Preacher: The Story of You-Know-Who

Author: Garth Ennis

Artist: Richard Case (pencil and inks), Matt Hollingsworth (colours)

Publisher: DC/Vertigo (1996)

ISBN Number: 2843990572

 Garth Ennis’ Preacher series is a look at values, morality, love, and meaning in a modern world. The titular character embarks on a literal quest for God and encounters all manner of characters who embody our times. Ennis’ tells the story of one of those characters Arseface, downtrodden Eugene Root, while exploring coming-of-age themes of teenage isolation, domestic abuse, suicide, and pop-culture obsession.

Eugene’s story, appropriately, is an ugly one. He has been psychologically and physically tormented by his small-town sheriff father. His mother lives in bottles of vodka and jars of prescription pills. At school Eugene is despised by his peers and ridiculed by the teachers, a victim of daily bullying. His only ‘friend’ is Pube, a grunge infatuated teenage slacker who constantly puts Eugene down. Every attempt at social interaction is met with either neglect or ignorance by everyone. Every attempt to make a stand and assert some control over his own life falls flat. After a constant cycle of humiliation, abuse, and depression that culminates with the news of Kurt Cobain’s death, Eugene and Pube make a suicide pact, no longer able to endure their torturous existence. Only Eugene survives and re-emerges into the world, disgustingly disfigured but with a new-found optimism on life, as Arseface.

If you can get past the over-the-top use of profanity that is a hallmark of Ennis’ style, this work is both heartfelt and heart-breaking. Ennis writes Eugene’s troubles with such earnestness that you feel every kick in the gut. You can smell, taste, and hear the authenticity in the words and in the art. The art is awkward, nervous, skittish, and dark. It perfectly captures the emotional state of the characters. The colours, even in the few scenes of hope, are bleak and grimy, there’s nothing Hollywood about the world we’re in or the themes that it wallows in. The only time this atmosphere gives way to clarity is when we zoom in on the perfectly placed, emotional expressions and reactions to the events (or non-events) of Eugene’s life.

Pop-Culture permeates every panel of the book. From the musical, generation-spanning chapter headings (a musical tour bus through teen rebellion from the Beatles’ ‘a day in the life’ to Bowie’s ‘rebel, rebel’ to The Moody Blues ‘new horizons’ before finally ending at Nirvana.), to the opening and closing riffs on Forrest Gump. This book places the reader, with all their post-pubescent angst, as close to their own lives as possible. It makes sure things hit home, like a baseball bat to the ribs.

Despite the writer’s penchant for black humor, satire, and the grotesque, teenage depression and suicide and the silent sufferings that lead to it are treated respectfully and lead to some powerful proclamations. Characters rally against expectation and pressures of their miserable lives, constantly getting back up off the floor to keep searching for hope and a better tomorrow. There’s a strong message in here to think about the consequences of your actions.

The real gift of this book though is its inversion of the ugliness that lives inside everyone and that it takes something special to overcome, and sometimes that something special is a fella with a face like you-know-who.

If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the issues mentioned in this review, please speak to someone. There is hope and help available at services like Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/ or 1800 55 1800) is Australia’s only free, private, and confidential, phone counseling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25

Daredevil Season 2

In this season Matt, Foggy, and Karen cross paths with Hell’s Kitchen’s newest vigilante, the Punisher. Daredevil is ripped apart at the seams by his double life. An important figure from Matt’s past, Elektra battles against the mysterious ninja cult called The Hand, and Hell’s Kitchen become divided over what a hero is and what kind of hero it needs.

Season two draws its influence from a rich comic book history, taking aspects of ‘The Man without Fear’ series and ‘The Devil in Cell Block D’ storyline, as well as Garth Ennis’ Punisher tale “Kitchen Irish”.

After an incredible season one, Daredevil season two improves on everything that was great about the first thirteen episodes.

If you liked the fleshed-out characters of season one, this season will not let you down. The writing delves even deeper into Matt’s turmoil of doing what’s right without going too far. The disregard for his own self and the sacrifices he makes as Matt Murdock so that he can protect the city he loves as Daredevil is a fascinating downward spiral that will knock the wind out of you and never let you get up.

The introduction of the Punisher, who antagonizes Daredevil as something that will never ultimately fix Hell’s Kitchen, is intriguing enough to make you question your own ethics. But his portrayal by Jon Bernthal as a man over the edge and the remarkable way this character is presented, as one man’s operatic tragedy of violence, is explosive.

The creators of this show have taken a one-dimensional, one-note character from the comic books and added dimension, depth and heartbreak to breathe something new into Frank Castle. He becomes a violent force of nature over the course of the series: you fear him, you despise him, you empathize with him, and you eventually cheer him on before realizing that you still fear him.

Speaking of characters you cheer on, the growth of Foggy Nelson in this season could be its own show. You’d tune in to see his legal exploits and loveable hopeless good guy personality week in week out if this is all the show was.

The same can be said for Karen Page. If you want a show about a strong female character that doesn’t bend to conventions, forget Jessica Jones. You won’t need that. Karen went from damsel in distress to strong female lead in season one. In season two she builds immensely on that and is one of the truest and well-crafted characters on TV today. The writers have given her agency that is rare in any genre.

Unfortunately, the show’s intended ass-kicking female, Elektra, isn’t as well crafted. Her flashback story with Matt provides the viewer with an adrenaline rush of on-screen romance and sexually charged tangoing. But as a vigilante, she is the least fully realized character and doesn’t work as well as the other parts of the show. Even this, though, isn’t a major complaint, just something to develop in the inevitable season three.

The handling of violence in this show has to be mentioned. If the hallway scene in season one was what you’re looking for more of, you will be pleased. There are at least three set pieces like it in this season that exceed the bar set by season one. The fights are innovative, to say the least.

And while this is gruesome and bloody, it’s all in aid of the realism, it’s not gratuitous. It’s well choreographed, well shot and every bit as balanced and entertaining visually as the show is well written and acted. You will watch season two of Daredevil, experience every high and low and feel like you have come out of a great legal drama, Kung-Fu flick, revenge tale, romance, or human drama. You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped out of a great movie that gave you exactly what you asked for and then some.

You’ll forget that it’s television.