REVIEW: Behold, The Word in ‘Absolute Preacher Vol. 1′
There was a time that Vertigo Comics was taken so seriously, many of the upstarts under the stewardship of Vertigo Executive Editor and SVP Karen Berger blossomed their comic book careers in that controversial, pushing-the-envelope and game-changing semi-independent creator-owned publishing line. One of these beneficiaries were Irish writer Garth Ennis and British artist Steve Dillon, whose magnum […]
There was a time that Vertigo Comics was taken so seriously, many of the upstarts under the stewardship of Vertigo Executive Editor and SVP Karen Berger blossomed their comic book careers in that controversial, pushing-the-envelope and game-changing semi-independent creator-owned publishing line. One of these beneficiaries were Irish writer Garth Ennis and British artist Steve Dillon, whose magnum opus, PREACHER, was a no-holds bared, black humor, brutally sacrilegious, iconoclastic and highly charged take on Christianity itself. Not only that, sex and violence are abundant, in addition of casting the so-called “the all-mighty” supreme being as the target of the main protagonist’s vengeful mission. That said alone, Preacher tests your current faith to the absolute limits, making this excellent visual and blasphemous masterpiece worth reading many times, if you are truly ready for the ride. Speaking of “absolute”, Vertigo/DC Comics give this seminal and groundbreaking series a treatment worthy to serious comic book collectors and hardcore Preacher fans/aficionados: the ABSOLUTE Deluxe Edition. Hence, ABSOLUTE PREACHER Vol. 1 is indeed a vile compilation that matches in sheer size and scope in terms of the number of issues collected (#1-#26) and pages overall (736 page-monster), making this high-end hardcover edition the thickest Absolute volume yet. And similar to all Absolute versions, this one has a gorgeous slipcase; a red cloth book mark; some additional features by the creative force; sturdy and durable paper quality; re-mastered coloring, including the stunning cover art by Glenn Fabry; and an excellent binding and spine for a pleasurable reading experience, unlike virtually all of its omnibus counterparts.
To begin with, the first volume gives readers Jesse Custer, a preacher who was fused with a powerful force named Genesis and searched out the father of all fathers; his sharpshooting girlfriend Tulip; and the almost century-old Irish vampire named Cassidy. They literally traveled different parts of the United States of America and some parts of the world to literally confront the Supreme Being who left the heavenly domain after Genesis escaped. What is a great series without a couple of memorable characters and antagonists? Jesse was being trailed by the highly secretive and religious cult named The Grail, led by Herr Starr. Also in his trail was the un-killable and indestructible heaven’s assassin, The Saint of Killers who would stop at nothing to accomplish his objective. This book has Jesse’s religious-nutcase family and his harrowing history under its care, especially his fundamentalist grandmother and his sadistic uncle. And, the so-called Allfather, the grandmaster of The Grail who was everything but; and the present-day descendant of the Messiah and Mary of Magdalene who was anything but, again. Sure, there is the fan-favorite Arseface, the totally disfigured dude only his parents loved him no matter what. In addition, readers can glimpse on vampire’s origins and his limits of being the creature of the night, and the all-out one-man battles The Saint of Killers did to those pathetic souls who stood his way. And all of these are in the first book, what more in the succeeding volumes until the climatic end worthy of an excellent television-cable series?!
Despite the foul language inside, Preacher possesses the lyrical rhythm of pacing and dialogues. This includes some of the bantering between Jesse and Cassidy, and the tendering moments between Tulip and Custer. Even the monologues and thought-balloons of the protagonists are both grounded and at times, majestic to read whenever the situations needed. Garth Ennis’ brand of literature is indeed a mixture of grandeur, dark realism and even optimistic, ironies and contradictions, tragic and comedic, and riveting plot twists that me the readers glue to these pages even beyond the story arcs. The writer is totally unapologetic on his strong and brutal deliveries and contents; and Vertigo under Karen Berger remained steadfastly grounded against numerous calls of cancellations to Ennis and Dillon’s series. In hindsight, isn’t that surprising why Ennis won Eisner Awards BEST WRITER in 1999? That kind of commitment of producing excellent visual literature benefited Preacher creative team to carry on until the end, which I hopefully DC Comics produces two more Absolute Preacher volumes.
Steve Dillon’s art is perfect for the series. Personally, Dillon’s artwork is an acquired taste, especially whenever he illustrates in the superhero genre (his best takes in that regard are his The Punisher runs with Ennis and Jason Aaron). However, Steve’s illustrations suit best in most independent and/or mature-related works, The Preacher included. His characters are almost realistic and less exaggerated. His clean lines work well to his grimmer take of realism. Although some artistic licenses are bound to stay, Steve knows the dynamics of graphic sequential paneling even though the dialogues dominated many pages. This is the same in some of the fight sequences that felt so real, the injuries the characters had are almost felt to the nerves and bones. Little wonder Ennis often teams ups with Dillon whenever the former has another project in mind.
My greatest beef with today’s Absolute edition is the lackluster anecdotal portion that dominated previous ones, like the entire five volumes of Absolute Sandman, Absolute Batman: Hush, Absolute Kingdom Come, Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths; Absolute DC Comics: The New Frontier, and Absolute All-Star Superman. Alas, Absolute Preacher Vol. 1 possesses virtually nothing. Imagine this Absolute alone has more than a thousand pages of Ennis and Dillon’s views on every issue. Imagine there is a separate volume or compendium devoting to enlighten readers behind The Preacher phenomenon. But we can settle with this monster volume of pure Preacher-esque glory of profanity, almost real-life violence, gratuitous sex scenes, blasphemous and sacrilegious statements, lovely dialogues, and the overall hypocrisy organized religions innately possessed. ABSOLUTE PREACHER Vol. 1 is worth our time to either reevaluate our faiths and beliefs, or even twisting enough, further reinforce our spirituality altogether. Read at your own risk!