance – without being too much noir (I’ve never understood how “noir” is a genre; it’s code for a writer bad enough to use clichés but good enough to know they’re clichés). I like the good guys, I like the bad guys, I like how there’s a history to the characters and I like how there’s a history to the mythology; when the reader stumbles across them, they didn’t suddenly come into existence.
However, with all the hype it’s gotten over the years, I think I expected a bit more from Preacher. All the characters speak with exactly the same cadence – black, white, gay, straight, men, women, good guys, bay guys, southerner, mid-westerner, New Yorker, German, Irish, guys from the 19th century, angels in heaven – they all say “Shite” and “Arshole” and “Boyo”.
Also, almost every situation the main characters find themselves in is because of circumstance. Tulip just happens to run into Cassidy, Jesse just happens to run into Tulip, they all just happen to run into DeSade… I know it’s part of the western genre as a “troubled town of the week”, but it gets pretty old pretty fast.
There’s also a few character flaws:
Why is Jesse able to kick everyone’s ass? Yes, he had a shitty childhood, but he’s shown literally throwing people through walls. Doesn’t this just make a low-grade superhero (with a preacher costume)?
- Why is Tulip able to shoot everyone? Yes, her dad took her hunting when she was little but she botched her first paying gig as a hitman and she’s shown literally killing an entire platoon. Doesn’t this just make her a low-grade superhero?
- Why is Cassidy a vampire? Yes, I know he was bitten by one 100 years ago, but what purpose does it serve to the story that he can only be killed by prolonged exposure to sunlight? Doesn’t this just make him a low-grade superhero?
Finally, one major plot hole in the conclusion of the series: God takes the baby/ghost/more-powerful-than-God-and-therefore-the-only-thing-God-is-afraid-of thing away from Jesse at the end of the series somehow and returns to heaven only to find the Saint of Killers ready to shoot Him, even though the Saint’s powers do not rival God’s.
Hopefully the TV show can fix some of the drawbacks of the comic (maybe Tulip is a successful hitman, Jesse has a long history of ass-kickin and Cassidy’s vampirism somehow fits into the plans of The Grail).
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