Comic Review: Preacher: Book Two

Published: 1996-1997
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 369 Pages

Review:

A big chunk of this book in the Preacher series is the Crusaders story arc, which I already reviewed here. It takes up six issues of the fourteen collected in this volume but I wanted to also review this book as a whole body of work, as I am reading through Preacher in its entirety and in order.

Man, I fucking loved this book in the series and it would actually have been perfect, except for three of the issues that served as flashback/origin stories for Jesse’s dad and Cassidy. Now those stories are important but they kind of slowed things down a bit.

I guess reading this from month to month, the backstory issues were fine but it kind of gets in the way of the larger, more energetic story for the main characters. And I think that the main plot threads in this were just so damn good that even though the origin tales added context and depth, they just had a negative effect on the overall momentum.

This book is pretty important to the larger Preacher mythos, as this is where we meet supervillain Herr Starr, as well as learn all about The Grail and what their purpose is. For those that watch the television show, the events here sort of line up with the end of season three and the start of season four.

But the comic book and the TV show are very different. While they follow similar threads and have similar themes, the comic is way more over the top and intense than the show. In fact, until really reading this from the beginning, I guess I didn’t understand the depths that the comic would go, even for ’90s edgy boi shit.

While the first installment to the series was damn good, this one is close to perfect for what this story is and for Ennis’ style as a writer. I hope that momentum continues going forward as I don’t want to waste too much time before jumping into the third book.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book One

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 351 Pages

Review:

Over the years, I’ve read several different story arcs from the Preacher comic book series. But never have I started from the beginning and tried to read the series in its entirety.

I’ve only read the second story arc that makes up this first book. So getting into the earliest Preacher issues was a real treat.

This kicks things off with a bang and for fans of the television show, the beginning of the comic is vastly different, even if there are some similarities.

As dark as the show is, this is bleaker, meaner and has a harder edge than anything that they can put on television, especially in 2019 where everything is deemed “too offensive”.

In fact, this is ’90s comics at its peak. But this was also from an era were Vertigo wasn’t complete shit. Say what you will about ’90s comics, good or bad, but this is one of the titles that defines the best parts of that decade. Everything in the ’90s was “extreme” and this encapsulates that like no other comic except for maybe some bootleg and outlaw comics of the time.

But this doesn’t feel like it’s a gimmick that didn’t age well, it feels genuine and authentic. That’s probably why it has stood the test of time.

Garth Ennis was on his A game right out of the gate and his fantastic writing is greatly enhanced by Steve Dillon’s art on every page, as well as Glenn Fabry’s stupendous covers.

Preacher is a perfect storm of hardcore, extreme, edgy boi shit and I mean that complimentary. It’s a product of its time and the culture around it. While I’m sure that is off putting to some, like easily offended snowflakes in 2019, this is still a comic series with merit and a lot of emotional turmoil that the reader can relate to despite how dark this world is.

It also examines a lot of religious taboos and criticism in a creative and exploratory way. As someone that grew up in a really religious environment, some of this was uncomfortable for me to read the first time but in retrospect, it’s good that it challenges these ideals and asks what the point to it all is.

Preacher is not a comic series for everyone. I can see where it would push away certain sects on the right side and left side of the political spectrum. For those of us in the middle, who want some of the answers to life’s mysteries, it’s a cool exploration into that backed up by badass characters doing badass things and killing off scumbags that deserve it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Iron Sights

Published: September, 2018
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Carlos Ivan Silva
Art by: Ibai Canales, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Splatto Comics, 120 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t the first of Richard C. Meyer’s projects that I backed but it was the first to be released. I’m still looking forward to getting his graphic novel Jawbreakers – Lost Souls, which should be out shortly.

This project was done as a sort of test for Meyer to best figure out how to print and fulfill these projects. In the end, unlike many other crowdfunded creators out there, Meyer delivered and this is the proof.

Iron Sights was exactly as Meyer described it on it’s Indiegogo page:

…a hard-boiled action drama set on the border…told in the trashy tone and fun style of a 1990s Straight-To-Video DVD!

If you like Quentin Tarantino crime flicks, John Woo Heroic Bloodshed movies or modern films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, HELL AND HIGH WATER or SICARIO, then you’ll love IRON SIGHTS!

This book was overloaded with testosterone to the point that even the lightest of feminists would be foaming at the mouth over this massive level of “toxic masculinity”. This isn’t for the cutesy “safe” fellow that asks, “Could you please pass the almond milk?” This is for the guy that demands, “Pass me that fucking hammer!”

You see, this is the type of badass shit that is missing in comic books in 2018. Comics are escapism and entertainment, they’re not real. And they certainly don’t need to be some sort of medium that’s bastardized for political and social statements that most normal people think are exhausting.

Iron Sights isn’t for those that hold their Moscow mules with both hands, it’s for those of us that snort Wild Turkey 101 through both nostrils. Those of us that can hit the bullseye with a dart while blindfolded. Those of us that think we could take down Chuck Norris if we got in a lucky shot. Those of us that know what an Allen key is. Those of us that wear a king cobra as a fucking belt.

Okay, okay… I’m being overly sarcastic. And I’m only pointing that out because no one has a sense of humor or the ability to laugh at themselves anymore.

But all that being said, how does this actually measure up?

It’s entertaining. Meyer and Silva crafted a solid crime story that feels like a balls to the wall neo-western.

I liked the characters, I liked their camaraderie and their banter. I also liked the character of Esme but I don’t want to spoil anything in regards to her. But chances are, if you bought this, you already read it at this point. So I’ll just point out that I like when the damsel in distress trope is really just a red herring.

Meyer has come under a lot of criticism by his haters over his writing. To be frank, this is better than I thought it would be, as I’m skeptical of anyone that’s really new to the medium.

Ibai Canales has also faced a lot of criticism over his art. While this isn’t what I would call “the big league standard”, it looks okay for what this project is. It’s supposed to be raw, gritty and not overly refined. This isn’t the type of story that needs the art style of a maestro. Iron Sights was a good opportunity for Canales to expand on his talent and to work on something that fits his style. He hits the tone in the right way even if I feel like he still needs to get better and work on his craft, especially character design. If I’m being completely honest, he may not have been ready for this big of a project but I didn’t find his style or lack of refinement to be distracting.

I’ve also got to point out that the cover art by Kelsey Shannon is a perfect marriage between badass and beautiful. I don’t give a shit about posters or anything like that but I’d hang it on my wall.

Anyway, Meyer should be proud of this book and those of us that backed it should be pleased with the end result. Richard C. Meyer delivered on his project unlike so many other comic book pros that have taken money from fans and haven’t delivered on crowd funded projects from years ago.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the films Meyer used to describe this and I’m assuming his upcoming Jawbreakers comic.

Comic Review: Preacher: Crusaders

Published: October 31st, 1996 – March 31st, 1997
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

Since I just finished Preacher‘s third season, I am really happy because the show is in a spot that I remember really fondly from the comics: the six-part Crusaders story arc.

No longer owning the Preacher comics I had in the ’90s, as they were lost somewhere along the years and after several moves, I had to round up these issues again. Luckily, my local comic shop had all six issues and in pristine condition, I might add.

It was great revisiting this series and if you haven’t read the comics but are a fan of the show, you can jump right into this story and know where you are. It has some of the stuff from the back end of season three in it and it also goes into what I assume will be the early parts of season four. Ultimately, this is just a badass chapter in the long epic that is this superb series.

Cassidy, the vampire, is captured by Herr Starr and his minions. Jesse has to leave Tulip behind as he goes on an insane mission to rescue Cassidy from The Grail’s fortress. We meet the Allfather, get to learn about the angel that is imprisoned with Cassidy (seen in the season three finale of the show), get some awesome action when the Saint of Killers takes on The Grail in their stronghold and get to see Starr in all his evil greatness.

As much as I like the show, I still love the comic and this just made me realize that I need to give the entire series a revisit.

Garth Ennis was on his A-game here but any fan of comics from the ’90s knows about how great this series was. Steve Dillon’s art still looks incredible and frankly, I wish more comic books had even half of the style that Dillon did here. I also love the Glenn Fabry covers and some of them have become so iconic over time that I may frame a few of these issues.

Preacher is an exceptionally great comic book. Even with a television show, there are just too many people that haven’t delved into the source material. It’s fucked up, twisted and delightful.

For fans of the series, this arc is a high point and ’90s comic book perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

Film Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

Release Date: May 16th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Music by: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, OddLot Entertainment, Film 44, LBI Entertainment, Lionsgate, CBS Films, 102 Minutes

Review:

“I know their faces was covered, but could you tell their race? Black, white?” – Marcus Hamilton, “Their skin or their souls?” – Elsie

Hell or High Water was a Picture of the Year nominee. It doesn’t seem to be all that well known, however. It was incredibly overshadowed by the other nominees that year: La La LandMoonlightManchester by the SeaFencesArrivalHacksaw RidgeHidden Figures and Lion. In fact, out of all the fanfare for the others, I forgot this was in the discussion.

It also saw nominations go to Jeff Bridges for Best Supporting Actor, as well as nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It also had three Golden Globe nominations. Still, when I’ve brought it up to people, it’s virtually unknown.

That being said, I’m not sure why it got overshadowed. It’s a damn fine film. It is a neo-western with a subtle neo-noir touch to it. It’s got some stylistic similarities to No Country for Old Men, granted it isn’t that good. Still, it’s a solid contemporary western tale with a great cast.

While Jeff Bridges rarely, if ever, fails to be great in a role, it was refreshing to see Chris Pine actually get to do something at this level. He doesn’t work as much as I’d like and I do enjoy him as the modern incarnation of Captain James T. Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek film series but it’s rare that I get to see him do something exceptional and at the level where I feel his talent lies. He also got to play opposite of Ben Foster in nearly every scene he had. Foster is another guy that just nails every role he is in and man, does he nail his role here.

To summarize the story, Pine and Foster play two brothers robbing banks in western Texas. The reason behind their motivation isn’t clear in the beginning but the way they hit the bangs is unusual and draws the attention of Jeff Bridges, an old Texas Ranger that makes it his personal mission to catch these culprits.

The story almost has the makings of something you’d read in a Cormac McCarthy novel but without an overabundance of violence. This film does have violent moments but nothing on the scale of No Country for Old Men or Blood Meridian.

The picture is accented and strengthened with incredible cinematography by Giles Nuttgens, who has a few dozen films under his belt already. The landscapes are just vast and beautiful, especially with the wide shots capturing the vehicles moving about in the countryside.

The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis has a good emotional impact and just added to the film’s visual allure.

The high octane moments in this picture are exciting and energetic. There is a moment where Foster’s character finally goes over the edge, unloads a machine gun at good Samaritans tracking their escape from a robbery and gets himself caught up in a standoff with the law in an effort to allow his brother to escape. It’s an emotional and action packed high point in the film that was well worth the wait, as you knew the character would eventually become fully unhinged.

I really enjoy that this film is not predictable. It has some twists and surprises that just sort of happen. It doesn’t follow a traditional narrative for this type of story and ultimately, that makes the plot feel much more authentic and realistic.

I wouldn’t quite call this the film of the year for 2016 but it is pretty high up on my list for motion pictures that year. A good solid cast, great direction, wide open landscapes and a good amount of action all come together to make this maybe the manliest and ballsiest film of that year.

Rating: 8.5/10