Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why Should I Read... Preacher?


As humans, it's the first thing we learn to ask. It's inherent, in our nature, in our very core of existence to ask, to want to know. The problem we have is what we do when we don't have an answer to hand.

Preacher takes you through one man's "why". Your guide is Garth Ennis, and to be honest with you, Garth is more than a little messed up. Reading Preacher is a little like asking a syphilitic Bulgarian whore to guide you through your home town. You'll think you know what you're going to see, but you sure as hell won't have looked at it this way before, and when you've finished you'll be itchy and smell funny.

You can read about Garth Ennis all over the place. He's regarded very highly in his field and he made his name on Preacher. I don't need to sell you this stuff. It's been done. But I can tell you why I love it.

Real life is a smorgasbord. An eclectic mix of happiness, anger, sadness and contentment. For most, life is lead by its relationships. Your family, your friends, your boss, your significant other - all the people who have direct influence over your life. The best stories, in this blogger's erstwhile opinion, are those which show you people. Ennis creates characters who are relatable. There's nothing unique about that, any good writer will do it. What Ennis does is show you people. People in their glory, people in their shame. He centres his story around a reverend. A reverend who fights, drinks, swears and has sex. All good reverends should, because that's life. The reverend can speak with the Voice of God, is hunted by saints, angels and the Vatican army, has a best friend who's a vampire and wants to punch God in the face. Well, that's not so much what people are about, but it's the hook for the meat to hang on.

That's Ennis' magic. Here's a story about heaven and hell, about vampires and secret Papal armies. Here's a story about people who shoot themselves in the face and don't die, but just end up looking like an arse. Here's a story about a man who has sex with a massive pile of meat shaped like a woman. Here's a story about a cowboy who takes over from the Angel of Death. Ennis serves all this up to his readers and we tuck in like a fat kid at second breakfast. You eat and you eat, because all the swearing, fighting and fucking sit on your meal like so much salt and pepper. It tastes good. Ennis cooks up depth, intrigue and history and heaps them on your plate while you're still savouring your favourite mouthfuls. When you are almost full, he brings you comic relief as a palette cleansing sorbet. It's not too saccharin, it fits and you know why it's there; because without it you'd vomit when you moved from your starter of drug addiction and child abuse to your main of religious fanaticism and the loss of family.

You finish eating. You wipe your mouth with your serviette and you walk away from the table, full from the banquet of fantasy reading. A few days later, when you look at yourself naked in the mirror, you have love handles. They're not made of vampires and rednecks like you thought they were. They are filled with the understanding of human condition.

Is my meal metaphor played out? Yeah, it probably is. Don't worry, I'll close out with the one I almost used and you'll be grateful for the food bit. My point is that Preacher has something to sate any appetite. It is made up of all the brutal ridiculousness of life. You can read Preacher and take away as little or as much as you like. Ennis has a multilayered story, that ebbs and flows as well as anything else I've ever read.

It's hard to read though. It's crude, cruel and filthy. Like life. Trouble with that is that the reader will have to want to confront life to read it. So if when you asked why for the first time, you couldn't cope with "I don't know yet." as an answer, Preacher isn't for you. The art work is visceral, gritty. Ennis's story blends with it beautifully, to create a purple-headed beast that takes "I don't know" and shoves it up your arse. You can scream all you want, but that's where it's headed. My advice would be relax and enjoy it, otherwise you might tear something.

Chris Boyle has more metaphors than you've had hot dinners.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, wonderful and it'll bring a tear to your eye......oh and the article is good too! :-p