First published within a single compilation volume back in March of 1998, ‘Preacher Vol 4: Ancient History’ was written by Garth Ennis with artwork by Steve Pugh.  The compilation volume contained all four issues from the ‘Saint Of Killers’ special, along with the specials ‘The Story Of You-Know-Who’ and ‘The Good Old Boys’.  The volume also includes a two page foreword from series writer and creator Garth Ennis.

Saint Of Killers

Back when he was just a man, all those who crossed his path saw him as nothing but a coldblooded, merciless killer.  They weren’t wrong.  He was that, but yet he still had some good left in his heart.  And it took the love of a good young woman to reach that goodness and draw it out some.

He’d put his old life as a killer behind him.  The two of them had settled down together, building a home high in the mountains, preferring solitude to raucous townlife.  But their idyllically simple life didn’t last.  They’d not long had their second child when the fever came.

He’d ridden out to Ratwater for medicine.  His family needed it if they were to survive the fever.  He knew time was running out for them.  He had to be quick.  Beat the storm.  Ride strong and hard, there and back, if they were to have any chance of surviving the fever.

He would probably have made it back in time had it not been for Gumbo McCready and his men.  They’d gotten in the way.  Fought with him.  Caused him to be delayed.  It had ultimately led to his family’s death.  And through that, it killed all the goodness that had built up within him.  Killed it dead, until he was full of nothing but hate.  Hate and the need to kill…

What a story!  As Garth Ennis explains within his foreword, the tale is a homage to all those classic Westerns; with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, only here set around the Saint of Killers and his pact with the Angel of Death.

The pacing is pounding.  The story feels like a tightly coiled spring, ready to explode at the drop of a hat.  And when it does it really does!

In a nutshell what we have is a tale that gives us the backstory to the character of the Saint of Killers (aka Patron Saint of Murderers and Assassination).  It’s a story that’s supposed to be both myth and legend.  A tale that’s passed down from killer to killer, from generation to generation.

It begins when the Saint of Killers was a just a man.  We see how goodness is nurtured out of his stone-cold heart by a good woman.  And then how it’s killed off in one terrible tragedy that could have been avoided.  Vengeance swells inside the man until he’s all but consumed by it.  It’s all very gritty Western.  However, from here Ennis coerces his tale down a much darker route.  One that sees us plummeting into the abyss of Hell itself and ultimately a pact that is made with the Angel of Death.

It’s an incredible story.  Bursting at the seams with imagination, careful, tight plotting, and a wonderfully inspired continuation of the entire Preacher mythos.  Very possible one of the best additions yet.

The Story Of You-Know-Who

Life was pretty fucking hard when your father was a violent alcoholic with a fixation for getting drunk and shooting up into the night sky hoping to kill the “nigger aliens” that he was convinced were invading.  What made it worse was that he was also the town’s sheriff.  Hugo Root – shit father, failed husband, but dedicated sheriff.  It was enough to make you sick.

Being a seventeen-year-old was tough at the best of times, but having Hugo Root bearing down on you each and every day made life almost unbearable.  At times it felt like no one cared.  Like no one gave a shit what happened to him.  He only existed as a punchbag for those who’d received a tough time from his father.

His one and only friend, ‘Pube’, understood.  He at least seemed to give a shit.  At times, he maybe even cared.  Although recently Pube’s anger at the world had started to bubble over.  And he was pulling ‘Root’ down with him.  Pushing him to do bad stuff.  And then their idol – Kurt Cobain – killed himself…

Another equally excellent story that pumps lifeblood into the veins of one of the pre-existing characters.  It’s possibly the most downbeat and depressing of the Preacher stories (which is saying something), although it’s still somehow splattered with black comedy.  More surprisingly is that these comical aspects actually work in the story.  Don’t feel out of place or railroad the bitterness of the tale.  It’s something that Ennis has always managed to achieve.

As you’d probably guessed, there’s a veritable heap of social commentary within this particular story.  It’s rough and raw and uncompromising in how certain aspects of society and our introspective attitudes are addressed.  Yeah, if you’ve already read the previous volumes then you’ll know how it’s going to end for Root.  How the young lad eventually becomes ‘Arseface’.  However, here we get to see the lead up to and then post-Cobain-copycating, giving us a much deeper understanding of the characters involved.

It’s ugly and pretty damn depressing, but it’s one bastard of a compelling read.  Pretty much sums up the Preacher series actually!

The Good Old Boys

After professional model, Tommi Ryder, is accidentally sent a tape full of evidence incriminating a man named Saddam Hopper, she suddenly finds herself on the run from a very dangerous terrorist.  Furthermore, things go from bad to worse when the helicopter Detective Cal Hicks is transporting her in comes crashing down in the outbacks of Texas.

Saddam Hopper and his men are closing in on the fleeing duo when local rednecks T.C. and Jody stumble across them.  Unfortunately for Hopper’s goons, the mob drastically underestimate the lethal abilities of the two rednecks.  It’s a mistake that will cost them their lives.

But Hopper will stop at nothing to get the incriminating tape back.  With more men on the way, the situation in this outback swampland is worsening by the second.  And Tommi’s supposed knight-in-shining-armour is proving to be more bravado than actual help in the situation.  The problem is, who amongst them should Tommi put her trust in?...

The final story in the volume is another absolute beauty.  Here we have probably the most comical and pulpy of the three.  Set in the remote swamplands of outback Texas, it’s here that we revisit Ms L'Angelle's goons for their very own story.

From what we’ve already seen of the two rednecks from the previous Preacher volumes, this offshoot story follows the characters’ delightful characteristics to the letter – with T.C. practicing bestiality at every given opportunity, and Jody being nothing short of a cold-hearted hardboiled killing machine.

The failing cliché hero character of Detective Cal Hicks contrasts perfectly with the rough-as-absolute-fuck rednecks – who in a reversal of norm are in fact the braver, more helpful ones.  It’s all very tongue-in-cheek and quick-witted with plenty of crude humour thrown into the mix.

It’s the sort of story that just entertains – pure and simple.  From the minute you begin it, the tale thunders along its deviant and unexpected course until the dark-as-sin comical conclusion signs the volume off perfectly.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 222 pages (which includes a 2 page foreword by Garth Ennis).

© DLS Reviews





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