Welcome back to my series on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic series Preacher. Book two gives us religious cults and sex maniacs. Cassidy also reveals how he became a vampire, Tulip unveils more sides to her, and things get personal between Jesse and the Saint of Killers.
“What will you do when you get the almighty by the balls?”
The story begins with the Saint of Killers finding the skeletal remains of Jesse’s family in Texas, but Jesse is ten steps ahead of him. The Preacher, Tulip and Cassidy traverse west, where they wind up at a drug-fueled orgy and meet with Herr Starr, the German member of a cult called the Grail, whose primary mission is to protect Jesus Christs’ lineage and save the world.
We first meet Herr Starr when he holds the title of Sacred Execution of the Grail, a position one step below the leading title of Allfather. Although he lives in France, he traveled to the United States after learning of a man name Jesse Custer who holds the powers of heaven and hell. Starr belives that Jesse can fulfill the Grail’s prophecy of ending the world to save the world.
The problem, however, is that Herr Starr has no idea what Jesse Custer looks like. So the German cultist instead kidnaps Cassidy and takes him to France. It is here where we meet the grotesque, cruel, selfish Allfather, D’Aronique.
D’Aronique, a strong believer in pure incest-filled bloodlines, is determined to have a fella named Humperdoo – a direct descendant of Jesus Christ – be the messiah. Unfortunately, Humperdoo’s brains are a bit scrambled on account of all the incest, making him incapable of doing anything.
Herr Starr plans to replace Humperdoo with Jesse. When he discovers that he kidnapped Cassidy instead, Starr hires a man named Frankie to torture the vampire, and Frankie obliges with his Lee-Enfield Rifle. Starr is fine with the mistake he made, because he knows Jesse is too faithful a friend to leave Cassidy behind.
And while Cassidy is hard to kill, he still feels all the pain a person can when they’re shot in the heart.
Tulip and Jesse make their way through France, but when it’s time to head to the Grail headquarters, Jesse leaves Tulip behind at a hotel. He more or less says something along the lines of, “it’s not because I’m sexist, or maybe it is, but I don’t want to risk losing you again even if I know you can hold your own and protect yourself. Don’t hate me. I’ll see you in New York.”
Tulip is rightfully pissed and destroys the hotel room, but has no other choice than to head back to New York. That’s the last we see of her for this book, as her relationship with Preacher lays in limbo.
“We Walk Between the Raindrops”
Meanwhile at Grail Headquarters, Jesse comes face to face with D’Aronique and Starr . The Saint of Killer also finds Jesse in France and the two make a deal; if Jesse can learn of the Saint’s forgotten past – and how he became who he was – the Saint will stop trying to kill Preacher.
With this new plan between the Saint and Preacher, all hell unleashes at the Grail. The Saint is killing anyone and everyone, and D’Aronique is desperate to save himself. Starr finds his way on the copter and rolls the Allfather off and into the sky, which results in the demise of Humerdoo and a Grail soldier.
With D’Aronique’s demise, Herr Starr becomes Allfather Starr.
Legend of a Vampire
Jesse and Cassidy manage to escape before Herr Starr blows the entire location up, and they find their way back to New York. In the last issue of book two, the comrades are on top of the Empire State Building. Cassidy tells Jesse a little bit about his history and how he became the man he is today. It’s an incredible story and a nice ending to an overall intense story.
Until Next Time…
Preacher Book Two shows how Dillon and Ennis aren’t holding back from getting more violent and gruesome while also expanding the story to new lengths. Dillon’s vibrant and explicit illustrations nicely compliment Ennis’ outlandish storylines. There are a handful of subplots and characters that can be difficult to keep track of (I know I’ve had to reread some chapters because I forgot who was who), but that is bound to happen in such a large series. What is especially impressive is how well the story paces itself out, balancing it’s exposition and slow moments with action and violence.
Later on in the series, we will learn more about the Saint and why he kills people and his small obsession with Jesse. We will also see what happens to Tulip and her relationship with Jesse, what Starr plans to do with the Grail next, and catch up on a loved character who was absent in book two. (4 / 5)
Until we meet again with Preacher Book 3, check out the other books we’re reading here at Haunted MTL.
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The Roots Grow Into The Earth
Launching next month The Roots Grow Into The Earth was a delightful read. It’s the premiere novel by horror author Bert S. Lechner. And after reading it, I hope it’s not his last.
The Roots Grow Into The Earth is a collection of nine short stories and novellas, including three previously published stories. The tales are all part of one larger story. A story of darkness, and madness. A story of a creature released that should never have been. That begins then to sink its roots into the Earth and infect innocent people far and wide.
One such example is The Wall. This is the story of a man named Sam and his wife Nat. They have a lovely normal life full of morning coffee and weekend pizza nights. Until Sam notices something on the wall of their home. While it appears to be nothing, a vision starts taking shape. With Sam’s help.
Another story that really moved me was The Orchestra.
Let me first stay that this was not a particularly fleshed out story. We do not see The Conductor before she’s infected. We don’t see the fallout. No real picture is painted for us, it’s more like a sketch.
In the case of The Orchestra, though, this is exactly the right choice. We don’t need to see the whole picture in gruesome technicolor to get what’s happening in this ill fated concert. We understand perhaps too well what’s occurring. And I thought that was brilliant.
I just want to start by gushing over this storytelling style. Short story collections always have a soft spot in my heart. In the case of The Roots Grow, all of the short stories come together to create one truly dark tale.
I also loved the clear Lovecraftian influence of this story. It’s clear that this was something that the author was going for, from interviews and social media comments. But I could tell before I saw any of that.
The story in The Roots Grow is one of madness. But more than that, it’s one of madness and destruction that the victims could not have avoided. There was no being clever enough to avoid these dark roots that touched them. There was no being strong enough, or selfless and good enough. If the roots reach out and touch you, you’ve already lost.
Finally, I want to extend some praise to my favorite character, Joanne. She is dealing with her own madness, her own demons. But she still finds kindness and strength to help others when they need her. Even against some truly dark odds.
What didn’t work
All that being said, I will say that some of the short stories felt incomplete. One prime example is What Lies In The Icy Soil. This appears to be nothing more than the tale of a person possessed by the need to dig. He digs up something that for sure shouldn’t be dug up. But there’s nothing more to the story. We don’t know who this person is. We don’t know who might be missing him, or what might come of this thing he dug up. As a part of the whole story, it fits. But if we are to consider every tale by its own merit, this one doesn’t have much of anything going for it.
That being said, this is one story in a round ten that wasn’t much of anything. The rest of the stories were wonderfully eerie, both on their own and as part of a whole.
The Roots Grow Into The Earth comes out on October 7th. And I think it would be a perfect addition to your Halloween reading list. (4 / 5)
Strange Eons Review: Cornfields and Eldritch Gods
“The elder gods arrived in the sky in early September, like an unholy aurora borealis stretching across a midnight sky. Their vastness blocked the sun, an unending eclipse, a liminal state, a breath that was inhaled but never let go. Lovecraft got it wrong, I think. It was not the sight of the gods that made humanity go mad. It’s what they destroy that hurts us. Somehow, these elder gods, these aliens, had killed time itself.” – Strange Eons by Keria Perkins
Strange Eons is a short story published in Bourbon Penn Issue 30 by Keira Perkins. Perkins, is an Indiana writer of short fiction and poetry that has also appeared in Non-Stalgia and The Heartland Society of Women Writers. Bourbon Penn is an online and print journal that specializes in speculative, odd, and surreal fiction. All issues are available to be read online for free or can be purchased as a paperback from Bookshop.org.
Strange Eons follows a young woman struggling to adjust to a life post-Lovecraftian apocalypse. This is a cozy story, the majority of which takes place as the woman lays in a cornfield and hides from well-meaning but unhelpful family members. While cozy, the piece is ominous, tackling the terror associated with pregnancy. Specifically, the terror that comes from living in a Red State and finding a significant lack of resources or options.
As a Hoosier capable of becoming pregnant, Strange Eons resonated with me. The imagery of cornfields and cicadas were very Indiana. However, so is a young woman covertly asking her sister to drive her to Illinois to receive healthcare. I loved how Perkins merged cosmic horror with the horror of receiving reproductive healthcare in Indiana but also the United States as a whole. All that was missing were predatory billboards advertising fake pregnancy centers! Talk about maddening and terrifying! Throughout the short story, the most horrific part of the young woman’s ordeal is not the eldritch gods appearing but her rather typical, hellish circumstances.
Aside from content, Strange Eons is well-written. It keeps you guessing where the story will go next. If you like a non-tropey cozy take on Lovecraftian horror or have struggled to receive reproductive healthcare, I highly recommend checking out Strange Eons! You can also check out the other stories in this issue of Bourbon Penn here. Or you can see what else Perkins is up to on her website.(5 / 5)
Walking Practice – A Book Review
Walking Practice is Dolki Min’s debut novella about an alien named Mumu, who must learn what it is like to perform as a human. Victoria Caudle, the translator of this unique Korean story, experiments with the English language to properly convey Min’s style. This, complimented with Min’s various drawings of the story’s protagonist, creates a poetic, outlandish reading experience that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.
Walking Practice: Never Enough Practice
After the destruction of their home planet, Mumu crash lands their spaceship in a desolate forest far from human life. They survive by having sex with humans then, with graphic violence and great diligence, eats them.
Mumu has a strict schedule and regimen for this process; they must shapeshift their body to the specific gender and personality their date is attracted to. While this process of gender conformation is a difficult one (as the alien will often tell us), it is nowhere near as hard as the ridiculous habit humans have of walking on two legs. This is one of the many obstacles Mumu must struggle with while playing the game of life.
Mumu is a rich, self-aware character who seems to trust only one human: the reader. They address us directly, asking questions and indulging us with their theories on what it is to live on Earth. They are knowledgeable about the complexities of personhood, and aware that a person’s gender and sex are complex and not one-size-fits-all. After years of experience in multiple genders, the alien theorizes that humans are treated as people as soon as they have a sex and gender assigned to them. However, depending on the sex and gender, that treatment is never equal.
While Mumu performs various genders and personalities to match the sexual desires of their future prey, they do not identify as human. At the end of the day, they go home, stock their human leftovers in the fridge and freezer, and unleash their natural form. Their only priority is their own survival and pleasure (which, arguably, is their most humanlike quality).
“I’ve learned that my face arouses homicidal impulses”
Walking Practice uses horror, science fiction and satire to create a passionate queer narrative. While Mumu is a serial killer who prides themselves on their murderous skills, it is hard not to feel for them when karma strikes back and they are hurt. The poetic elements of Min’s story and Caudle’s translation support our empathy for such a vicious character
Min’s artwork, depicting Mumu’s alien forms, complements Caudle’s stylistic choices. There is enjambment in several paragraphs, (which can be interpreted as the alien either having a flair for the dramatic or genuinely pausing to find the right words), thus enhancing their internal dialogue. There are moments when the Mumu’s stream of consciousness confuses reality from imagination. They will also lose all learned human skills and revert to their mother tongue; words either run together or are spaced apart, and sometimes there are unintelligible symbols. At the surface, it looks like a linguistic nightmare. Once immersed in Mumu’s narrative, it is a work of art.
Walking Practice‘s balance of ambiguity and transparency keeps the reader close while also allowing an array of interpretations. It is an eccentric piece of fiction that plays with the literary status quo, resulting in an entertaining affair with an unforgettable alien. (5 / 5)