“Preacher: Ancient History” takes a detour from the adventures of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy to focus on the supporting cast. Ennis is joined by a variety of artists who help him flesh out the antagonists he has created over the first three volumes. The result is a wildly entertaining look at villainy. This is Ennis at his most depraved. Which is to say this volume is fantastic look at the gore soaked histories of some of Preacher’s more unsavory characters. The entire effort serves to humanize monstrous characters and deepen the mythology of the series in a wonderfully scenic detour from the main story.
The volume kicks off with Steve Pugh joining Ennis in “The Saint of Killers” special. The story is one of love and redemption. The Saint of Killers starts as a man blinded by vengeance. He has no code, save for killing, and he’s damn good at it. He warily roams the countryside. As a man he’s not looking for trouble, but he’s ready when it eventually finds him. He’s attacked by a band of stupid thieves. They try and fail to kill him. The Saint of Killers escapes with his life.
Steve Pugh takes us on an incredible journey through the old west. His art revels in rugged lines. So the worn faces of the wild-west are a great suit for his style. He handles Ennis’ trademark gore with relative ease, and doesn’t hold back. Lopped off limbs, scalpings, and arterial sprays are the norm here.
Ennis humanizes The Saint of Killers. We see the killer fall in love, and we see him lose this love. This loss motivates the man to become the beast we know. The story takes time to develop the character’s presence and power while making his motivations more human. It’s a great addition to the mythology.
Jody and TC take center stage in “The Good Ol Boys” while Carlos Ezquerra steps in for Steve Dillion. The story of our favorite Texas rednecks proves to be fast and fun. The violence is incredibly over the top. Early on in the special Ezquerra treats us to Jody going toe to toe with a gorilla. The gorilla’s demise is grisly and the battle is paneled in such a way that it never feels overwhelming. Jody’s command of the beast is awesome, and shows you just what a force this man was.
The real center of the story is an odd pairing of action movie stereotypes. There is Cal Hicks a cop on the edge, and Tammi a supermodel turned lawyer. Their relationship provides endless laughs amongst the narrative. Tammi is pursued by a large Columbian druglord and Jody and TC come to here side. Cal is a bumbling fool and is often the source of ridicule from every angle. With the comedy provided by his inept abilities, and the incredible gore from Jody the special never lets up. I mean holy shit Ennis gives Jody the propeller from a speedboat and lets him go to town on six men. Jody and TC aren’t concerned with being good men, and as such Ennis is left to his own devices. This is Preacher at its most perverse.
“The Story of You-Know-Who” follows Arseface. It’s a heartbreaking origin story that makes you sympathize with Arseface only to change tone in the final pages. Ennis paints a vivid picture of persecution with artist Richard Case. This is a story about standing up for yourself. Arseface faces ridicule in every facet of his life. Like most teens he fails to identify with the large majority of people in his life. The result is a very talky affair with great art by Case.
Most of the violence is subdued compared to other chapters of “Preacher.” Instead Ennis opts to focus on the merciless beating from others to backdrop the story. The result is harrowing when Case shows you Arseface’s attempt to kill himself. The final pages are heartbreaking. The amount of emotion Case can work into a single eye is stunning. Ennis reminds us that Arseface’s action weren’t heartbreaking but rather quite selfish. It’s unrealistic for anyone other than yourself to pull you out of your shit life. If you don’t like the way things are going its on you to change things.
This volume reminds us of the robust history of the world Ennis has created for Preacher. Each tale centers on the theme of judgment, but each in its own special way. We journey into hell and back, get a tribute to shitty nineties action clichés, and get a fantastic commentary on teenage suicide. No subject is outside of Ennis’ reach and nor should it be. Every one of these stories serves to push the series forward as a whole and with every passing page Ennis reminds you he is a master of the craft.