Preacher: Proud Americans
Garth Ennis, writer,
Steve Dillon, artist
(DC Comics/Vertigo, 1997;
reprinted from Preacher
issues 18-26, 1996-97)

The ongoing storyline is found in the middle, with Jesse's dramatic rescue of Cassidy from the Grail, where we learn more of Herr Starr and the Saint of Killers and encounter a fallen angel, the many-times great-grandson of Jesus Christ, a vast and gluttonous holy leader, and a sadistic bastard with a very big gun.

OK, it's good stuff. But it's small potatoes in this collection. The meat of Proud Americans is found in the "throwaway" stories at the beginning and end.

The first finds Jesse, while passing time in a bar while on layover in New York, meeting an old ex-Marine who served in Vietnam with Jesse's father. Pvt. John Custer was killed by his in-laws when Jesse was still very young, and he has only a small boy's memories of his dad. So Billy "Space" Baker tells about his time with John overseas, and the story he tells about the horrors of 'Nam easily equals the supernatural horrors of Jesse's current life. It's strong stuff, bloody and brutal and, in my mind, far too short.

The book ends with Jesse and Cassidy atop the Empire State Building, post-rescue. Cassidy tells his story -- his involvement in the Easter Uprising in 1916 Dublin, his escape and his transformation into a vampire, his emigration to America and his development of a life there. Unlike the first chapter about Jesse's father and the middle chapters about Cassidy's rescue, this section is fairly light on action, but it's still strong on story and characters, and it's the section I'll go back fairly often to re-read.

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon have, in relatively few issues compared to some of the long-running books in the comics industry, created amazing well-rounded, three-dimensional figures. In every book we learn more about them, and that only makes us want even more. Fortunately, the series is still running, and more is just over the horizon.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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