The first volume of "Preacher" is one of the most solid and fascinating stories that I have ever read. It is with this volume that I have begun my search of all of the good stuff that the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics has to offer.
What, exactly, is an unrepentant Atheist doing, reading something not only called, "Preacher", but also dealing in a very major way in the themes of religion, God and angels?
I would point out that on the cover of this volume, we get a blurb by Kevin Smith, the director of "Dogma". and I don't think that the fact that Kevin Smith was contacted to give his opinion on the series is not incidental. Although "Dogma" and "Preacher" are not the same thing - for one, both are stories told in different mediums and for another, their humor is derived from different places in both stories. Nevertheless, from now on, if I am ever asked to compare either of these to a similar story, I will say that "Preacher" and "Dogma" come from a similar place of cynicism and religious disillusionment - both place a great deal of value in the everyday person, who is seen as having more moral fiber, in many ways, than these immortal beings who have, in a very real manner, dropped the ball.
Oh, Preacher is a very dark story, and within it lies three main characters who are lost and trying to find a purpose, amidst the darkness and all of the uncertainty that is in their world. Some of what is presented, in a beautiful art style that does great justice to the characters by its artist Steve Dillon (and with the addition of highly stylized and very realistic full-page illustrations, which begin every one of the original issues of the comics, preserved in this collection) is shocking, even to a modern internet user and purveyor of such films like, well, Kevin Smith's "Dogma" and the films of Quentin Tarantino. Death - very much viscerally and starkly present at every turn of the story - is often the least of horrors that this book's readers are made privy to. In this universe, death may very well be a lucky thing to befall a person - it could, at the very least, save them from some dark fate that seems to be suggested at with every movement that comes from above, below and in the middle.
The story begins with our three main characters - "heroes" hardly seems appropriate, even though they are, chiefly, forces for good, despite how menacing Jesse Custer looks in the cover art of this volume - as they sit around a meal at a diner, trying to understand how they had come to where they were, in terms of the story. It is here that I found my only major problem with the story telling itself - the sharing of the main characters' stories feels more as though it is for the benefit of the reader, not because they are sharing much of this story with each other. It frankly felt a little shoe horned in, especially in the part where Jesse walks away from the table.
After that initial opening, however, the story and its characters come into their own and two questions are asked that are very important - what, exactly, is inside of the Reverend Jesse Custer and where is God in all of this?
Although the show down in Texas is exciting to read, it is my opinion that the part in New York really is the most entertaining section of the first volume, where they begin Jesse's journey to discover what part God has to play in what is occurring. The shocks and the entertainment value of what happens does not slow down one bit, and to the contrary, I would argue that it speeds up so that it rivals the pace of a Tarantino film.
Heavy, rough-around-the-edges and, amongst everything else, in my opinion, blazingly sincere, "Preacher" makes a tsunami-sized splash in the water of the usual fare of comic books, asking big questions and, at the same time, portraying humans, angels, demons and even vampires on a very equal level, all of whom are capable of mistakes as well as astounding acts of heroism and villainy. Even the pitiful is seen with a very sincere amount of understanding.
By the end of the first volume, I found myself eager to find where our three main characters would find themselves next, and what the repercussions of Jesse's bizarre capability would prove to be.
Certainly not for the faint of heart, (and I say, with complete sincerity, that you should read this with the expectation that anything could happen next - absolutely anything) the story of a small town Preacher who accidentally destroys his entire congregation in the span of a matter of seconds and who is trying to find the answers behind what is happening to him and his world is as exciting and violent as it is impossible to put down.