Review by Karl Verhoven
“Just one question and I won’t bother you again Ma’am. Is this your husband’s scrotum?” That just about sums up Preacher. Don’t find it funny? Don’t bother with the rest. When first published in 1995 Preacher re-defined the Vertigo imprint, moving it away from the narrow horror furrow it occupied into more character based drama. Among other praiseworthy attributes, it appears pretty obvious that Preacher begat Jason Aaron.
Five years after they split up Tulip O’Hare runs across an unconscious Jesse Custer in the ruins of a burnt out church. He’s dressed as a preacher and has newly developed an ability to have people do as he says. She’s hitched a lift with a guy named Cassidy who likes to sleep under a tarpaulin in the back of his truck. These three are the core cast, attempting to make sense of what’s happened to Custer and why. And perhaps why he occasionally appears to have conversations with a big, bow-legged drawling guy in a stetson.
Their journey is a meandering one, not completed in this book, so rather than fixating on answers, for maximum commitment to Preacher go with the road movie style plot, relish the rich dialogue, and indulge yourself by sniggering at the bad language, cast of grotesques and the unfortunate situations in which many find themselves. A strength of Garth Ennis’ writing here and elsewhere is introducing irredeemably bad characters and leading them to a thoroughly deserved, and usually imaginative, fate.
It’s interesting to see Steve Dillon still adding detail to his illustrations. He’s not the most expressive of artists, but in the land where men are men and most women are thankful, he doesn’t have to be. Thankfully also, the covers from the original comics by Glenn Fabry are included, although if you really want indulge in his rich naturalism, look out Preacher: Dead or Alive, an annotated collection that’s exclusively his covers.
As entertaining as Gone to Texas is, there are mis-steps. Ennis builds up to situations that have little pay-off, and with Preacher long concluded, re-visiting the origins displays attempts to appeal to Vertigo’s then primary audience of contemporary horror fans. Most elements associated with that were discarded along the way as Deliverance, Wild at Heart, and Unforgiven became the template, and for that reason the second three part story improves on the introductory piece. It’s relatively straightforward, but surprises, amuses and shocks.
In his introduction to the series, sadly not reprinted in the standard paperback collection, Ennis refers to the title Gone to Texas as “a sodding great title for anything. It sounds big and wide and epic and downright American”, which equally refers to Preacher as a whole. Strange, then, that it took a Northern Irishman and Englishman to create it.
In 2009 the Preacher books were re-formatted, spreading what was previously nine collections over six hardcover volumes. Gone to Texas forms the bulk of Preacher Book One. The next volume is Until the End of the World.