So. One fantasy Western reminded me of the fantastickest Western of them all.
After all these years I finished Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Preacher.”
And it was great. And I’m sad.
The dissolution of friendships is one of the saddest topics available to the writer. Death happens quick and inevitably; when passion ends, we nod with the wisdom that “everything that goes up, must come down.” But friendship is supposed to be a steady stream; it does dry out, we acknowledge that, but it does so slowly, in undramatic manners.
Not the friendship between Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and Cassidy in “Preacher.”
That one ended with Jesse plummeting from an airplane and half of Monument Valley exploding- a nuclear explosion from which the series took (literally) years to recover.
“Preacher”‘s final sections ( “Salvation,” “All Hell’s A-Comin'” and “Alamo”) begin with the bombing of John Ford’s favorite locale, which is fitting: Western cliches are examined and exploded in the detour that Jesse takes to the too-appropriately named town of Salvation, TX. This is where I abandoned “Preacher” years ago, feeling that Ennis had forgotten the initial thrust of the comic, (and the central interplay between Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) for what felt like an idle vacation. Jesse had been on a purpose-driven quest to face a retreating God… why would he drop it all to dilly-dally on a small town?
It felt like Ennis and Dillon were stalling, playing for time. A reader, even one frustrated by the detour, could sympathize: the premise of “Preacher” demanded a conclusion of such Miltonian epicness, who could blame Ennis if he didn’t have the cojones to write it?
Returning to it almost 15 years later, armed with the mature gift of patience, I see how psychologically necessary that time in Salvation, TX is. I see how only the passage of time could convince me when the friendship between Cassidy and Jesse turns sour. A lesser writer would have taken them from buds to enemies with one shock revelation, one all-out bar fight… and would have make the characters less worthy of our respect. We wouldn’t have CARED about their friendship dying, because a friendship that breaks with one quarrel was never worthy of the name.
Instead, Ennis scatters his characters and let time erode them- and rebuild them.
Jesse needed time away from the main story-line to earn his salvation; Tulip needed months of addiction and self-pity to get fed up; Cassidy needed months of dragging Tulip down to provoke our disdain- because only once he had our disdain could we, perhaps, forgive him.
“Preacher” needed time away from looking for God to find what it always was REALLY trying to find: America.
(And of course, Arseface needed time away from rock and roll stardom to learn that sometimes, all an arsefaced boy needs is a one-eyed girl and love.)
RATING : MASTERPIECE!!!
“Now the Preachin’ is over… and the Lesson’s begun.” – Willie Nelson, “Time of the Preacher”