Those of you who grew up reading comicbooks in the 1990’s remember that publishers had lost their way; it was all about the artists (remember Stephen Platt?!), landmark issues (with holograms or foil), and variant covers. It was all flash with zero substance. Most of the stories were absolute shit – but they didn’t care, they were selling you on collectability. Once readers realized that the over-production of everything caused their $4.75 cover-priced issue #75 to plummet in value (you can’t even give away many of these issues now), the demand shifted back to story. One of the few bright spots during this dark time was Vertigo’s (DC Comics) “Preacher,” created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillonback in 1995.
“Preacher” may have had the all-time greatest hook (shit, a similar device is what makes the first season of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” so badass), but it was the rich characters that gave it electricity. “Preacher” was the comic that revived my faith in storytelling, and paved the way for other phenomenal series such as Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead.” It was destined to be adapted in some way or another, which is why the years of watching it go through development hell was like a constant punch to the gut. But our patience is being rewarded, finally, as AMC is set to bring this long-gestured adaptation to the small screen on Sunday, May 22nd at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
And I’ve seen the first four episodes.
Whether you’ve read the comics or not, “Preacher” is going to be your new favorite show. It’s the ultimate splatterfest that would make a young Peter Jackson proud, while also channeling old school Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez collaborations (like Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn).
For those unacquainted, “Preacher” follows Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a conflicted Preacher in a small Texas town, who is inhabited by a mysterious entity (refered to as Genesis in the comics) that allows him to develop a highly unconventional power…he has the “word of God.” What does this mean exactly? Well, if Jesse tells you to jump, you jump.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about the cast of characters and how they’re introduced.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This Is the End, Superbad, Neighbors) are behind this adaptation, which is vastly different than the comics. Usually this would cause an uproar, but I think they did a tremendous job of filling the gaps and creating a world that’s more believable. It’s clear that the duo went through the books with a fine-tooth comb and challenged the original story. (Not everything that we read in a book translates well to the screen, which is proof by the many awful Stephen King adaptations.)
The comic opens with a bang, immediately brings the characters together (by chance), and removes all suspense by delivering pages of exposition. Rogen and Goldberg’s “Preacher” paces itself, and takes the time to build a mystery box around everything, while slowly introducing characters.
Just how paced is it? Well, I’m four episodes deep and Jesse still hasn’t set off on his journey. The viewer still doesn’t even know what the hook is, which makes me wonder if that’s what they’re saving for the Season One finale.
Anyways, Jesse Custer is a badass Preacher with a storied past. He’s trying to be good. He’s trying to repent. He believes that God is there, listening, but the world has turned on him. There’s an immense amount of dialogue tied to his internal struggle because it’s so incredibly important to the overarching journey, which I will refrain from discussing in respect for those who have never read the comics.
Jesse’s ex-girlfriend and partner in crime, Tulip (Ruth Negga), is already part of the local community. Her introduction, teased in this clip, is straight-up baller. Tulip is a badass, who is all about female empowerment, and causing as much chaos as she can muster. She’s tough as nails and doesn’t give a fuck about anything…except getting Jesse back in her fold and working with her again.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the Irish vampire, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), who is being hunted down by an unkown group of religious vampire hunters. There’s an insane battle on an airplane (the stunt choreography in “Preacher” is off-the-charts astounding) that ends with Cassidy jumping out with only an umbrella.
Speaking of…”Preacher” is funny and comedic, but in an extremely organic kind of way (jokes are within context of scene or character), and done with a straight face. Cassidy provides much of the comic relief, while also shedding the most blood. So much blood.
“Preacher” is immensely gory – shit, the series opens with a preacher exploding in front of he flock! From Cassidy biting people’s necks to chainsaws being used to cut off people limbs, fans of old-school splatter films are going to wet themselves.
Seriously, though, “Preacher” is so goddamn good.
The series opens with an entity flying the universe and entering the bodies of various religious figures across the planet, causing them to all explode. When Jesse prays for God for an answer, the entity appears and enters his body. He doesn’t explode, but he slowly comes to realize that he now can command his flock with the word of God.
Meanwhile, two Adephi angels, DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Thomas Brooke), are sent to Earth to retrieve this entity. And they’re hilariously bad at their job – mostly because they keep crossing paths with Cassidy, who is protecting his new friend/drinking buddy, Jesse.
Their failures will eventually bring upon the wrath of the Saint of All Killers, who is teased in a short flashback sequence prior to the opening credits. Rogen and Goldberg introduce a lot of characters early on (who come much later in the comics), such as Odin Quincannon (A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s Jackie Earle Haley), who’s powerful but also sympathetic. Odin is a small, decrepit man with the unscrupulous iron will necessary to be the most powerful man in Annville County, Texas. He’s the chief employer in town and runs Quincannon Meat & Power, a 125-year-old family run cattle slaughterhouse business, as described by the breakdown.
I’ve only begun to touch on the surface of the colorful characters that make up this pulp-like universe.
As someone who has read the comics from start to finish more than a handful of times, I love what Rogen and Goldberg have done with “Preacher”. While it has only been four episodes, the way the series has been constructed shrouds everything in mystery, thus allowing the duo to slowly pull back each curtain over the course of several seasons. But most of all it’s amazing to me that they’ve found a way to amplify the meaning behind the story, and give more purpose to Jesse’s forthcoming journey for which we’re all part of come May 22nd.