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It's Time to Head to Church and See Preacher

It's Time to Head to Church and See Preacher

By Amy Ratcliffe Friday, May 20th, 2016

Whether it's on the page or screen, Preacher is an experience unlike any other. In a new series of posts, writer Amy Ratcliffe wades into the comic series which inspired AMC's new show, hitting the road with Custer, Tulip and Cassidy, and taking us all along for the ride.

The town of Annville, Texas is about to change forever. Again. The sleepy locale is the setting for AMC's Preacher, an adaptation of the comic of the same name by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon. When their local preacher, Jesse Custer, receives a new and powerful gift, Annville gets more interesting—for better or worse.

With the May 22 premiere of Preacher nigh, it seemed like the present was a fine time to get to know the comic book inspiration. I was only vaguely familiar with the Vertigo title published from 1995-2000, and I do mean vaguely. PREACHER was like the cool person I met at the bar and wanted to get coffee with but I'd forgotten its name. I desperately wish I would have taken the time to make a note of the name in my phone or on a scrap of napkin because this appointment with PREACHER was long overdue.

My meeting with the first volume was bloody, fierce, and captivating. I stayed up late reading, taking the very real risk of Dillon's explosive imagery pushing its way into my dreams. I quickly learned PREACHER is the sort of story that puts its feelers into your brain and grabs on—but not in a creepy, mind control sort of way.

If you're coming to the comic after viewing the premiere of the television series, know that the AMC take is not a straight up retelling of the comic. The core cast of characters is present—characters like Jesse, Cassidy, Tulip, and Arseface. Annville is a fixture. The Word of God is a factor. The spirit and raw, unpredictable edge of the comic is carried through to what I've seen of the show.

Some key differences? From the first issue, I was both surprised and impressed with the pace of PREACHER. Not a second of time is wasted in the comic. Jesse, imbued with Genesis, is on the road with the mission of finding God in a heartbeat and the reader is pulled along for the ride. But on the show, Jesse is staying put in Annville for the time being. Genesis comes into the picture, but we're going to see Jesse actually being a preacher.

Television can't move along the same beats as the comic, so it can be more measured about character development. But the intensity, the pushing of the envelope? It's all there.

As with just about any story being adapted for a different medium than what it was originally written for, I see give and take. I see a rich world with considered mythology in the comics waiting for viewers of the TV show to come and find it as I have. And happily, it's easy to do so. All 75 issues (including 66 monthly issues, five one-shot specials, a four part miniseries about Saint of Killers) are collected in six trades for your reading pleasure.

I want to binge the comics like I would a new series on Netflix, but I think I'll benefit from leaving time for settling and processing. I'll be reading one volume each week. This isn't a book club, but you're certainly welcome to join me for the ride and share your thoughts about the comic and TV series along the way.

Preacher premieres Sunday, May 22 at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST) on AMC. Look for more from Amy as she reads further into the Preacher comic next week.