An astounding number of comic book series have appeared as echoes of their former selves on television in recent years. Before making its way to the small screen, Preacher racked up quite a history of attempted adaptations itself – even being labelled “un-filmable” in the process. It took the creative teamwork of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg to translate the grit, gore and godliness within the comic books so that AMC’s audiences could appreciate it alongside the same fanboys who were there from the start.
The AMC network is no stranger to this phenomenon, boasting one of the most successful comic book adaptations of all time: The Walking Dead. But after years spent awaiting its turn at the altar, everyone wondered: would Preacher live up to the standards set by Gareth Ennis in the 90’s at Vertigo?
On May 22nd, the critics got their answer. About 2.38 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere and it has since been a smashing success by almost any measurable standard. Arriving on screen ready for action, the premiere episode indicated that this is sure to be one of the most exciting and talked about series of the summer.
Dominic Cooper stars as Jesse Custer, a preacher in the small backwater town of Annville, Texas. He has a shady past that he is trying his hardest to escape, but it is hard when his precocious ex-girlfriend Tulip, played by Ruth Negga, shows up unexpectedly. One other equally (if not more) interesting character straight from the comics introduced in the pilot episode is Cassidy, an Irish vampire played to perfection by Joseph Gilgun. His introduction really set the stage for his character, as we find him on an airplane in an eventual bloodbath – a fitting arrival for him and an appropriate show of the gore original fans were tuning in for in the first place.
Jesse tries very hard to be a God-fearing man of faith but he is certainly not afraid to stand up for what he believes is right, even if it includes violence. Through pure accident, he has been possessed by an otherworldly spirit named “Genesis”, thus becoming one of the most powerful beings in the universe. As a man of religious character this sudden endowment of supernatural abilities opens up a Pandora’s Box of potential trouble.
The first looks at Preacher was filled with the blood, guts, profanity and dark humor that defined the original comics, but it was never as excessive as to keep it appropriate for television. Additionally, the pilot episode gave us a bit of a preview of what happened before the comic actually started and introduces several new characters that do not exist in the comic. Now streaming on the AMC website, DirecTV, and YouTube, the premiere serves to give audiences a backstory into the series, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with the original source material.
In all its gruesome scenes and bloody fights, AMC’s adaptation is nothing but tame in comparison to the comic book. The show is definitely more laid back and understandably so. Perhaps this is one of major gripes about the changes from the comic book. Other smaller changes have been made as well, such as Jesse’s updated haircut from comic book Jesse’s mullet and the introduction of Cassidy as a vampire early on instead of finding out about his bloodthirst later. Despite these changes, however, Preacher stayed as true to the comics as it possibly good solely because its creators are true fans. This is evident in characters such as Arseface who gave an oddly endearing energy to the show. Additionally, those who have read the comics will notice little references throughout the episode in the form of various signs and magazines.
Some of the scenery is beyond cheesy in all its awful glory, but the storyline, cast, and fight scenes are able to make this bearable and almost endearing. Dominic Cooper does an excellent job as the preacher himself and Ruth Negga as Tulip is a force to be reckoned with. Their relationship is still somewhat of a mystery but it’s no question that the duo was once a heinous team and it seems they will reunite once again in future episodes.
As a fan of the comics, you can expect to see some old favorites running alongside some new faces, but it doesn’t hurt the story at all. It’s still the Preacher we love, just toned down for a larger audience with a few added twists. Of course, with all comic book adaptations, there are bound to be inconsistencies and missing favorite scenes. The two mediums are so different that it’s impossible to translate perfectly. Take the two as their own separate beasts and you’re sure to be as pleased with the show as you are with the comic.
With the second episode having just aired last Sunday, Preacher is continuing to be met with awe and praise. This series is expected to meet (if not exceed) the popularity of The Walking Dead and with only two episodes under its belt, things are still looking up. Preacher’s creators surely won’t let this one get dragged back down to the Devil.