Preacher: Rednecks and Religion

I’m almost lost for words. Having read 5 volumes of the Preacher comic lately, I’m currently a jumble of thought. A combination of sex, religion, backwards rednecks and vampires, the comic ticks all the boxes. Oh, and then there’s the biting cynicism and wit. Deliriously good. Anyway, it’s rare to find a gem that encompasses many of my research topics pre-9/11 and delivers it in the same manner as some of the more recent material such as True Blood (which y’all should watch if you’re into corrupt religion and morally ambiguous monsters). I’ll give a quick outline of the story of Preacher. Reverend Jesse Custer (note the initials) is a small town preacher, until a burning meteor of holy matter (named Genesis – the product of an illicit tryst between an angel and a devil) possesses him. It gives him powers – not the comparatively tame powers of the X-Men, but the ‘word of god’ which compels the listener to do whatever he says. There’s a particularly memorable scene where he tells a guy to ‘go fuck himself’….I think you can imagine the rest. On the run from a number of authorities, he encounters his ex girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vampire named Cassidy.

Obviously Cassidy was an interesting character given what I spend my time studying and I was pleased to see he eschewed the traditional vampire traits (moodiness, aversion to the cross, only being able to survive on blood, etc). There’s a brilliant issue where he meets a fellow vampire – the criticisms of novels such as Interview with  the Vampire being painfully obvious – and tells him quite bluntly to ‘stop being a wanker.’ Instead of poetry reading, dark and moody meetings in caves, he should be out having fun. Being immortal doesn’t mean giving up a sense of fun, apparently, and being tortured by your nature. For Cassidy, it’s an extreme, a get-out-of-jail-free card for any misdemeanours or offences. Because he can’t die. No amount of mutilation will kill him. Only sunlight. The combination of an alcoholic vampire and the interesting take on religion (God is very much real – although he quit, because ya know, why should he be bothered?) provides a cynical view of modern culture on the whole, but overall, a very refreshing one. Surprisingly, it seems more in tune with the current round of vampire related material – by that I mean the violence of vampire characters like Russell Edgington in True Blood who is exceedingly good at both turning a phrase and remorseless killing and an attitude towards religion which condemns the fundamental and fanatical, something which has increased dramatically since 9/11. It’s also interesting to note that they were written by Ennis and Dillon, who come from the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe the corrosive attitudes of the bible belt and the pretentious presentation of the vampire were all too clear to see…considering Preacher first appeared in 1995, perhaps it’s just taken a long time for the US to catch up and begin to feel able to critique these traits and re-evaluate aspects of identity.

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