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Crazy Religious Texan with Powers

Preacher: Gone To Texas By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Vertigo. Reviewed by LEAH DURAN

preach02.gifGarth Ennis’ Preacher: Gone To Texas is a collection of seven comics that marks the first in a series of nine graphic novels. Whether or not you’re familiar with comics, Preacher makes an exceptional read. Although published more than 10 years ago, Preacher is timeless in the subjects it tackles.

What if the word of God wasn’t found only in the pages of the Bible, but belonged to the voice of a preacher with the power to make anyone obey his commands? He can force you to stand on your head, screw yourself (literally), or die. Instantly.

Meet Reverend Jesse Custer, a whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking, ass-kicking preacher reluctantly spreading the word of God in the backwaters of Annville, Texas.

What if God did exist, but quit? Simply abandoned his post and disappeared to wander the Earth?

When Genesis, an entity with powers rivalling the Lord’s, escapes from Heaven and chooses Custer as a vessel, he finds himself thrust into the heart of a cosmic conspiracy to cover up the fact that Heaven is no longer in the hands of God.

“But here we are: He’s gone and nothing’s changed. No apocalypse, no lion lying with the lamb, four horsemen still in the stable…” Deblanc, one of the Adephi, or lesser angel overseers of Heaven, explains.

Heaven, far from a harmonious Garden of Eden, is beset by factions and unrest. The legions of angels are neither infallible nor immortal. Deblanc pours goblets of red wine to ease his misery, lamenting, “The Kingdom of Heaven is fucked.”

While other men of the cloth seek the Lord through prayers or charitable deeds, Custer embarks on a manhunt for God incarnate, determined to scour the Earth and bring Him to justice for ditching humanity and make him answer for his sins.

Spurred by fresh purpose and his new ability, Custer forms unlikely alliances with his old girlfriend, Tulip O’Hare – a no-nonsense, gun-toting blonde bombshell who’s feisty in and out of the bedroom – and Cassidy, an Irish vampire with the best intentions and a knack for comic relief. His only drawback, besides his excessive willingness to help friends and strangers alike, is his aversion to sunlight. Even John Wayne makes a cameo appearance, adding to Preacher’s slightly Western feel.

Together, they journey through the desolate deserts of Texas to the dark city corners of New York, hanging in hotels and bars while dodging danger from the law and an otherworldly assassin, The Saint of Killers.

Layers of mystery and secrecy wrap themselves like barbed wire around the trio’s action-infused adventure. As Custer seeks to answer why God left Heaven, O’Hare wonders why Custer left her stranded in Phoenix five years ago. The police want to know why Custer’s church is a pile of rubble sprinkled with the bare bones of parishioners. All must face not only live demons, but the ones that inhabit their pasts.

Steve Dillon’s art evinces Garth Ennis’ words with striking clarity and impact. His portrayals are often violent, sometimes shockingly gruesome. Other times, Dillon paints a lighter mood with pastel watermelon skies and soothing, albeit haunting, teal tones. The red of Custer’s eyes and spilled blood stand out starkly against subdued background colours.

Though riddled with death, Preacher will make you laugh out loud. The overall tenor borders on uplifting, if you read for hope between the lettering. Undercurrents of a love story and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships run through Preacher’s vulgar, blood-stained pages.

Through the mirror of a supernatural cast, Preacher examines the plight of the human condition, echoing our quest for truth, happiness and love, and the endless search for the answers to the big questions of why we are here and what it all means. Ennis may not give definite answers, but he sure as hell commands you to contemplate the possibilities.

For those with a weak stomach or strong religious beliefs, beware: This story is guaranteed to upset both. Read with an open mind.

LINKS
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Leah Duran is a lover of life, books, poetry, the outdoors, good company, and much more. In the process of acquiring her journalism degree, she splits her time between the woods of Connecticut and the deserts of Arizona.