My journey this fall through the weird worlds of Vertigo has taken me to some strange corners of the comics world and I couldn’t be happier about it. This time around I tackled another volume in the proto-Vertigo post-Grant Morrison Animal Man saga and also made my way through a series based on Scottish mythology that was fun and bloody.
I’ve mentioned my general plans for this year’s Halloween Scene and even discussed my history with Vertigo, so now it’s time to jump into the actual reviews! The first three books I tackled are the entire run of House Of Mystery, the fourth volume of Animal Man and the modern day vampire tale Blood + Water!
PREACHER SALVATION (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #41-50
If you’re so inclined to check out my previous Preacher reviews, I wrote about the first three volumes here, skipped 4 and covered 5 and 6 here. If you haven’t read those posts, you should know that Preacher’s one of my all-time favorite comics, I first discovered it while interning for Wizard and am reading the whole series for the third time. Volume 6 was probably my least favorite of the group, though it’s still better than a lot of comics and this book is my absolute favorite. Salvation picks up with Jesse trying to figure out what to do with his life now that his girlfriend Tulip is with his best mate Cassidy. He finds his way to a small Texas town called Salvation where he meets a few people from his pasts, makes a few friends, becomes sherrif and makes a huge enemy in a small business man named Odin Quincannon (who seems modeled after Ross Perot). Jesse doesn’t take kindly to Odin’s workers tearing through his new town, so he kicks ass, takes names and locks as many of them up as he can.
Man, I love this book. It reminds me of one of my all time favorite movies, Road House. While thinking about that, I realized that, while I might not like classic westerns like The Searchers, I do like movies set in modern times that use western themes. Both Road House and Salvation are about upstanding men rolling into a new town and trying to make things right, all of which sounds very western to me. I also love how absolutely abominable Quincannon is as a villain. The dude’s not only a vile racist, but he also has “sex” with a giant woman made out of various kinds of meat. Ennis really went overboard this time around, but it’s a welcome change after all the intensity of the previous volume and the end of the book, which is fast approaching.
PREACHER: ALL HELL’S A-COMING (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon and John McCrea
Collects Preacher #51-58, Preacher: Tall In The Saddle
All Hell’s A-Coming is a rollercoaster of a volume. Yes, we get to see Jesse and Tulip reunited and get to learn more about Tulip’s past, but we also learn about how big of a bastard Cassidy really was as a homeless woman who used to know him back in the day regales Jesse with stories. I remember the first time I read these books, something about Cassidy’s jackassness didn’t click in my head. I guess it’s a trick of the writing and the character that Ennis created that he not only worked his charms on Jesse for a while, but me too. This time around though, it became very clear that Cassidy is not a good person to be friends with. He might not intend to leave a path of destruction in his wake, but boy, does he. Tulip getting a clear head one morning and leaving Cassidy actually goes to show how badass of a character she is, something that’s reinforced in the aforementioned flashbacks to her childhood.
This collection also starts what will become something of a theme in the waning issues of the book where Ennis gives secondary and tertiery characters a kind of send off. This issue shows us Jesse giving Bob and Freddy, Sexual Investigators a ride and also their send off from the series (he also gives Elvis a ride, which is kind of cool). The story also reintroduces Tulip and Jesse’s friend Amy who gets her swan song while bringing Herr Starr back into the fray and heaping even more degrading embarrassment on the character (after defeating his non-Jesse nemesis, a dog eats his junk). The Tall In The Saddle one-shot is included at the end of this collection, which is nice because it not only gives us a look at Tulip and Jesse’s earlier days as outlaws, but also works to give Jesse a chance to talk about horses and show the old dynamic between them and Amy. It’s a nice little story that I actually read after finishing the final volume because I wanted to keep going with the finale. Past Ennis collaborator John McCrea comes in for the art chores on this one and actually does a pretty good job mimicking Dillon’s style, which is good for visual continuity, but kind of bad because I love how he drew Hitman and would have loved to see that version of his art in this book.
PREACHER: ALAMO (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #59-66
Oh man, what a finale. I kind of wish I had been paying attention when this book came to a conclusion because I’m curious what people thought of the ending. It’s not your traditional “main good guy faces off against his opponent” ending. Instead, uh SPOILERS I guess, Jesse and Cassidy beat the shit out of each other before Jesse gets shot and killed. But, hey, that’s not the actual ending because Jesse’s actually a pretty good strategist and has some damn good luck on his side. There’s a lot of planning and scheming to go along with the bigger action scenes (the fight, plus Tulip wrecking shop on some dudes). Like a true good guy, Jesse does his best to finish his mission and make right by as many people as possible before literally SPOILER AGAIN riding off into the sunset with his girl AND partner Tulip.
The first time I read Preacher, I was blown away not only by the solid storytelling and ridiculously good characterization, but also because I didn’t know that comics like this existed. I had read some other Vertigo books, but I hadn’t really experienced such a complete story told over 66 issues (plus some one-shots). Ennis has never been better than in Preacher. He’s maybe been more shocking in The Boys, a book I just can’t get into, but being shocking only really works the first time around (though I do admit the meat woman stuck in my head and I was weirdly looking forward to seeing it again, especially after all the in-story build up to what’s in that cold storage warehouse). Another rad aspect of the book is that pretty much everyone gets an ending. I’m not just talking about our leads, but Herr Starr, The Saint of Killers, Arseface, Featherstone, Hoover, Lori, John Wayne, the town of Salvation, Genesis and, of course, God. You might not get the God vs. Preacher finale you were thinking would take place, but the actual ending makes a heck of a lot more sense when you think about what all the characters have gone through and experienced. I think not going with the more obvious kind of ending was pretty brave on Ennis’ part. I can’t wait to read Preacher again in the near future, which puts it on an equal playing field with favorites of mine like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Usual Suspects, Halloween and other Best Of The Best honorees.
PREACHER: DIXIE FRIED (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #27-33, Preacher Special: Cassidy – Blood & Whiskey
EXPECT SPOILERS AHEAD After reading through the first three volumes of Preacher, I skipped the fourth because it collects most of the one-shots and minis related to the book. Usually, I read them in order, but this time I decided to just stick with the issues and whatever extras might be included in those collections. The Blood & Whiskey issue shows Cassidy meeting his first ever fellow vampire a few years before meeting Jesse and Tulip. This guy’s a complete wanker–to use Cassidy’s colorful language–who plays up on the whole Interview With A Vampire style. It seems like it might be a throw away one-shot, but it comes back into play later on this issues.
The other early comics reunite Jesse and Tulip, remember, he left her in France before going off to get Cass back. Arseface also shows back up wanting vengeance against Jesse for his father’s death but instead gets turned into a pop star. The book ends with Jesse trying to find out what Genesis knows by meeting with a witch doctor acquaintance of Cassidy’s who asks a snake god to get inside Jesse so he can ask it questions about Genesis. While that’s going on, the dead vampire from the one shot’s former acolytes show up for their revenge.
Most importantly though as far as the overarching story goes, Cassidy professes his out-of-nowhere love for Tulip which skeeves her out as you might expect. Tulip also finds out from the witch doctor that Cassidy tends to leave chaos in his wake, even if he doesn’t mean to. Overall this is a solid trade, it’s not one of my favorites–the I do love Blood & Whiskey and the voodoo stuff–but it’s also not my least favorite. There’s a lot of important steps and moments that help us get towards the end, but it gets a little–wait for it–preachy. Not in the way that anyone’s up on a soap box telling you what to think, but sometimes Jesse and company go on these long monologues about political correctness or psychobabble that make the book feel a little dated. It gets worse in the next volume though.
PREACHER: WAR IN THE SUN (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon and Peter Snejbjerg
Collects Preacher #34-40, Preacher Special: One Man’s War
War In The Sun is my least favorite Preacher trade. It’s not awful and a bad Preacher trade is still better than the best of some other books. My problem with it is that it feels kind of like filler and it seems to have more of the preachy stuff I mentioned above than any of the other volumes. But like I said, it’s still a good read. The one-shot explains Herr Starr’s history, which is good because he plays a big part in this book, going so far as to requisition a whole tank division of the United States Military through his Grail connections and using them to attack the Saint of Killers while he tries to separate Tulip from Jesse. He figures that if he has Tulip he can control Jesse. It’s probably a pretty good bet, but things go to shit and Starr gets out by having a nuke dropped on everyone. Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are in a plane, but Jesse’s falling out and Cass him, but Jesse uses The Word to get Cass to drop him so he doesn’t burn to death thus setting up one of the most heartbreaking things in the book: Tulip and Cassidy shacking up in a haze of drug and drink. It’s unclear if Cass is completely manipulating her or if Tulip wanted to loose herself in these things, but the moment when Jesse sees Cass lay a kiss on her literally knocks him on the ground and me too, even though I’ve read this three times and knew it was coming.
Maybe it’s the sadness that makes me not like this book as much. It’s kind of the Empire of the series with everything ending on a pretty down note. Even Herr Starr has to deal with cannibals trying to eat him which kind of makes me feel bad for him (I’m a sucker for a guy whose leg gets cut off and eaten while the other one is chained to a wall in a old mine, I guess). However, all the business in the desert with Herr Starr, the Army and the Saint is tight and crazy.
Even after writing all this, I feel like I’m being too hard on this collection. It’s funny how that works out. The next trade has traditionally been my favorite, so I’m excited to check it out again and see if it still holds that spot.
PREACHER: GONE TO TEXAS (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #1-7
Preacher, like Starman, is one of my all-time favorite comic books. Also like Starman, I read Preacher all the way through for the first time while I was an intern at Wizard. Everyone was raving about it and I knocked out both series’ in 9 weeks with some other stuff. I read the whole thing through a while back when I triumphantly got all the trades either through Swap or cheap trade bins at cons (what can I say, I’m cheap). Over the weekend, I got it in my head that I wanted to re-read it again for the third time and damn, I’ve been having a great time. I’m three trades in and wish I could read faster because it’s SO GOOD.
Between my second and third readings, the Totally Rad Show guys talked about Garth Ennis and host Dan Trachtenberg said that Preacher is his favorite piece of fiction ever. That stuck in my head and have been thinking about it a lot while reading. And, while I do think the book relies a bit heavily on coincidence, I’m starting to think I might agree with him. It’s definitely my favorite comic book. But I should probably talk about why. Be warned, SPOILERS follow.
For one thing, the book starts out brilliantly. We begin with our three main heroes Jesse Custer (the titular Preacher and star of the book), his former girlfriend Tulip and Cassidy (the vampire). Sure, that might sound like the beginning of a joke, but I appreciate that Ennis starts his book with the group, who has just met up, talking about what happened. Sure, it’s a little exposition-y, but I prefer this way more to a lot of current team books that feel the need to explain every step without getting right into the action. The action I’m speaking of, is that Jesse–an actual preacher–just had an escaped prisoner from heaven named Genesis jump into his body, killing everyone in the town instantaneously. Turns out Genesis is the spawn of an angel and a demon and was imprisoned because he was a new idea. Gensis living inside Jesse means that he has what Tulip dubbed “The Word” which means, when he speaks in red fonts, anyone who understands him has to do whatever he says.
The first volume explains how these three came together (Jesse and Tulip dated, but he ran out five years ago. After a botched assassination attempt, she tried to steal Cassidy’s truck, but the two wound up traveling towards Jesse together), hints at everyone’s shadowy pasts, introduces us to Arseface and his asshole dad as well as some angels and raises the Saint of Killers from his slumber to go after Custer. It’s dense, but not hard to follow (strange as that might sound). The second half of the book features Cassidy taking Tulip and Jesse to NYC (a recurring setting in the book) where he tries to get them help through an old friend. It doesn’t end well.
Here’s what I love about the book: Jesse Custer, for all his faults–and he has lots–he’s a good man and a true hero. He does the right thing (as far as he’s concerned) and doesn’t let anything get in his way. Sure, it helps that he can make any English speaking person do whatever he says, but I get the feeling he’d at least try regardless. There’s a lot to Jesse Custer, which is good because that’s what the whole series is about.
PREACHER: UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #8-17
Until The End Of The World helps us understand Jesse Custer even better as we’re introduced to his Grandmother and henchmen, a meaner group of people you’ve never seen before. Jigsaw from the Saw flicks read this book and was like “Whoa, ease up.” To give you an idea, not only did they shoot Jesse’s dad right in front of him when he was five, but they also had a tendency to lock the boy in an airtight coffin and drop him in the lake. For weeks, sometimes months, which is when he started talking to an imaginary John Wayne. As you might expect, these aren’t the type of family members you want to spend a Sunday brunch of barbecue with. In fact, you might just want to barbecue the lot of them and be done with it.
This trade has one of my favorite “villain getting beat” moments of all time. After seeing Tulip get shot in the face right in front of him and reliving all the terrible moments of his life that these people inflicted on him, Jesse gets a good talking-to by the Duke, gets himself free and sets out to kick some redneck ass. If it was a movie, I would raise my fists in the air and yell every time I read it, but since it’s a comic, I’d drop it on my foot or something, so I just get really excited. Think of that moment in every movie where the asshole bad guy finally gets what’s coming to him and put it onto a comic page. That’s how it is!
But that’s not all! The second half of the book reunites our trio of heroes (Cass took a little vacay at the end of the first), sets them on the trail of some people involved with the death of his girlfriend, meets Herr Starr and the Grail an Armageddon-obsessed Christian group with people EVERYWHERE and the ridiculously over the top Jesus de Sade, thrower of the grossest sex and drug parties ever committed to fiction. Which brings up an element of the book that keeps me from recommending it to everyone: it’s kind of gross. You’ll see and hear about just about every outside-the-box sexual practice ever committed or thought about. There’s lots of drug usage and references and I would imagine hardcore Christians would be highly offended (the Grail has been making sure the descendants of Jesus–the religious figure, not de Sade–have been inter-mingling to keep the bloodline pure, resulting in, well, an incestuous mess. I was raised Catholic and know where a lot of the imagery comes from, but it doesn’t bother me. So if any of those things are sacred cows (or cows you want to avoid altogether) this is not the book for you. However, if you want to challenge yourself, give it a shot (unless you’re related to me, I don’t want you guys thinking I’m a huge weirdo for loving this comic so much, I swear, it’s the story not the weird sex parties I like).
PREACHER: PROUD AMERICANS (Vertigo)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Steve Dillon
Collects Preacher #18-26
This third volume of Preacher fills in some more holes in Jesse’s dad’s story as Jesse happens to meet up with his dad’s old army buddy Space and discovers where his dad’s lighter came from (John Wayne gave it to him) and an idea of the kind of man he was (a lot like Jesse is now, as it turns out, a good man who doesn’t take any shit). After that, the story focuses on Jesse and Tulip heading after Cassidy who was captured by the Grail who thought he was Jesse. The ruse doesn’t last long and things get even hotter at the Grail locale as the All Father (the big–literally–boss shows up with the aforementioned descendant of Jesus). See, Herr Starr wants to kill the child and tell the world that Jesse is the actual descendant because he can make anyone do whatever he wants. As you might expect, Jesse doesn’t like this plan too much. Once again, he ignores the huge odds against him, storms the castle, saves his friend, meets Genesis’ dad, makes Starr’s head look like a penis thanks to a knife wound and makes a deal with the Saint of Killers. The bad part? He left Tulip behind after arguing with her the whole trip about her joining him in battle. As Jesse explained, it’s just in a man to want to protect his woman, can’t be helped.
Before we discover what happens with Tulip (if you’re reading the books in order it will take a while as the next installment collects all the minis and one-shots about side characters) we hang out with Jesse and Cass in NYC again as Cass tells Jesse about his origin (not just how he became a vampire, but why he was where he got turned and what he did afterwards). After coming to America, Cass falls in love with NYC and the country as a whole. Is it weird that one of the most touching pieces of writing about this country of ours comes from an Irish writer and through the mouth of an Irish vampire?
Reading this comic makes me want to be a better man and I don’t mean that in a Jack Nicholson-in-As Good As It Gets way. I mean like a damn man, a cowboy. Someone who stands up for what they believe in, doesn’t take any shit and isn’t so damn worried about what other people will think about him that he won’t ask the guy at the coffee shop what he was talking about with someone else if it interests him. Anyway, the book with all of its craziness and bravado just gets me so pumped up. I know there are some really down moments coming up and I don’t even care. I’m jazzed to be going on this journey again. I thin I’ll be done by next week, though I may split the posts up. We’ll see. In the meantime cowboy up!
Last night Em and I got back from Wizard World Philly and, as always, it was a trip.
After picking up Justin and Rickey , we got to the show Friday morning and got right to work after getting some lunch after checking in. The highlight of my day was sort of moderating a Q&A panel with Tom Savini, a man whose work I’ve been enjoying since I started watching horror movies. I say “sort of” because Tom handled the thing pretty much on his own while I struggled with a laptop. For anyone in attendance, I swear I’m slightly more adept at computers than I appeared at the panel. Tom was a great sport though and once we got everything up and running he showed off the next installment of Chill Factor, which was a story he wrote and directed and had the students that work with him to learn filmmaking do the rest. It was pretty rad, so keep an eye out for it. Em was even nice enough to video tape the whole thing, so maybe I’ll get it up on YouTube at some point. I didn’t, however, get a picture with him because I was running around so much.
Later that day there was a big toy industry panel that was super interesting, just like last years’. Look for more information on that in ToyFare. Friday night we grabbed lunch at a place called the Field House (you can actually spend the full weekend at WWP without going outside if you want to because so many things are connected around there). After that we headed down the hotel bar and had a good time. It’s always fun to sit there and see who you’ll run into. I ended up talking to guys like Shane Davis, Dennis Calero and Matt Serra, a fighter who was super nice. Plus, you always see random people walking through the lobby.
After a late night we got up and headed back over to the convention center. If you guys didn’t hear, Jesse Falcon showed off some potential future Marvel Legends for 2010 at his panel (X-Force Warpath, Lady Bullseye and Maddrox!). It was rad getting a peek at those and we’ll be getting more info at SDCC.
After that I headed over to Emma Caufield’s booth and escorted her to her panel room which was packed. For those of you who might not know, she’s Anya from Buffy. She did a great job and everyone really seemed to have a great time with it. As a Buffy fan, I was one of those people having a great time. I’m really hoping that the future projects she talked about come out quickly.
Right after that we had a really great Customizing 101 panel with Matt “Iron Cow” Cauley, Bobby Torres (why can’t I find a link?!) and Pierre “Airmax” Kalenzaga. I learned a lot about toy customizing and I really want to give it a go. Now I need a studio. Or a man cave. I’m still hoping for man cave.
But, the big event of the night for us toy guys was the second annual ToyFare Hall of Fame awards. It was great seeing most of last year’s winners along with this years’ (Jesse Falcon, Tim Bruckner and Aaron Archer from Hasbro for Transformers, Randy Bowen couldn’t make it). Justin did a great job with the presentation and I muddled through with my Power Point presentation. I think it went well and everyone was really happy.
That night Wizard threw a party along with Kaiju Big Battle at a place called The Trocadero that was a 130 years old. As you may be able to see from the picture we were up in the balcony looking down on the fight. It was pretty crazy, though a little slow. Tired from standing all day, a few of us migrated into the adjoining room where karaoke ended up taking place. But it took a while. A bunch of the people we were with filled out the slips to sing and we were sitting there waiting and the room got PACKED. Then some guy said something about Skeletor. I had no idea what that was about until freaking Skeletor showed up. This guy was great, but what no one knew was that it was a gong show. So, you got up to sing and he’d gong you. Sam got gonged unceremoniously early which was BS, but Justin, Alex and Jim all got up there and rocked the mic. I missed a full on, all dude version of “I Am The Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor” because Em and I had to bolt, but it was worth it cause I think I would have passed out if I stayed in that room any longer. Check out the slideshow below for some incredibly blurry photos of the creepy stairs up to the bar, the Kaiju battle, the karaoke area, Justin, Sam and Alex singing. Plus some shots of Skeletor. Maybe I’ll tell people I did all this in Photoshop.
After that we met back up in the lobby where I got to meet some more cool people, but the funniest thing was seeing a bunch of people who just got back from a wedding reception at about 12:30AM looking at Lou Ferrigno walking away and being absolutely shocked. I’m guessing they didn’t know anything about the con and that was a pretty awesome experience for them.
Sunday was slower because it didn’t last as long, which was good because I think most of us were pretty exhausted. Justin, Alex and I had a Twisted ToyFare Theatre panel that was a lot of fun. We got a lot of good questions and it’s funny because I’m starting to recognize the people that show up to the toy panels. I also plugged the blog after some cajoling, so hopefully one or two of you guys made your way over here and are liking the site.
The highlight of the day though was getting a sketch by Steve Dillon. I am a huge, HUGE Preacher fan and got him to do a Jesse Custer, which was well worth the donation to Hero Initiative. Heck, I would have probably paid my last paycheck (don’t tell Em). I don’t think Em had ever seen me geek out that much, I was super psyched. After that we got our things together, I had yet another cheesesteak (with whiz, this time, it’s way better that way) and we made the long trek back through New Jersey.
All in all, it was hard work, but a ton of fun as cons tend to be. The people I talked to all seemed to have a good time and I’m looking forward to the next one.