Preacher is a comic book title that was synonymous with the 90’s. Older comic book fans might have read or heard about it at the time, but there is a huge audience of new comic book readers spawned from their introduction to comics through the Marvel cinematic universe that have never heard of the classic book. So with that in mind, AMC’s adaptation of Preacher will leave a lot of viewers shocked and sucked in to the intriguing, and insane, story. And with the show adding more backstory, along with being a faithful adaptation of the comics, Preacher is a refreshing treat for even the most die hard fan of the comic due to the newness it brings to the story. But because of how close to the comic it seems so far, and that the show chose a different route in storytelling from the comic, this review will be as spoiler free and as vague as possible.
Jesse Custer, a preacher with a violent past, returns to Texas after being gone for years to run a church. Down on his luck, and questioning his own faith, he tries to escape his old life by trying to be a part of the community as best as possible. Tulip, Jesse’s ex girlfriend, returns to town while on the run to persuade Jesse to join her on a new job. Struggling to resist his old life, Jesse refuses to join Tulip while still wondering if he’s cut out for his new life as a preacher. Meanwhile, a mysterious man by the name of Cassidy gets in to a fight on an airplane with a group of people bent on killing him. (Being extremely vague, sorry) The group fails to kill the seemingly indestructible Irishman, and Cassidy jumps out of the plane to leave it to crash. Landing in Texas, he eventually meets Jesse in a bar and the two become friends through their shared experiences in a bar fight and jail.
While all of this is transpiring, a mysterious entity from space is targeting preachers and possessing them. After a few failed attempts, one which resulted in the death of Tom Cruise, the entity finally finds a suited vessel in Jesse Custer. Jesse, unaware that he’s now possessed, gives one of his followers some advice he’s given him a few times, which is to tell his controlling mother how he feels about her treatment of him and open his heart to her. But this time, his words are affected by the entity inside him and his church member literally opens his heart up to his mother. The episode ends with Jesse, still unaware that something is inside of him, addressing his church and swearing to its members that he would try to be a better preacher for them. Meanwhile, two men whom were in pursuit of the entity track it down to Jesse’s town.
What I liked
The comic book starts off by laying all 0f the cards on the table. It explains what the entity is, what’s going on in the story surrounding it, and why Jesse is possessed by it close to the beginning of the first issue. The story behind the entity is rushed through in order to get the ball rolling faster. As far as the comics are concerned, it was less interesting to explore than the stories that followed afterwards. And while that may have worked extremely well for the comics, the series chose to surround it in mystery instead. The pilot for Preacher gives the audience nothing in an explanation of what is happening. The vague commercials gave nothing away, and the pilot itself leaves more answers than the audience may have had before watching it. Even Eugene’s face and past is left unexplained. The bold choice to not lay all the cards down immediately for mystery and suspense instead was brilliant, and actually makes readers of the comic a little envious of viewers tuning in with no idea of what’s happening.
The episode is basically a heavily fleshed out version of the first issue. In fact, it almost feels like a prequel to the first issue considering how much it doesn’t follow it, and how it’s focused more on building the characters far before the true story starts. Preacher was only sixty-six issues, so it would make for a shorter story if the show followed it exactly. However, the exploration in to the characters, the town, and the added plot mysteries breathe new life in to what was an amazing story on its own. And while the execution of the story isn’t as extreme as the comic, it’s still bizarre and and still pushes the envelope. The 90’s were a different time. And while Garth Ennis was less concerned with pushing the envelope and leaning more towards dousing it in gasoline and setting it on fire, the series maintains the feel of the comic without ever needing to rely too much on shock value.
What I disliked
I loved the look and feel of the show. And despite the casting on certain characters having no resemblance to their comic book counterparts, I was fine with the choices made. But the only change that bothered me, and the only thing I truly disliked about the episode, is how Eugene looks. I understand that there will always be changes from adaptations, and that there is probably a reason his look was toned down from the comics, but it’s hard to overlook it while knowing that there was once a more faithful adaptation of him before the show. Preacher has been in development for a series since the 90’s. And due to that, different showrunners, networks, and actors have been involved with the project throughout the years. Not much came from the previous adaptations except for talk, but one adaptation actually made it to makeup testing. And while the current look on the show isn’t bad at all, knowing that someone actually pulled off a more faithful version makes it harder for me to ignore. Perhaps a more faithful version would have been too much for television. But I would have liked something closer to the previous test pictures from one of the cancelled adaptations. You can see the early 2000’s make up test here.
Preacher is fun, dark, and a mix of different genres. The show not only captured the tone perfectly, it also made it better in the process. The pilot sets up what will be one of the most unique television shows to actually make it on air, and is considered a win for comic book fans that have waited for an adaptation of the comic. Preacher was the Chinese Democracy/Duke Nukem Forever of comic book adaptations. And unlike the other two mentioned, it actually delivered what we were waiting for. The pilot for Preacher left a lot of people with questions, and immediately pulled the audience in. But the best part about the pilot is that it merely scratched the surface of the story to come. And that alone is enough to get excited over.