Preacher Vol. 3: Proud Americans
written by Garth Ennis
illustrated by Steve Dillon
Vertigo Comics (1997)
Last summer, I read what I thought was the third volume in the Preacher series, but it felt like I'd missed out on some stuff. Turned out that the book I read was a hardcover edition (Preacher: Book Three) instead of the trade paperback, so there were actually some stories I missed. In actuality, it looks like I skipped right over this entire third volume, Proud Americans. And that's a damned shame because this was an absolute treat to read. I guess I gotta be more attentive when putting in requests for these volumes at the library.
While some might complain that this volume was predominantly made up of backstory, I thought it was well-timed after the first two volumes, Gone to Texas and Until the End of theWorld, because it added a lot of depth of not just Jesse Custer, but a really enlightening look back at the life of Cassidy before he met up with Custer and Tulip.
The book starts off with an interlude from the main story, as Jesse crosses paths with a Vietnam vet at an airport bar who was great friends with Jesse's father during the war. The story, unsurprisingly, was a touching one, and had the added touch of see Jesse's father meeting John Wayne. Since the Duke haunts Jesse, visiting him from time to time, I found that particularly enjoyable.
As for the main story, Starr has Cassidy locked up in a dungeon and brings in an exceedingly sadistic hitman to torture the Irish vampire to death, but Jesse and Tulip are on their way through France in a rescue attempt. But Jesse wants Tulip to hang back and meet him back in New York, because he's already seen her killed once and he can't bare the idea that it could happen again. She, to her credit, takes offense at Jesse's chivalry, because she's not slouch with a firearm and general thuggery and wants to do her part in springing Cassidy from the Grail's clutches.
Now, I loved the first two volumes, so maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder because I ate this book up with a spoon. Everything is played to the hilt, whether it's the action, the pathos, or the raunchy humor. I mean, when you consider this entire series is based on a former preacher hunting down God so he can kick His ass, it's pretty safe to say that there are going to be some risque subject matter--at least to a conventional comic book audience. There's a morbidly obese, bulimic cult leader and the comically inbred messiah in his care, the sexual proclivities of Starr in the wake of his ... altercation with a sexual deviant gangster, and a deity on the run with a huge chip on his shoulder against Jesse Custer and his friends.
The book might be a little heavy on dialogue and backstory, but that's some of the best stuff I though, especially when Cassidy retells how he became a vampire and his journey from Ireland to America. I may have already read a fair bit of what's to come in the fourth volume, Ancient History, but I can't wait to re-read those issues in time and better appreciate them after having read Proud Americans.