July 6, 2010

Getting Graphic: "Preacher: Gone to Texas" by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Title: Preacher: Gone to Texas
Author: Garth Ennis
Illustrator: Steve Dillon
Published: DC Vertigo (1996)
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-56389-261-8

In my continuing efforts to wade into the whole comic book realm, I've heard Preacher more than once as a DC title that I need to check out. Taking people at their word, I scribbled "Preacher" on my wish list and left it at that. I didn't bother asking anyone what it was about, or hit up some website to read reviews, I just waited until I spied the first volume in another library's inventory, put in an inter-library loan request, and waited a couple months to be blown away by one of the most violent and profane graphic novels I've read yet.

The book starts off with an introduction from none other than Joe R. Lansdale, who gives a kind of discretionary warning to readers that this is one pulpy piece of fiction that is likely to offend some folks with violence, profanity, and even blasphemy. He doesn't sugarcoat the book, and I kind of like that because there are times when I read a foreword by an author that seems to put over the book as sliced bread version 2.0.

The book doesn't waste time in laying down the house rules for this tale. Reverend Jesse Custer is a disillusioned young preacher in a middle-of-nowhere Texas town. Surrounded by a town of sinners and fair weather Christians, he's fed up with people and pretty much tells them as much before they're all obliterated by a comet with an infant's face. Except Custer survives, despite being the target of the comet. Why he was targeted isn't clear, but what is discovered is that the entity is a fugitive from Heaven known as Genesis. And if the angels don't get it back then you might say there will be hell to pay.

The novel includes the first seven or eight comic books from the Preacher series, and manages to cut a wide swath of the weird and wonderful--heavy on the weird. Custer's ex-girlfriend, Tulip, inexplicably comes to his aid, as she and a sun-shy wanderer named Cassidy discover the charred remnants of his church and congregation. They wind up on the run pretty quick when every law enforcement officer in driving distance starts hunting them down, along with a nigh unstoppable gunslinger so ruthless and malign that even the Devil kicked him out of Hell.

The novel is rough around the edges, that's for sure, but the characters and plot are so out of left field Glenn Beck would need the Hubble telescope to see them. And whatever lulls exist between action scenes are complimented by some gritty dialogue. It's a bit too gritty at times, and a bit too from-the-hip in its execution, but I cannot say that I didn't enjoy reading it. And I'm definitely looking forward to reading the second volume now, since Custer has taken up a mission to find God himself--and give him a swift kick in the ass.

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