This second book in the Preacher series is split into two halves. In the first, Jesse Custer is reunited with his family and, through the medium of flashback, we’re filled in with the story of how this unlikely character ever made it into the priesthood. The second half of the book advances the plot significantly, introducing certain members of the Grail organisation. This group is secretly attempting to maintain the bloodline of Jesus Christ’s descendants, in an attempt to gain some kind of control over a second coming. Its interest in a preacher who can use the word of God to force people to do whatever he wants is obvious.
This volume tackles some brave issues, including child abuse and child pornography, as well as the usual over-the-top Preacher mixture of violence and sex. Just as you think your jaw can’t be dropped any lower by a gory surprise or twist in the plot, something else is waiting in the wings to gob-smack you all over again.
We found the first half of the book particularly poignant, with the cruelty of Custer’s upbringing under the dominating evil of his religious fanatic grandmother proving a legitimate cause for the problems he has in later life. His escapism into the mythology of John Wayne and the Wild West, alongside the simple morality of his Vietnam veteran father, is thoroughly believable, helping to draw the extremes of his character together and explain the mix of violence and religious fervour. It also helps to explain why Jesse should, quite rightly, be disappointed in the fact that his god appears to have abandoned him. Both artwork and writing are extremely tight. Dillon’s characters perfectly match Ennis’ characterisation, breathing life into the spoken words.
This is a great piece of work. It doesn’t stand alone from the first volume so you should certainly catch up with the series before embarking on this novel, but it’s a cracking story with some genuine surprises. You may need a strong stomach as Dillon doesn’t shy away from graphic depiction of violence, but it’s well worth the price of entry.