- Preacher, a classic Vertigo series, is a potent blend of western, horror, and crime genres that broke boundaries.
- Each Preacher storyline varies in impact, with some feeling like filler, while others offer tragic backstories and emotional conclusions.
- Gone to Texas kicks off the epic saga, setting up memorable characters and an exciting journey to find God.
When it comes to courting controversy, few comics can match the classic Vertigo series Preacher. Yet for all its shocking content, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s seminal series from the 1990s remains one of the greatest achievements in comic book history. With its potent blend of western, horror and crime genre thrills, Preacher broke boundaries left and right over the course of 66 issues and a handful of specials published from 1995 to 2000.
Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a small-town pastor from Texas who becomes fused with Genesis, the blasphemous offspring of an angel and a demon. This gives Jesse the power of the Word, which forces everyone in earshot to do whatever he says, including the Almighty Himself. Fed up with what’s become of the world, Jesse sets out to find God and make Him answer for all the pain and misery He’s allowed to happen. Joining Jesse on his quest are his ex-girlfriend Tulip O’Hare, a contract killer, and new friend Cassidy, an Irish vampire. Using the original nine trade paperback collections as a basis, here’s how each of the individual Preacher storylines stack up against each other:
The story told in Salvation always felt separate from the larger story being told, primarily because that was how it was supposed to be read. After his fateful confrontation with the Saint of Killers, Jesse Custer finds himself in Salvation, TX, missing an eye and with no memory of how he got there. Jesse winds up taking over the role of Sheriff of the town, where he comes up against meat magnate Odin Quincannon and the stranglehold he has over the small town. Some of the most delightfully disturbing moments occur during this arc, and there is also an emotional reunion between Jesse and his long-lost mother, but the whole story can’t help but feel like filler padding the series out until we get back to the main storyline.
8 Ancient History Collects Preacher‘s Side Stories
Saint of Killers #1-4, The Story of You-Know-Who and The Good Ole Boys
Collecting the Saint of Killers miniseries and The Story of You-Know-Who and The Good Ole Boys one-shots, Ancient History is another volume that could be written off as unnecessary side tales to the larger story of Jesse on his mission to find God. The Saint of Killers miniseries is a must-read, as readers learn the origins of the Old West Angel of Death, taking a one-note villain and giving him his own tragic backstory that informs his character. The Story of You-Know-Who also tells how Eugene Root became Arseface, providing heartbreaking insight into one of the series’ best characters. The Good Ole Boys is entirely skippable, but it does give fans a solo story about Jody and T.C., two of the nastiest villains in the entire series.
7 Dixie Fried Shows Cassidy’s True Colors
Dixie Fried represents a sort of pause in the ongoing story of Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy. Not much of any serious consequence happens here as the gang travels to New Orleans, but it does set up some pretty major story beats to come. For one, this is the first sign that the fun-loving Cassidy has a darker side to him, which will be the main source of conflict for the characters moving forward. It also comes with the patented Preacher blend of ultra-violence and irreverent humor, as the gang runs afoul of some wannabe human “vampires.”
6 Alamo Brings the Story to Its Emotional Conclusion
When a bonafide phenomenon ends, it always carries some measure of disappointment. The end can never measure up to the one readers have built up in their heads, and it also comes with the realization that this is it: after this last story, there’s no more Preacher to enjoy. Several final showdowns take place in this last batch of issues: Tulip vs. Starr and the Grail, the Saint of Killers vs. God and Jesse vs. Cassidy. All of them end in a way that’s more emotional than they are “epic,” which could leave some readers disappointed. At the end of everything, though, Preacher is a love story, and it’s hard not to get choked up at seeing Jesse and Tulip ride off into the sunset together in the series’ final moments.
5 Gone to Texas Kicks Off the Epic Saga
The two storylines collected in Gone to Texas set the stage excellently for the series that is to come. Preacher lets readers know what they’re in for right away, telling the story of how Jesse got possessed by Genesis and setting him on the path to find God. Each character is introduced in a memorable way, with the introduction of the Saint of Killers sticking out as especially creepy. While enjoyable, there are some stumbles as the creators are finding their feet. Ennis relies a bit too much on coincidence to move the story forward, and there are some clumsy moments in these early issues. There’s still a lot to love here in the debut volume, not the least being that it’s the beginning of one of the greatest comic series of all time.
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4 All Hell’s A-Coming Reveals Tulip & Cassidy’s Backstory
The penultimate volume of Preacher looks to the past before closing the series out, setting the stage for the final confrontation between all the characters. We get a look at Tulip’s childhood all the way up to when she met Jesse, and the one-shot Tall in the Saddle provides a glimpse of their criminal days on the road. But perhaps the most effective story deals with Cassidy’s early days in America, where we see the Irish vampire mess up his life (and the lives of others) time and time again. Cassidy shifts into the “villain” role as the series reaches its denouement, but the story about his early life shows that such simplistic labels don’t really fit in the world of Preacher.
3 War in the Sun Features Death in Monument Valley
War in the Sun represents a turning point for Preacher, as the cataclysmic events depicted therein change everything for the characters going forward from here. Jesse confronts the Saint of Killers in Monument Valley and lives to tell the tale, but the ensuing conflict with the U.S. military means that he has to make a choice between his life and Tulip and Cassidy’s. It’s perhaps the biggest storyline of the entire series, which ends with Jesse presumed dead by the story’s end. As an added bonus, this volume also contains the One Man’s War one-shot, which tells the origin of perhaps the nastiest villain in the entire series, Herr Starr.
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Preacher’s ‘Fear of the Lord’ includes one of the most graphic and horrifying storylines from the original comic series.
2 Proud Americans Depicts Jesse’s Showdown with the Grail
Major revelations occur in Proud Americans, the third collection in the Preacher series. It’s an action-packed ride through Europe as Jesse and Tulip seek to rescue Cassidy by storming the headquarters of the Grail, a religious organization wishing to use Jesse as their new messiah. Readers finally learn the true origin of Genesis, as Jesse uncovers the angel who fathered his spiritual other half chained up deep within the bowels of the Grail’s headquarters. It’s also here where Starr takes full control of the Grail, setting himself up as the biggest obstacle Jesse and the gang will face moving forward. Additional looks at Jesse’s father in Vietnam and how Cassidy became a vampire are just frosting on the cake, resulting in one of the best Preacher volumes of them all.
1 Until the End of the World Reveals How Jesse Became a Preacher
It’s a tough call, but Until the End of the World is probably the best of all the Preacher volumes, solely because it includes the seminal “All in the Family” story arc. It’s here that fans learn how Jesse Custer became a preacher, as we witness the trauma and abuse he experienced at the hands of his “Gran’ma” Marie L’Angelle. “All in the Family” is where Preacher truly comes into its own as a series, consisting of some of the most memorable moments in the entire run. Learning Jesse’s backstory adds so much to his character, and establishes that the beating heart of this series is the relationship between Jesse and Tulip.
This volume also contains the story “Hunters,” a marked step down from the previous story, but still important in that it introduces Herr Starr and the Grail to the twisted world of Preacher. Whether it was shocking readers with its violent excess or tugging at the heartstrings with some of the best-written characters in comics, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher has stood the test of time as not just one of the greatest Vertigo titles, but one of the best comic book series of all time.