I can't claim to know a lot about religion. My time spent in Sunday school and in various pews is far in the past. But I'm relatively certain about one thing when it comes to Catholicism: There are saints for everything. You can pray to the saint of travelers, the saint of sailors, the saint of animals, and yes, even the saint of dental diseases (it's St. Apollonia, in case you're curious and/or in need). But Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's PREACHER has a different sort of saint, one you won't discover in your Patron Saints 101 class—The Saint of Killers.
You know this character isn't going to be a benevolent figure by his name. He's not called the Saint of Stopping Killers from Killing, after all. When we first met him, it was because he was pulled out of a stasis of sorts to take out the Genesis-possessed Jesse Custer. The Saint arrived in Texas quickly, and Ennis and Dillon wasted no time showing the Saint's terrible, violent skills. He took lives without second thought or mercy. The Saint seemed like the most brutal blunt weapon of them all, using his guns to rip through human flesh like an unfeeling machine. His appearance, with his sun-hardened face, cowboy hat, and long jacket, made him look like the hero from a Western film, but he fully occupied antihero space.
Subsequent appearances of the Saint matched the tone of his debut. And by tone, I mean blood and bodily fluids everywhere. He was a one-man hurricane of destruction, and even after watching him work repeatedly, I still couldn't help but be awed by him—not in an impressed way, but in a shocked state. How was he formed into this living weapon? People usually aren't born evil so much as they become evil for some reason or another. And the Saint of Killers is no different.
I wasn't the only one who was curious about the backstory of the Saint. He took center stage in a four part limited series appropriately titled PREACHER: SAINT OF KILLERS, a.k.a. insert tragic backstory here. Though I didn't walk away from the origin tale about what had happened to the man to turn him into the Saint of Killers feeling more supportive of the character, I did find the tiniest space for understanding. Emphasis on tiniest. He was manipulated, and even though we're all ultimately responsible for the decisions we make, even in trying circumstances, it's a challenge to watch events line up against someone to create the worst possible situation. Stories like the Saint's make me think of The Joker's quote in THE KILLING JOKE about how one bad day can ruin anyone.
The loss of his wife and daughter, who were the only parts of his life that made him see a path not involving death and killing, was too much. The Saint's act of vengeance against those he held responsible for those deaths became so much more when he was impaled with a shovel and sent to Hell. He literally made the fiery locale freeze over, which is maybe one of my favorite touches in all of PREACHER. It showed the power he had before he was made the Saint of Killers. Pardon the pun, but the effect was chilling.
The Saint has appeared briefly on AMC's Preacher—though he hasn’t yet been called that formally—in a segment which seems to have been drawn directly from the four issue miniseries. Just saying.
Come back next Friday as I finish reading PREACHER and offer some final thoughts on the series as a whole and a look at where we are with the AMC television adaptation.